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Carol Hobson - Patient Story

"I can tell you that if you decide to go to Fox Chase, you will get the most knowledgeable people taking care of you."

— Carol Hobson, Bile Duct Patient

My way of dealing with cancer is trying to forget that I have cancer until it is time for another visit to Fox Chase Cancer Center. I know when I do have a problem I can depend on my Fox Chase family to take care of me, as they have always done since I became a patient there in 2011.

I discovered that I had cancer when I had severe left shoulder pain at the age of 67 in January 2011. I had recently retired from my career as a school nurse and knew the importance of taking care of my health. My husband, Wayne, took me to the ER at our local hospital, where several tests were inconclusive. I followed up with my family doctor who ordered more tests and prescribed antibiotics after I tested positive for Lyme disease. Most of my medical issues resolved after the antibiotics regimen, except for a mass that was found on my bile duct.

My doctor referred me to a large university hospital in Philadelphia, which is almost two hours from our home near Pipersville, PA. The doctor there did additional testing and suspected bile duct cancer but my biopsies were not positive. I was referred to a GI surgeon at the same hospital.

I decided instead to call Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion. I had worked as a registered nurse for American Oncologic and Fox Chase in the late 1960s, and my father had been treated there for pancreatic cancer. I knew Fox Chase had an excellent reputation, and I was able to get an appointment with surgical oncologist Dr. John Hoffman right away. I felt so confident with Dr. Hoffman that I decided to stay at Fox Chase.

Dr. Hoffman explained my treatment options and was honest and open in his approach. I knew he was reluctant to consider surgery without a positive biopsy because of the complexity of the procedure, and so I underwent extensive testing with Fox Chase gastroenterologist Dr. Jeffrey Tokar. At that point, I didn’t expect to learn that I had cancer.

I got a call from Fox Chase while I was visiting my grandchildren in Charlotte, NC, telling me that I was a candidate for surgery, even though no one was sure that I had cancer. In December 2011, Dr. Hoffman performed a bile duct resection and confirmed the diagnosis of bile duct cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma. All of the cancer was removed in the procedure.

During my hospital stay, everyone was very kind and professional, from the nurses to the housekeeping staff. They worked hard to get me home for Christmas, and that meant a lot to me.  I was then ready for the next step in treatment. 

My medical team grew to include medical oncologist Dr. Crystal Denlinger and radiation oncologist Dr. Joshua Meyer, who developed the treatment plan: a simultaneous course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After the initial treatment, I had an additional course of chemotherapy. By February 2013, a PET scan found no evidence of disease.

I have had CAT scans every six months. In June 2014, small nodules were detected on both lungs, and by February 2017 one nodule was large enough to biopsy. The results showed the same cholangiocarcinoma as my original cancer. Although there is no cure for this type of cancer, chemotherapy may keep it controlled. My schedule for CAT scans and blood work has been changed to every three months, and I may need to start chemotherapy again in the future.

Life has a way of twisting and turning in ways we never expect, so I spend most of my time enjoying my life with my family and friends and working on home projects. My granddaughter, Aislinn, was diagnosed with a rare genetic terminal disorder, Sanfilippo syndrome or MPS 111, in February 2015 when she was four years old. She is a beautiful young lady with an abundant amount of energy and love, and I try to visit with her and her brother and parents in North Carolina every few months.

I can tell you that if you decide to go to Fox Chase, you will get the most knowledgeable people taking care of you. Just as important, you will become part of the Fox Chase family and will be treated like a family member. That is one of the most outstanding features of Fox Chase Cancer Center.

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