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Barbara Pennypacker - Patient Story

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"I wouldn’t be here without Fox Chase. They saved my life."

— Barbara Pennypacker

I was diagnosed with a retroperitoneal liposarcoma located in the fat around my kidney in January 2011. I had had some pain on my side for several months and was losing weight, and I thought I might have a mass on my gall bladder. When my pain got a lot worse, my primary care physician sent me to the emergency department at a local hospital, where I had blood work, a urinalysis, X-rays, and CT scans.

When the scans detected a mass near my liver, the doctor referred me to Dr. Margaret von Mehren, an oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center who directs the sarcoma program. She recommended a 5-month course of infusion chemotherapy 5 days a week to shrink the tumor, which was administered at 17-day intervals.

My tumor responded to the chemotherapy, and Dr. von Mehren then referred me to Dr. Jeffrey Farma, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase. When I first met Dr. Farma I thought he was soft-spoken, young, and straightforward. He shared realistic expectations, and I knew from that meeting on I was in good hands. Dr. Farma also added Dr. Rosalia Viterbo, a urologic surgeon who has expertise in kidney surgery, to my treatment team.

When they said I needed radiation therapy prior to surgery, I met with Dr. Penny Anderson, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chase, to learn more about the radiation treatment they recommended. Because I needed daily treatments, I decided to have the radiation therapy closer to home, and Dr. Anderson supervised my care.

I was finally ready for surgery in July 2011. Dr. Farma and Dr. Viterbo worked together to remove the 17-centimeter malignant mass, along with part of my liver and kidney to make sure there was no cancer left behind. Later, I underwent 2 additional surgeries. Dr. Farma performed another abdominal surgery to resect the recurrent tumor, and when several spots were discovered on my lung, I had surgery to remove those. The nursing care at Fox Chase was excellent. They were with me whenever I needed them and were extremely compassionate.

My husband, Allen, and I have been married more than 40 years. We have 2 sons and grandchildren, and I enjoy taking care of my granddaughter while my son and daughter-in-law work. Allen and I enjoy going out to dinner and spending time with our family.

I now see doctors at Fox Chase 4 times a year and continue to feel grateful for the care I receive. I wouldn’t be here without Fox Chase. They saved my life. 

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