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Dennis Sloan - Patient Story

"I knew it was time to go to Fox Chase."

— Dennis Sloan

An annual physical examination certainly paid off for me. I was 47, had just completed a half marathon, and felt great when I went in for my annual exam in 2007. When my doctor felt something suspicious in my abdomen, he sent me for a CAT scan. The scan detected a mass.

I am a respiratory therapist and a clinical application specialist for a medical device company, so I knew it was serious when I was sent to a surgical oncologist the next day.

The most frightening part was that I had felt no pain, bloating, or discomfort. The mass was large, about 13-15 centimeters, but because it was growing into the retroperitoneum in my abdominal cavity, I had felt nothing. When the oncologist recommended surgery right away, I decided I should first get a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center, which is about 30 minutes from our home in Abingdon. The Fox Chase surgeon agreed that surgery was needed, and so I decided to have the procedure at my local hospital in November 2007.

The procedure was successful, but a follow-up CAT scan showed that the tumor had metastasized to my liver. When I learned that my medical oncologist had seen only five cases like mine, I knew it was time to seek treatment at Fox Chase.

I met with Dr. Margaret von Mehren, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase who specializes in treating patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GIST. Dr. von Mehren recommended that I begin a course of chemotherapy treatment with Gleevec, a drug that had been found effective for GIST. I tolerated the chemotherapy, and my tumor shrank. I then opted to have the tumor surgically removed in November 2008.

It has now been 10 years, and I continue to do very well. I take Gleevec every day and go to Fox Chase for follow-up appointments every 9 months, which includes meeting with Dr. von Mehren and a having a CAT scan. She inspires so much confidence, from both a clinical and a research standpoint. She respects me not just as a patient, but also as someone who has a little more than the average person’s understanding of medicine. She never talks down to me, and I feel comfortable with her. The entire Fox Chase staff is outstanding.

My wife, who is also a respiratory therapist, has been my rock, and my son and daughter are now 17 and 20 years old, looking to pursue careers in nursing and biology.

Nobody wants cancer, but I feel very lucky that mine was treatable with both surgery and this miracle drug. I tell other people with cancer that it is very important to have a positive attitude. Going through this is tough in general, but everyone you speak to at Fox Chase is upbeat. Patients may come in grumpy and scared, but Fox Chase makes them feel so positive.

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