James Ferraro - Patient Story

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"Some hospitals treat you like a number; at Fox Chase, you feel like family."

— James Ferraro

I have been cancer free for six years, thanks to Fox Chase Cancer Center. I feel great and everyone tells me that I have more energy now than I had before, and I have to agree with them. I still hunt and fish, play golf, and travel with my best friend, my wife, Maryellen. We have two beautiful daughters, and we love to spend time with our two wonderful grandchildren. They are all the loves of my life.

I was 61 years old in 2010 when I was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer after a choking incident at a Labor Day family barbecue. A piece of meat got stuck in my throat and wouldn’t move up or down. When I threw up, my daughter, a nurse, was alarmed by what looked like bile, so I went to a specialist who scheduled an endoscopy the following week. He diagnosed cancer and said that my pancreas could also be involved.

The news was devastating and shocking, but I said we needed to get the crying done and then go to battle. A niece who has a friend in research at Fox Chase Cancer Center urged me to seek treatment there. Even though the trip from our home to Fox Chase is three hours one way, we traveled there to meet first with Dr. Joshua Meyer, a medical oncologist, who performed a battery of tests and scans.

My first treatment was a six-week course of chemotherapy and radiation administered Monday through Friday. My wife and I stayed at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, located on the Fox Chase campus, and then we returned home every weekend. Hope Lodge was a Godsend, saving us time and money.

Everyone was surprised by how well I tolerated the radiation and chemotherapy. I was able to eat so I didn’t lose much weight, and I just got very tired during the last two weeks or so of therapy. I finished up the treatment in early December and was home for the holidays.

In January, I underwent a 10-hour surgical procedure to remove any suspicious areas of my esophagus. The surgeon used part of my stomach to form a replacement swallowing tube, which left me with a smaller stomach. I couldn’t eat a big meal so I lost some weight, but I was able to put it back on. The doctor took dozens of samples of everything, including my lungs, and found no trace of a tumor big enough to send for a biopsy.

I continue to do well. I am happy to be back to hunting, fishing, and golfing, activities I enjoyed before cancer. I look at every sunrise and sunset as a gift from God, and Fox Chase made sure that gift was delivered to me. The doctors at Fox Chase are truly my heroes. I plan on living for a long time and enjoying every day of my life, thankful that God kept me here. Those going through what I went through should never give up the fight. As I told my doctors, I’m not sick; I have cancer, and I am going to defeat it. Some hospitals treat you like a number; at Fox Chase, you feel like family. 

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