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Beth Brendlinger - Patient Story

"The doctors and nurses never gave up hope and neither did I. We made a great team."

— Beth Brendlinger, Liver Cancer Survivor

I was 52 when my first colonoscopy detected a villous adenoma in situ, a precancerous lesion in my colon that had to be surgically removed. My doctors decided to keep an eye on it, and I was fine at all follow-up visits. Eight years later in 2007 I was still feeling fine, but routine blood work indicated that my alkaline phosphatase level was high. Further testing detected a mass on the right lobe of my liver, and a biopsy confirmed that cancer that had originated in my colon had spread to my liver.

My husband, Brian, and I were referred to Dr. John Hoffman, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. When I learned I had Stage 4 cancer, my worst fears had come true. Before the appointment I had decided I would not be willing to undergo chemotherapy if I had Stage 4 cancer. I had heard lots of stories about chemotherapy and was very anxious about it. I didn’t realize that everyone reacts differently to it and that doctors can tailor the treatment to each patient.

Unfortunately, my tumor, which was very large, was pressing on the vena cava, the vein that returns blood to the heart from the lower part of the body. It potentially could have been surgically removed, but only after chemotherapy had decreased the size of the tumor. Dr. Hoffman recommended that I see a doctor at a Fox Chase partner hospital that was local to where we live. He explained that the doctor there could oversee the chemotherapy and, if I responded well, I would be a candidate for surgery.

It was a great relief knowing that Dr. Hoffman had a plan for me and that I didn’t have to make a choice. In many ways, I felt as though I was an observer and that this was happening to someone else. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, and I wanted my life to continue as normally as possible. With God’s help, I was going to do my best to make it happen.

I began chemotherapy in June 2007 and finished it nearly two years later. Most of the side effects were relatively mild, with some fatigue, hair loss, and a little nausea. The staff at Fox Chase was wonderful and spent a lot of time with me prior to treatment, and a nurse provided patient education materials and answered all of my concerns and questions, putting my mind at ease.

Over that period of time, I saw Dr. Hoffman every three months. Twenty-one months into my chemotherapy regimen, he decided I was a good candidate for surgery. He brought Dr. Jeffrey Tokar, a gastroenterologist at Fox Chase, onto my team. Dr. Tokar ordered a PET scan and performed an embolization of the right portal vein to reduce blood loss during surgery. Dr. Hoffman performed a right hepatic lobectomy in March 2009.

I truly believe I am enjoying life today because of Dr. Hoffman’s compassion, skills, and thoroughness. He is my hero. Everyone I met at Fox Chase was kind and treated me with respect. It is easy to see that they care about their patients and that patient comfort and peace of mind are a top priority. I felt that both hospitals were partnering in my care and so I got the best of both. The doctors and nurses never gave up hope and neither did I. We made a great team.

While I was undergoing chemotherapy, I became a grandmother three times. Finally, in 2017, years after my cancer was removed, my youngest son got married. I continue to enjoy vacationing with friends and family in Ocean City, NJ. Life goes on and you make the best of what is handed to you.

My strength comes from my Christian faith and the support of my family. I am here today to talk about this experience because of medicine, prayer, and love. According to Gracie Allen, “Never place a period in your life where God only meant to place a comma.” Those are words to live by.

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