Jeanne Niblock: Surviving a Second Bout of Breast Cancer

“I’d gotten my first lumpectomy at Fox Chase Cancer Center after hearing about its great reputation, and I was impressed by the care I received there. I knew that’s where I wanted to go for treatment this time, too."
‐Jeanne Niblock

I am 84 years old and I just moved to an over-55 community with my husband, George, last year. Since I retired from secretarial and real estate work about two decades ago, I’ve kept busy by joining a knitting group, gardening, and going to the gym.

A Second Bout of Breast Cancer

Generally speaking, I’m pretty healthy and very independent. I’ve had Type 2 diabetes for the past 25 years, which I manage with insulin. 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer in my right breast, but after a successful lumpectomy, I didn’t need any additional treatment.

In late June of 2020, I noticed what looked like a dimple on my left breast, so I made an appointment to see a dermatologist. As soon as she looked at it, the dermatologist suspected that it might be cancer. She contacted a gynecologist in the same office complex and walked me over there for an appointment. The gynecologist ordered an ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy, which revealed stage I breast cancer.

Getting the Right Care

I’d gotten my first lumpectomy at Fox Chase Cancer Center after hearing about its great reputation, and I was impressed by the care I received there. I knew that’s where I wanted to go for treatment this time, too. So, I made an appointment at one of Fox Chase’s suburban outpatient locations: Fox Chase Cancer Center East Norriton - Hospital Outpatient Center.

Dr. Andrea Porpiglia, a surgical oncologist, was my very first point of contact. She analyzed all of the tests that had been done and even requested her own sample of the biopsy to be analyzed at Fox Chase.

When she looked at the diagnostic tests, she noticed calcifications in my right breast—the one where I’d had the lumpectomy already—so she ordered a stereotactic biopsy in order to test all of the calcifications and make sure there was no cancer there as well. Her reasoning was that, especially at my age, she didn’t want to sedate me twice. If they were going to do surgery, she wanted to get it all done at once. Fortunately, those tests came back negative.

My daughter Meg was with me throughout all of this, talking to the doctors and asking questions. My hearing is poor, so situations like this can be overwhelming, and I can miss a lot. It was a blessing to have her by my side. In fact, when they scheduled the lumpectomy for my left breast, Dr. Porpiglia was incredibly understanding and did everything in her power to clear the way for Meg to be present for as much of the day as possible. In the time of COVID-19, that could not have been an easy task, and I know not every patient at every institution gets the same consideration. It meant the world to me.

A Successful Surgery

My left breast lumpectomy took place on August 10, 2020. Along with removing the cancerous tumor, two of my lymph nodes were thought to be cancerous as well, so Dr. Porpiglia removed both of them and sent them for further testing. When the surgery was over, she went out to the waiting room herself to tell Meg how everything went. Both Meg and I appreciated that a lot.

When the surgery was over, Dr. Porpiglia didn’t just let me become a cog in the system. Instead of letting me hear the results of the lymph node testing from my other care team members, she called me herself.

It turned out that one of the lymph nodes she removed did have metastatic breast cancer, and she didn’t want me to be blindsided by hearing the news from someone else. Her doing that was above and beyond, and yet very much in line with how caring and considerate she’d been all along.

Next Steps

After my surgery,  I underwent three weeks of radiation therapy before seeing medical oncologist Dr. Jason Incorvati. He prescribed me a drug that reduces the risk of cancer recurrence and metastasis, and I’ll be taking it for several years.

Dr. Incorvati has already been great. The drug I’m taking can cause some bone loss, so I had to have a DEXA scan (which measures bone density). He called Meg immediately to follow up on that and make sure I was taking calcium and vitamin D appropriately.

I feel really well taken care of by everyone at Fox Chase, and I know Meg agrees. That’s how you know how good they are, because she’s kind of hard to please!

Learn more about breast cancer treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center