Darlene Collins - Patient Story

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“From the moment I made the first phone call, everything about my treatment was seamless."

— Darlene Collins

I was diagnosed and treated for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early stage and noninvasive breast cancer, in 2012 when I was 49.

I work as a supervisor for discharging at a Philadelphia hospital that requires regular screenings, so when I developed some pain in my right breast, I went for a mammogram. I was called back for another screening when something looked suspicious. While I was in the waiting room after the second test, a doctor came in and took my hand, and that was a dead giveaway that something was wrong. He asked if I was by myself, and I said no, I was with God. That was when he gave me the news that I likely had breast cancer.

I worry about African American women and their risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in our demographic, but I know from talking with friends that many women don’t have a firm handle on what all their options are. I worry that urban women don’t realize that they have the same access to a world-class cancer hospital like Fox Chase Cancer Center as everyone else.

When I was diagnosed, I quickly made the call to get an appointment at Fox Chase. My mother had been treated for cervical cancer at Fox Chase years before, so I knew I wanted to go there. At my first appointment I met with surgical oncologist Dr. Richard Bleicher, who is a member of the Fox Chase breast cancer treatment team.

From the moment I made the first phone call, everything about my treatment was seamless. Dr. Bleicher gave me all my options and thoroughly explained the diagnosis of DCIS. He was very positive and made me feel as though I was going to be OK. I opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction because of my family history of cancer, and I felt very comfortable with that decision. Dr. Bleicher also referred me to a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Fox Chase.

My procedure was performed on March 14, 2013, and there was virtually no pain afterward. I felt almost back to normal three weeks later. I didn’t have the breasts I had before surgery, and it took several weeks before I could really look at them. When I did, I knew it was different, but that I also knew that I was going to be just fine. Because the cancer was treated at such an early stage, I didn’t need chemotherapy, radiation, or even drug therapy. My husband, Keith, held my hand and walked every step of the way with me.

I am now a four-year breast cancer survivor and continue to enjoy our family of five children, four grandchildren, and our four-legged children. I feel healthier now and more conscious of my weight and overall health. I can’t say enough about Fox Chase and Dr. Bleicher, and the nursing and office staff. I get positively bubbly when I talk about Fox Chase.

My husband created a logo and line of memorabilia after my treatment. We are using the logo, called “The Diva in Pink,” on t-shirts, hoodies, wine glasses, and coffee mugs that we are selling not only for financial gain but also to promote my outreach to survivors of breast cancer and their families and friends who have walked with them in their fight. My mission now is to inform ‘divas and dudes’ about awareness, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer.

I give thanks to God for giving me another ‘due date’ in life by allowing me to be a survivor and for giving me the mindset to evict fear and move faith into my life. I often say to people that I had an invitation to death and learned to dance with life.

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