Bob Devlin - Patient Story

Patient Story Tags

Treatment Type

"Fox Chase just feels like family to us. They have everything that you need, plus more personal attention."

— Bob Devlin, Squamous Cell and Prostate Cancer Survivor

In 2004, I was at the peak of my career as a mail carrier and working a lot of overtime. My mother-in-law, with whom I was very close, had just passed away after a nine-month battle with cancer. The last thing I expected was to be diagnosed with cancer myself—and then to be diagnosed with a second cancer shortly after battling the first. It was very stressful to be diagnosed right after going through it with a family member.

After a local ear, nose, and throat specialist diagnosed me with squamous cell cancer of the head and neck, I wanted to seek another opinion. A woman who I talked to on my mail route in Reading, PA, who survived thyroid cancer, recommended her surgeon, Dr. John Ridge, at Fox Chase Cancer Center. By the end of that day, she and my wife had faxed all the necessary documents to Fox Chase, and I had an appointment scheduled with Dr. Ridge for a few days later.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better surgeon for this type of cancer. Dr. Ridge is truthful and gets right to the point. And he’s ranked as a Philadelphia magazine Top Doc. Unlike our community hospital physicians, the doctors at Fox Chase see complex cases like mine all the time.

I underwent two surgeries and intensity-modulated radiation therapy following surgery to remove the tumor in my neck. Throughout my diagnosis and treatment, Linda stood by me—as wife, caregiver, and information gatherer. She made phone calls, surfed the Internet, and spoke with cancer survivors.

Patients do not hear what the doctor says in the same way family members do. After diagnosis, I was in a daze for about a week. Linda was able to gather information on my cancer type from the Resource and Education Center at Fox Chase. We had never heard of head and neck cancer before I was diagnosed with it. We also drew support from the people at Fox Chase. The nurses comforted Linda and kept her together during the long days we spent at the Center for infusions and radiation treatments.

I don’t know if I could have made it without Linda. My nurses also provided extra special care. I was amazed by how many nurses there are to one patient. The doctors and staff at Fox Chase are very compassionate and top-notch. It’s a scary time when you are diagnosed with cancer, but great strides have been made in the field of cancer research, and many cancers are now treatable and possibly curable.

Because my job was physically demanding, I did need to take a leave of absence from work, which created some financial hardships. But Linda was able to continue working full time, and we had an AFLAC cancer policy that was a financial lifesaver during this time.

My treatment for head and neck cancer was complete the Wednesday before Thanksgiving of 2004. Later the next year, in October of 2005, came a second blow: prostate cancer. Again, Linda and I chose Fox Chase for treatment. Fox Chase just feels like family to us. They have everything that you need, plus more personal attention.

This time, I was confused about treatment. With all the options available for prostate cancer, I wanted to make the right decision, but I didn’t know what that was. Together with my prostate surgeon, Dr. David Chen, I chose nerve-sparing surgery. Dr. Chen was very on the ball with everything he told me. He was right the first time.

This experience has led Linda and me to think more about cancer prevention. Linda, who lost her mother to cancer, is a member of the Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase. And since I survived prostate cancer, I’ve encouraged my brother to learn more about his risk through Fox Chase’s Prostate Cancer Risk Assessment Program.

After my second cancer diagnosis, I decided to retire as a mail carrier and have been focusing my time on fundraising for cancer research, antiquing, driving my classic car, and spending time with my wife and friends at our summer home in Ocean City, NJ. Once I became cancer free, Linda and I wanted to give back. Our first fundraiser—selling cakes, brownies, and more from Sweet Street Desserts, a Reading-based company—raised more than $7,200 for Fox Chase.

Giving back is the only way we feel we can have some control over the situation. We don’t have millions of dollars, but we can still do something for research. Cancer research finds better treatments; raising money helps that.

Unfortunately, although life has been less stressful since retirement, I’ve had several health issues this past year that appear to be related to radiation treatment. I’ve been to numerous doctors and had numerous tests with no final results at this time, which is very stressful. We haven’t done any fundraising lately, as time is short with all my recent doctors' appointments.

Despite these challenges, I remind myself that I survived cancer not once, but two times. My attitude is simply dealing with what life gives me and then hoping to God all goes well. With Fox Chase Cancer Center and my wife, Linda, by my side, it did.

Patient Story Tags

Treatment Type

Connect with Fox Chase