Toe Pain to Kidney Cancer to 4 Days Left to Live - This Man's Story Could Save Your Life


A New Jersey man battling what he thought was the slow creep of pain from his toe found himself on the brink of death once he finally learned what was wrong with him.

Richard Bernstein’s ordeal began with pain in his right toe.

“I went to my podiatrist. I thought I had fractured the toe, but he couldn’t find anything wrong with it,” Bernstein said, of Montvale, New Jersey, according to the New York Post.

But it hurt. And hurt. Two years later, his ankle hurt as well. A sports medicine doctor suggested it could be something called stenosis, that physical therapy could potentially treat.

Nothing worked.

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Then in March, his right leg became swollen, prompting a visit to his doctor.

The doctor took a scan of his abdomen and then sent Bernstein to Dr. Michael Grasso, Director of Urology at Phelps Hospital.

“He told me I had four days to live,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein had a large cancerous kidney tumor and tumor thrombus clogging his vena cava, a major vein that drains circulated blood into the heart.

As his time for surgery approached, more complications arose. Bernstein had two of his main coronary arteries almost totally blocked, and his liver was failing.

“He was walking a thin tightrope,” Grasso said. “You have two situations that are life-ending in a very short period of time, happening simultaneously.”

A team of surgeons took 12 hours to perform a bypass and remove the tumor. The mass that was removed weighed nearly 2.5 pounds

“I can’t say I fully recognized the complexity when I went in, even though Grasso told me it was complex. There was not much I could do about it and [that attitude] got me through,” Bernstein said

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Grasso said blockages in his veins led to Bernstein’s foot pain.

“The vena cava was being obstructed. There was pressure in his lower extremities,” he said.

Bernstein said he feels fortunate.

“If my whole leg didn’t swell up, I would have dropped dead,” he said.

Bernstein spent three days in sedation after the surgery, a week in the hospital and underwent rehab to regain his strength.

“I’m still suffering from a fog a bit,” he said.

His bottom line: “If something is wrong and they can’t find it, don’t give up looking. Trust your feelings about your own body.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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