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Diana Robinson - Patient Story

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"Go to the very best doctors right away. For us, that was Fox Chase."

— Diana Robinson

In the 25 years I’ve been with my partner Jan, we’ve shared everything—a love of gardening, social and family time, and boating at our New Jersey beach home. Cancer was not supposed to be on that list.

But in June 2008, we both received call backs after routine mammograms. After two unsuccessful biopsies, I was told I had breast cancer. Jan learned that not only did she have breast cancer, but an X-ray also revealed a lump on her lung. We found out within a half hour of each other that we both had cancer.

Referred by several friends to Fox Chase, we decided to team up with our treatment. We made appointments together and kept each other company on the four-hour roundtrip drive from our home to Fox Chase.

As a retired assistant director of nurses at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, I did my research before deciding on my ultimate treatment plan. I had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, which is considered both noninvasive and highly treatable, but I didn’t want to risk going through the emotional roller coaster ride and physical trauma of having a recurrence. After careful thought and much consideration, I decided to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction. I knew there was a chance my cancer could recur. Surgery would take care of everything at once.

My surgery was scheduled for December 22, 2008. I felt confident in my decision and decided to proceed with a family trip with my daughters and granddaughters to Italy before surgery. Of course, they knew I had cancer. But I felt fine and I knew the surgery would take care of things, so we had a wonderful time together.

My treatment team included Dr. Neal S. Topham, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase, and Dr. Richard J. Bleicher, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase who specializes in breast cancer. The 10-hour procedure was a complete success. It turned out that I’m allergic to morphine—but the staff helped manage my pain using alternative methods. The good part is that I never have to think about breast cancer again. It’s gone. Jan’s treatments—a lumpectomy to remove the tumor from her breast tissue, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, and surgery to remove a section of her lung—were also a success.

The staff at Fox Chase were so sweet to us both. As a nurse, I know what good nursing is about. The nurses and other Fox Chase staff were perfect. They showed absolute patience, competency, and efficiency. I remember one time I got mixed up about an appointment—I was upset because Jan was in surgery, and I really wasn’t thinking clearly. But they took me anyway and were so lovely to this not-so-calm lady. Both of our experiences at Fox Chase were very positive.

Two years later, Jan and I are doing well. Our experience with cancer has become for me and for Jan something one deals with and then it’s over. We’re fortunate—there are many worse things in life than a cured cancer.

Still, the diagnosis has heft to it, especially when it comes in pairs. These days, I find I don’t postpone fun and I’ve become more relaxed about keeping balance in my life. Jan and I take at least one big trip together each year. Most recently, we cruised through Greece and Italy. We feel that our cancer experiences have brought us even closer.

When someone asks what I may advise other women facing the diagnosis of breast cancer, I don’t hesitate. I tell them, “Don’t panic. Do your research, and go to the very best doctors right away. For us, that was Fox Chase. Don’t go into denial. Face it, get your treatment over with, and then you can move forward and have peace of mind.”

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