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Carol Desko - Patient Story

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"I would recommend Dr. Chu to anyone facing a gynecologic cancer."

— Carol Desko

I’m one of those lucky people who keeps in touch with my nine best friends from grade school. Every few years, we travel together. In the summer of 2009, the year we all turned 65, we planned to take a cruise. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them that year.

In June 2009, I began spotting, which was concerning to me, as I was 65 and had already gone through menopause. I thought I was having bladder issues and went to a urologist. When all tests were negative, I saw my gynecologist, who performed a biopsy, which was also negative. After a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure was finished, the pathology results revealed the source of the bleeding: I had endometrial cancer. The most common type of this disease is called endometrial adenocarcinoma, but my cancer was a less common and more aggressive form called uterine papillary serous carcinoma. 

My gynecologist referred me to Dr. Charles Dunton’s practice at Lankenau Hospital in 2009. He performed a complete hysterectomy, followed by a course of chemotherapy. By October 2011, Dr. Dunton suggested that I seek a second opinion from Dr. Christina Chu, a surgical gynecologic oncologist who was at University of Pennsylvania at the time but later began practicing at Fox Chase Cancer Center. I still have the sticky note that Dr. Dunton passed across the desk when he suggested I see Dr. Chu. I was very appreciative to him for having the foresight to refer me to another specialist.

I felt comfortable with Dr. Chu and knew I was in good hands. At my first appointment, she reviewed my medical history, and with confidence and compassion, she told me, “I'll be able to help you.” I knew I was in the right place and began treatment immediately. I would recommend Dr. Chu to anyone facing a gynecologic cancer. She’s compassionate and honest. She tells it like it is but instills a sense of confidence so you know she’ll take great care of you. She gave me hope, and I was so thankful I could follow her to Fox Chase.

After several rounds of chemotherapy, I took a 10-month break from the treatment (from May 2013 through March 2014). In April 2014, I began a new course of chemotherapy at Fox Chase Cancer Center. I had surgery in 2015 and was on a pill for most of 2015, but I haven’t had any chemotherapy or treatment since November 2015.

I was fortunate enough to never have had any intestinal issues with the treatments. After a while, I stopped filling the prescriptions I was given for nausea medication. I was very, very lucky, other than being extremely tired sometimes. I had vacation at work because I’d been there a long time, and I briefly took short-term disability when I was recovering from surgery. We were still able to have the grandkids over, and sometimes, I had to lie down more often than usual, but there was never a cloud over the house. We just took it easy.

I’ve recently reduced my time at work to four days per week. For the past 20 years, I’ve worked as an examiner for a title company, which is work that I enjoy. My coworkers have been very supportive. They’ve been wonderful about allowing me to take time off or come in late when I have a doctor’s appointment. I’m so appreciative of my husband, Michael, who is retired. He definitely spoils me—he does the food shopping, cooking, and cleaning. I come home to a nice meal each night!

I now see Dr. Chu every three months, and the week before my appointment, I have bloodwork done. Every three months, for the week leading up to my bloodwork and visit with Dr. Chu, I do get a little uptight not knowing what my results will be like, but I can honestly say that after we get the results and I see the doctor, I almost don’t even think of myself as having cancer. We’re not using the word remission yet, so we’re just going along here and hoping for the best!

I believe in the power of prayer and am thankful for everyone in my life. Due to my ongoing treatment, Michael and I haven’t traveled far, but we have enjoyed visiting with our four sons, eight grandchildren, and our newest family addition, a great-grandson who was born in December 2013.

Last year, when Michael and I celebrated our 50th anniversary, our four sons surprised us with a bench on Ocean City’s boardwalk. The plaque reads, “Happy Anniversary, Mike and Carol Desko, also known as Nanny and Pops.” It also includes the date and our song, Johnny Mathis’s “Misty,” with a line from the song at the bottom: “I get misty just holding your hand.” It was really special of them to do that, and we were so lucky that I was here to enjoy our 50th anniversary.

Until just this year, I didn’t know anybody who had my kind of cancer. In the waiting room at Fox Chase one day, my husband started a conversation with a girl who was with her mother, and it just so happened that the girl’s mother and I had the same kind of cancer. So, when I came out from seeing the doctor, the girl and I exchanged numbers, and she has called me several times to ask about my experience. It’s been nice to know somebody else who has this kind of cancer.

Everyone at Fox Chase has been so nice—from the maintenance crew, to the nurses, to the front desk staff. It takes a certain kind of person to work there. I’ve been to other hospitals where the infusion rooms are private. Fox Chase’s infusion room is more open and everyone gets to know each other, if only for a short visit. It’s very friendly, which is also nice for the family and caregivers, who are the real heroes!

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