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Carol Stahl - Patient Story
"From doctors to nurses to staff to cleaning ladies, Fox Chase was the absolute best place to be."
I started feeling stomach pain during the Christmas season of 2014, but I felt sure it was related to heartburn. By New Year’s, however, I had developed changes in my urine and bowel movements. When I started researching my symptoms online, I saw that pancreatic cancer matched my symptoms. I quickly scheduled an appointment with my primary care doctor, who had previously scheduled blood work for me.
When I arrived for my appointment, I was jaundiced and feeling even worse. The MRI my doctor ordered showed a growth on my pancreas. My next appointment was with an oncologist, who ordered a biopsy and a stent. The biopsy results indicated that I had stage 1-2 pancreatic cancer. On the recommendation of my primary care doctor, I tried to get an appointment with a pancreatic surgeon at a local hospital, but wasn’t able to get one right away.
I decided to call Fox Chase Cancer Center based on the advice of a friend who had been successfully treated by Dr. John P. Hoffman, MD, FACS, a surgical oncologist there. The first person I spoke to at Fox Chase, a nurse navigator named Debbie Scanlon, set a fantastic tone for Fox Chase. I soon had an appointment with Dr. Hoffman and Dr. Sanjay Reddy, MD. They recommended treatment with a course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.
The next step would be a Whipple procedure, where the head of my pancreas would be removed, as well as some of the small intestine, the bile duct, the gallbladder, and possibly the distal stomach. I was ready for surgery by July 2015. The surgeons found during the procedure that a section of the superior mesenteric was cancerous, so they removed that also. I underwent some reconstructive surgery as a result. All of this seemed so daunting, but I knew it was necessary in terms of my health.
I spent almost two weeks recovering at Fox Chase after the surgery. One morning when I woke up, Dr. Hoffman was sitting in my room so that he could talk with me about my concerns about the recovery process. He took care of me physically, and also mentally and emotionally. From that moment on, I knew I could make a full recovery.
After that recovery process, I began another course of chemotherapy. My treatment was completed in November 2015.
When I first contacted Fox Chase, I had felt sick and alone, and I wondered whether it was more than I could handle. The team at Fox Chase provided the best care anyone could ask for. From doctors to nurses to staff to cleaning ladies, it was the absolute best place to be. I am so glad I went to Fox Chase, and I am sure that they saved my life. Now I am cancer free and am enjoying the life I love. I am semi-retired and do commercial embroidery, where I produce souvenir shirts and jerseys for local businesses, and for police and fire departments.
I am also the voice for the Tinicum Park Polo Club, something I have done for 30 years. My late husband introduced me to the sport. Being the announcer and doing the play-by-play commentary is a great way for me to participate in the action without actually playing the game.
I am very grateful to be alive and functioning. I never let cancer get the best of me, and I also thought I could beat it. I am now about 95% back to the person I was before my diagnosis. Going through this has helped me grow as a person. It has changed me, and I now appreciate that every day is so important and so vital.