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Joe and his family

Joe and his family

Patient Story

“One of the Most Remarkable Surgeries I’ve Ever Seen”

One man’s journey as the first patient to have two robotic surgeries

When Joe found out he had cancer, the news was difficult to hear. He was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2022 and was struggling with some respiratory issues. Joe’s team was investigating his symptoms when they discovered two tumours: one on his abdomen and one on his lung.

A series of tests ensued and Joe found out the tumour on his lung was so close to his aorta that a biopsy wasn’t possible. Thanks to donor support, Joe’s surgeon, Dr. Daniel Sisson, had options.

“Dr. Sisson told us about a new robotic surgical system at the Hospital that would help him safely diagnose and remove my tumour,” recalls Joe. “He asked if we’d be open to it. We had no questions – we said yes, of course!”

On April 18, Joe was one of the first thoracic patients to undergo robotic surgery with the goal of addressing his lung tumour first.

Using the da Vinci Surgical System, the team delicately removed a piece of tissue from his tumour and sent it to the lab for immediate diagnosis. The expert pathology team at the Oshawa Hospital used staining equipment to make a high-level diagnosis of the type and severity of Joe’s tumour.

Within 20 minutes a pathologist reported back to the surgical team. With results in hand, the robot was used to remove only a small portion of Joe’s lung along with the tumour. Joe spent one night in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and was home 24 hours after his surgery. Miraculously back to his favourite hobby – hiking by the lake – within two weeks.

Cancer is complex, however, and over the course of a few weeks Joe’s care team studied his case and the biopsy of his tumour, determining Joe’s cancer was more severe than expected.

“Dr. Sisson told me my case was more complicated than he thought and additional tests had him concerned. I was told I needed to go back into surgery – right away – and I would need to have the lower lobe of my left lung removed.”

A few weeks after his first surgery, Joe and his family returned to the hospital. The surgery, led by Dr. Sisson and supported by fellow thoracic surgeon Dr. Shannon Trainor, took five hours. Joe was warned that while they would begin his procedure using the robot, it was possible the team would have to forgo the new innovation and open his chest, resulting in significant surgery and a lengthy recovery.

“The da Vinci Robot makes it feel like I’ve been shrunk down inside the body,” explains Dr. Sisson. “Laparoscopic, or the minimally invasive surgery most people have heard of, can feel like you are operating with two long sticks. There isn’t a lot of flexibility. With the robot, I can address complicated areas in ways I couldn’t before and the 3D high-definition camera gives me the best view possible.”

Dr. Sisson and his skilled team were miraculously able to perform Joe’s entire lobectomy using robotic methods. A scenario that stunned his colleagues.

“Joe’s surgery was one of the most remarkable things I have ever been a part of,” shared Dr. Shannon Trainor. “This equipment is going to do incredible things for our patients.”

After just two nights in the ICU, Joe was back with his family at home in Whitby. “My recovery is on the same track as before. I am feeling great and I can even go spend the weekend at the cottage. I see the oncologist in a few days to talk about my next step in the journey and the start of my chemotherapy. I’m anxious but I know we are in the right place.”

Joe’s cancer journey will have many working parts. From diagnostic imaging to surgery to treatment at the R.S. McLaughlin Durham Regional Cancer Centre, he’ll have the support of several expert teams and the innovative equipment at their fingertips, all at his community Hospital.

“My family and I are incredibly grateful to benefit from all of this technology – equipment our own community helped fund!”

To support Our Cancer Campaign and make an impact on patients like Joe, visit for a simple and easy way to give back.