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Discovering my Merkel Cell Carcinoma.

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"Dr. Farma was friendly and kind, and so dedicated to my cancer care."

— Ann Marie Evans, Merkel Cell Carcinoma Survivor

Cancer Doesn’t Always Come with a Warning

In 2013, I noticed a lump on my right buttock that seemed like a cyst. I knew that cysts were typically nothing to worry about, but continued to keep an eye on it. It grew, shrank, and continued to fluctuate over time, but was completely painless. It wasn’t until about a year later, when it started turning strange colors, that I decided to get it checked.

A surgeon took a biopsy of the growth, but assured my husband, Morgan, and me that it was a cyst that shouldn’t be concerning. We went home feeling hopeful, but just a day later, my family doctor called to tell us the growth was a type of cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma.

At first, I thought he was joking because I was so shocked. How could this be possible, when the surgeon had been so confident? My doctor gave my husband and I a few recommendations for cancer centers, and Fox Chase Cancer Center was the closest to our home in Scranton. They were able to schedule an appointment as soon as two days later, which was a relief because I wanted to have the cancer removed as soon as possible.

Quickly Getting to Fox Chase

We met with Dr. Jeffrey Farma, who would be my surgeon. He was warm, kind, and very knowledgeable about my type of cancer. The very next day, we were back to see a dermatologist. My husband and I were both very pleased with the service, including the testing, which was very thorough. The process continued to move quickly, when just two days after that, I was scheduled to be operated on. Everything happened so fast; I barely had time to process what was happening. It was terrifying, but I knew I was in good hands with Dr. Farma.

I received a radical excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy. After the operation, Dr. Farma and his team were constantly checking on me. My husband and I were astounded by the patient care, which was beyond anything we could have received back home in Scranton. I stayed as an inpatient for a few days, and was sent home to recover. However, things got even scarier a week later, when scans showed more signs of cancer in my lymph nodes that needed immediate removal, and I was operated on once more.

After my procedures, I was able to receive 50 days of radiation to my groin at a local hospital affiliated with Fox Chase, and returned home for a long recovery. I had to wear a pump for fluids, and continue to, but was grateful to have my son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Stephanie, who are both nurses, constantly helping and caring for me each day during the initial recovery period. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

Getting Back to Normal

It has been hard adjusting to a lifestyle after cancer; it completely changed both my husband’s life and mine. I still wear a home pneumatic compression device for lymphedema I’ve experienced in my legs, but am fortunate to not have experienced any further symptoms of malignancy, and continue to return to Fox Chase for follow-up appointments.  We are forever grateful to Fox Chase and Dr. Farma. Dr. Farma was friendly and kind, and so dedicated to my cancer care. If we weren’t recommended Fox Chase, I have no idea what I would have done. 

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