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Ardelle Clarke: Finding a Home at Fox Chase Cancer Center

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“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is home. This is where I need to be.’”

— Ardelle Clarke

I plan on having a very, very long life. I’m 66 years old and I run a daycare in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Until I was diagnosed, I had no symptoms to speak of and had lived a healthy lifestyle. That’s why when doctors told me I had carcinoid tumors, I had trouble believing I was really sick.

A Silent Ailment

On November 10, 2014, I went to the hospital for pain that turned out to be related to a kidney stone. I received a CAT scan and the doctors pointed out that the lymph nodes in my abdomen were swollen. I was advised to go see a hematologist, but I didn’t even know what that was. I had no idea that a hematologist was going to be looking at me for cancer.

After the doctor ran some tests, I was diagnosed with carcinoid tumors, a slow-growing tumor that can spread to the liver or other places in the body. It’s also called a neuroendocrine tumor. For me, it spread to my liver and pancreas. When they told me, I couldn’t believe it. "What are you talking about? Are you sure you didn’t get me swapped with someone else? Look at me," I thought. "I feel fine. I have a full life. How could I have cancer?" It didn’t make any sense.

I was sent to a local hospital for treatment. I met with a doctor there twice before deciding it wasn’t the right fit for me.

That’s when I thought of Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Fox Chase: A Place to Call Home

In December 2014, I was referred to Dr. Anthony J. Olszanski, a hematologist/oncologist at Fox Chase. He sat with me and I felt like I was his only patient. I felt like he was only going to take care of me that day. When I come into Fox Chase, my shoulders relax because that’s how good I feel about coming here. Everybody takes care of you here. I remember thinking to myself, "This is home. This is where I need to be."

I brought my brothers with me for my next appointment, and we all met with Dr. Olszanski so that everybody could ask questions and hear what he had to say. We decided I was going to start on a drug called octreotide, which is also called Sandostatin, but I was having side effects. So I started on lanreotide, which is also known Somatuline, a drug used to treat neuroendocrine tumors that can’t be removed by surgery.

Ardelle Clarke during one of her treatments at Fox Chase Cancer Center.Ardelle Clarke during one of her treatments at Fox Chase Cancer Center.I took that for a couple years, but Dr. Olszanski warned me that someday the shots weren’t going to be as effective. He told me about a treatment being used in Europe that was going to be approved in the United States. Right around that time, my shots stopped working, and when I went for a six-month scan, I was showing signs of cancer again. I was then referred to Dr. Neena Vijayvergia, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist.

Not long after, I was given the new drug, Lutathera, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in January 2018 for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors.

Even though they tell you what to expect, it was a new treatment and I was scared. I remember going to get my bloodwork and the tears were ready to come. But Fox Chase is such a little village. Everyone takes care of everybody else. I was so lucky to have these people here with me and for me. At every appointment, the same people were there and the consistency was very comforting. They helped make every treatment so much easier.

Positivity Brings Hope

Although I haven’t had any side effects or pain, this is something I’m going to have to live with. I have people at Fox Chase looking out for me, though, and they’re going to make sure that I’m just fine.

A positive attitude is the only way I knew how to cope with it. I think it’s how anyone does well with a cancer diagnosis. That’s why after being diagnosed, I took the opportunity to travel to places I had always wanted to go. I didn’t have any symptoms, so I thought there was no time like the present to make it happen. A friend and I made trips to Italy and Amsterdam, and I’ve been up and down the Danube River so many times I could probably give the tour!

I just finished up my three-month scans, and I am waiting to have my first six-month scan. If everything looks good, I will go to yearly scans, which I haven’t had in a very long time. That’s my goal. For now, I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and watching it grow.

I may not have started at Fox Chase, but this is definitely where I’ll stay.

Learn more about neuroendocrine tumors at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

 

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