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Ovarian Cancer Survivor

"I told Dr. King – you have to keep me here. I’m all she has."

— Crystal Lewis

I was 47 in 2012 when I started having heavy bleeding, which I assumed was related to fibroids. I underwent an ablation procedure, hoping it would alleviate my discomfort, and it did work for awhile but the symptoms returned. By November I was in terrible pain when I went for my annual check-up. I had barely been able to walk when my daughter, Drew, and I were touring private high schools. I am a single mom, and my daughter was only 13 at the time.

My doctor scheduled an ultrasound to determine the size of the fibroids, and the ultrasound detected a cyst on my ovary. He ordered more testing, including blood work. Just in time for the New Year, my doctor asked me to come into his office, and I knew it probably wasn’t good news. The blood test results were suspicious, and he recommended that I see Dr. Stephanie A. King, a gynecologic surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. He suspected that I had cancer and recommended that I be under the care of an expert like Dr. King. I really respected his honesty. I trusted his opinion and knew Fox Chase has a stellar reputation.

As soon as I met Dr. King, I was able to relax a bit. I really liked her and got a good feeling, which was good because I was in shock. Dr. King told me not to worry because she removes ovarian cysts all the time, and she said cysts are benign in most cases. She said she was concerned about my pain and weight loss. On January 22, 2013, I had a total hysterectomy and woke up from surgery to learn that I had ovarian cancer. The stage 2 cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, which was good news.

Dr. King was very knowledgeable, comforting, and honest. I told her that I have to be here for Drew. With no siblings or cousins her age, I am all she has. Dr. King kept me positive, and I needed that. During my stay at the hospital, the nurses were very comforting. They recommended medication to help me relax because they knew what I was in for.

By March I was ready to start the next step in my therapy, intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy, which delivers the drug through a catheter directly into the abdominal cavity as well as IV chemotherapy. Dr. King entered the IP port, and Dr. Paul Curcillo, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase, inserted the port using a single incision. My close friends, Terrie and Antonietta, took turns driving me to chemotherapy. My chemotherapy was completed by the end of June, and after a couple of months rebuilding my strength and stamina, I returned to my job in clinical research at Bristol Meyers Squibb.

I was really weak during that time and couldn’t take my daughter to all of her travel softball commitments, so I was very grateful that my friends stepped in to help. Other parents would drive me to games, drop off meals, and keep Drew overnight. I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my family and friends.

Two years after my therapy, I decided to undergo genetic testing and counseling at Fox Chase to see if I carry the BRCA1/2 or other genetic mutations, but fortunately none were found. Both my sister and my mother have now been diagnosed with breast cancer and both are under the care of Dr. Jennifer Winn, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase, and her amazing nurse practitioner, Kathleen J. Smith.

Fortunately, I had a good response to the chemotherapy. Four years later, I am doing well and return to Fox Chase every six months for follow-up. My daughter graduated from high school and is off to college in the fall. I still work full time, and I volunteered frequently at her high

school over the past four years. I am now looking forward to getting back into long-distance biking and am working with a personal trainer. I try to take care of myself and stay healthy.

I am so thankful for Dr. King and Fox Chase because in addition to giving me back my life, they also gave my daughter back her mother. I would tell anyone to go to Fox Chase if they have cancer. There is no other place I would rather be.

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