Carol Hobson - Patient Story

"During my hospital stay, everyone was very kind and professional – from the nurses to housekeeping staff."

— Carol Hobson, Bile Duct Patient

As a school nurse, Carol Hobson knew the importance of taking care of her own health.

After 23 years in the field, Carol retired in January 2011 at the age of 67. In June, while experiencing severe left shoulder pain, Carol’s husband, Wayne, took her to the emergency room at their local hospital. Doctors performed several tests which were inconclusive. Carol was sent home to follow up with her family doctor.

Her family doctor ordered more tests, and also placed Carol on antibiotics after she developed a rash on her arm and tested positive for Lyme disease. After undergoing the antibiotics regimen, most of Carol’s medical issues resolved except for a mass found in her bile duct. 

Carol was referred to a large university hospital in Philadelphia, almost two hours from her home near Pipersville, PA. After additional testing, her doctor at the hospital suspected bile duct cancer but he had no positive biopsies. Carol was told to get an opinion from a GI surgeon at that same hospital.

“(At that point) I decided to call Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion,” said Carol, who worked as an RN for American Oncologic and Fox Chase in the late 1960s and whose father was treated at Fox Chase for pancreatic cancer. 

“I always knew Fox Chase had an excellent reputation. They were able to fit me in with Dr. Hoffman right away.” Carol’s second opinion appointment turned out to be her only opinion. “I felt so confident with Dr. Hoffman, I decided to stay at Fox Chase.”

Dr. John Hoffman explained Carol’s treatment options and was honest and open in his approach. “I understood Dr. Hoffman was reluctant to consider surgery without a positive biopsy because of the surgery’s complexity,” explained Carol. She underwent extensive testing with Dr. Jeffrey Tokar, a gastroenterologist at Fox Chase, who was trying to determine the cause of her symptoms. “I still didn't expect to learn I had cancer,” shared Carol, who later learned that one symptom of bile duct cancer is right shoulder pain. “My pain was on my left side.”

“I was visiting my grandchildren in Charlotte, NC when I got the call from Fox Chase telling me I was a candidate for surgery,” she said. “I was relieved to have a definite plan even though we weren’t completely sure I had cancer.”

In December 2011, Carol was admitted to Fox Chase where Dr. Hoffman and his colleague, Dr. Andreas Karachristos performed a bile duct resection. They learned Carol did in fact have bile duct cancer. The surgery was successful and they were able to remove all of the cancer.

"During my hospital stay, everyone was very kind and professional – from the nurses to housekeeping staff,” said Carol. “They worked hard to get me home for Christmas and that meant a lot to me.” Once she recovered from the operation, she was ready for the next phase in her treatment.

Her medical team grew to include a medical oncologist, Dr. Crystal Denlinger and a radiation oncologist, Dr. Josh Meyers, who developed an individualized treatment plan for Carol. She began a simultaneous course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After completing that initial treatment, she had an additional course of chemotherapy.

By February 2013, Carol’s PET scan showed no evidence of disease. “I feel very lucky,” said Carol, who, together with Wayne, have five children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “I treasure the time I can spend with my family. If it weren’t for Dr. Hoffman, I might not be here to watch our family grow.”

“Going to Fox Chase was the best decision I made. I would recommend Fox Chase to anyone who has been told they might have cancer."