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Debbie Richards - Patient Story

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"Dr. Rubin is an incredibly talented physician and I feel so fortunate to have him managing my care."

— Debbie Richards

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2014 during an eventful year for our family. My daughter, Ashley, had settled in at Penn State University, and my husband had just accepted a new position as a high school principal in Sunbury, PA. His new job prompted our need to relocate, and the move meant I would also have to find another job myself. 

I was a happy and healthy 54-year-old wife and mother, but I thought something must be wrong when I continued to experience bloating and abdominal discomfort. My doctor ordered a battery of tests, including blood work and a colonoscopy, but everything was negative. A subsequent CAT scan detected the cancer. There I was, in shock. My husband had already moved to begin his new job, and I was in the process of selling our house. This was not what I was expecting.

My doctor referred me to a few gynecologic surgeons, but I really felt I should be treated by a physician who specializes in gynecologic cancer. I asked a highly regarded gynecologist, “Who would you go to if someone in your family had ovarian cancer?” The answer was Dr. Stephen Rubin at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

 I spent some time researching the websites of hospitals and, hands down, Fox Chase’s website was the most informative. I was very impressed. By that time, we lived equidistant from Philadelphia and New York City, so I was open to treatment in either city. After I called several renowned hospitals in both cities, I continued to be most impressed by Fox Chase. Everyone I spoke to, from the person who answered the phone to my nurse navigator, was friendly, empathetic, and compassionate. They knew how to make a great first impression, and when I arrived for my initial appointment, everyone was just as nice as they had been on the phone.

At my first appointment with Dr. Rubin, chief of gynecologic oncology at Fox Chase, he explained the treatment would begin with a full hysterectomy followed by a course of chemotherapy. One week later, he performed the procedure, and I stayed in the hospital for three nights before returning home. All of the nurses were amazing. After my recovery, I began a year of maintenance therapy, which included 18 cycles of chemotherapy.

I got involved with Relay for Life after my treatment and became a ‘Voice of Hope’ speaker for the American Cancer Society. I wanted to provide valuable information to other women about gynecologic and ovarian cancer and let them know that the symptoms can mimic menopause. I stressed the need to find a gynecologic oncologist and for women to be their own advocates.

Just as I finished my year of treatment, my husband was diagnosed with and treated for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was diagnosed when a tumor was detected behind one of his eyes. The diagnosis came as a shock to our family. After his treatment, we decided to make another big change in our lives. We decided to retire and move to central Florida in July 2016 where we could be close to our good friends of 35 years and start living life to its fullest.

One month before we were scheduled to move to Florida, however, I needed another surgical procedure, this time to have my gallbladder removed. I had had stomach issue

s for many years and had seen a gastrointestinal specialist. When my problems were not improving, my husband suggested I call Fox Chase, even though I did not have cancer. My case proved to be complicated, but another surgery at Fox Chase was able to remove my gallbladder without a surgical incision. I had an excellent recovery and was then ready to move to Florida.

I still return to Fox Chase for follow-up monitoring with Dr. Rubin, and I continue to do very well. My last visit was in April 2017, and I will return for another follow-up visit in about 5 months, as well as having a CAT scan every 6 months. I have blood work done every two months in Florida and the results are sent to Dr. Rubin. My family lives in the Philadelphia suburbs so I am able to visit with them every time I return to Fox Chase.

Our life today is a good one, and our move has been great for us. I do some freelance writing for our local news magazine, practice yoga, and enjoy playing cards and going to monthly dinners and happy hours with our friends and neighbors. 

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