Myriam Velez has had so many surgeries that the thought of going under the knife again was completely incomprehensible. "I've been dealing with gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors for 19 years," sighs Myriam.
Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is the umbrella term for a group of unusual, often slow-growing cancers that develop from cells in the diffuse endocrine system. These cells make and release hormones – controlling growth, reproduction, sleep, hunger, and metabolism – into the blood.
As a result, Myriam has had more than her fair share of operations. But in October 2017, she again feared the worst. "I had severe pain on the left side of my pelvis. I couldn't sleep at night, and at times felt as though my insides wanted to come out," she says.
An ultrasound found that the endometrial lining in her uterus was very thick. A biopsy showed there was no cancer, so she was prescribed progesterone to reduce the thickness.
After a second biopsy a few months later showed no significant change, her doctor gave her two options: "He said biopsies would have to be performed every few months to check that these cells don't turn into cancer, or I could have a hysterectomy," explains Myriam. But he couldn't guarantee that the pain would be gone. A second gynecologist advised her that based on the biopsy results and Myriam's history of surgeries, the pain could be from scar tissue and another surgery might add to her pain.
On the advice of her Holy Name oncologist, Giuseppe Condemi, MD, and MRI results that confirmed the thickened endometrial lining and the presence of a cyst, Myriam made an appointment with Yitzhack Asulin, MD, director of female pelvic reconstruction and robotic surgery at Holy Name. A leader in minimally invasive and robotic gynecologic surgery in Bergen County, Dr. Asulin routinely performs complex robotic gynecologic and urogynecologic procedures.
A series of tests identified the cyst as the cause of the pain; Dr. Asulin recommended a hysterectomy.
"I was relieved to finally have an answer, but I didn't want to have another surgery," says Myriam. "Then Dr. Asulin told her that our bodies are so wonderful that when something is wrong, we feel pain. He said, 'Let's prevent this from getting worse.'"
Dr. Asulin and Dr. Condemi conferred to make sure all of Myriam's concerns were addressed before and after surgery. Using Holy Name's da Vinci robotic surgical system, Dr. Asulin performed the hysterectomy through small incisions with minimal blood loss. This was a critical benefit to Myriam, because as a Jehovah's Witness she does not accept blood transfusions. Robotic surgery also resulted in a shorter recovery period for her than if she had had a traditional hysterectomy.
"I was up and walking the following day, and I never took one pain pill," says Myriam. "It was a totally different experience from any other surgeries I had in the past."
Now pain free, Myriam feels as though a tremendous weight has been lifted off her shoulders. "And I owe that to Dr. Asulin and his team at Holy Name who took such good care of me, eased my fears, and were 100 percent true to their word," she says. "I am living proof that with proper treatment, you can live life to the fullest."
As the director of minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery at Holy Name, Dr. Asulin performs delicate and complex GYN robotic surgery including hysterectomy, myomectomy, sacrocolpopexy, incontinence surgery, and vaginal/ uterine prolapse repair with state-of the art procedures utilizing the da Vinci robotic surgical system. For more information on minimally invasive options like this or to schedule an appointment, call 201-833-3158 or visit holyname.org/physician.