Jo Ann Bono: Two Cancers, One Positive Outcome

“The best way I can describe being at Fox Chase is it’s like getting a big hug.”
‐Jo Ann Bono

When COVID-19 hit, I decided it was time to retire from a lifetime of teaching art and do more traveling with my partner Joe. We purchased a tiny trailer and spent a year and a half visiting family and scenic vistas. Our travels were put on hold, however, when I was diagnosed with not one but two cancers.

A Double Diagnosis

I get breast exams every year, and in June 2022, my doctor found a lump in my left breast. When I met with a local surgeon, he said it was a new primary tumor and had nothing to do with the lung cancer I’d been treated for back in 2011.

That was a relief. However, as I was getting additional scans for my breast, the doctors discovered a mass in one of my bile ducts. This turned out to be yet another primary tumor, meaning it was independent of both my lung and breast cancers. Somehow I had two new cancers in my body.

Five months later, despite my calling regularly and asking when things would move along, I still hadn’t gotten an appointment with an oncologist or a surgeon who would operate on my bile duct. Finally, I heeded the advice of a friend and sought a second opinion.

Much Speedier Service

I knew the Fox Chase Cancer Center - East Norriton location was around the corner from where I lived, so I gave them a call. I wasn’t planning to commit right away, but then the woman I spoke to gave me the equivalent of a big hug over the phone and told me, “Don’t worry, we can get you in right away.” I wasn’t going to say no after that!

A few days later, I met with Dr. Jason Castellanos, a surgical oncologist who specializes in liver, gall bladder, and bile duct cancer. He reviewed all the biopsies and scans I’d had done and explained how he was going to remove the tumor from my bile duct.

He was very personable and asked me lots of questions, not only about my health but also about my family. When I told him about Joe, whom I’ve been with for 20 years, he asked if Joe was Mr. Bono. “No,” I said, “Joe’s my boy toy.” Dr. Castellanos got a kick out of that.

Next, I met with Dr. Andrea Porpiglia, the surgical oncologist who would operate on my breast. With the last surgeon I’d seen, it felt like he’d been pushing me to get a double mastectomy, which I didn’t want, and I had expressed uncertainty about whether I’d lose my nipple. Dr. Porpiglia listened to what I wanted and told me she had no problem confining the surgery to my left breast and was confident she could preserve my nipple.

Then she and Dr. Castellanos got together and decided they could do both surgeries at the same time so I’d only need to be put under anesthesia once.

Expert Surgery

We scheduled my surgery for December 6, 2022. Dr. Porpiglia removed the tumor from my breast first, and then Dr. Castellanos’s team came in to remove my bile duct tumor. It wasn’t an issue, because as I told my children, I was still zonked.

Both surgeries went well. When they were done and Dr. Castellanos went to the waiting area to find Joe, he announced, “I’m looking for Jo Ann’s boy toy.” I was delighted when Joe told me this story, but Joe was mortified! Dr. Castellanos and I share a sense of humor that both of us will always enjoy.

I can’t say enough good things about this doctor. Every day while I was recovering in the hospital, he called Joe to update him on how I was doing. He told us both to call him Jason, and every time I go for a follow-up, he greets me in the waiting room with a big hug.

The Warm Embrace of Fox Chase

Before she went on maternity leave, Dr. Jennifer Winn, my medical oncologist, helped set up my treatment plan for after my surgery. Once I recovered from the operations, I was able to get both radiation therapy and chemotherapy at East Norriton.

Dr. Randi Cohen was my radiation oncologist, and I saw her for 15 sessions. I then took a chemotherapy pill for six months and got an infusion every three weeks. The infusion was really more of a shot — it only took five minutes. And the nurses who administer it are wonderful. The receptionists are wonderful, too. Everyone at Fox Chase goes above and beyond.

The best way I can describe being at Fox Chase is it’s like getting a big hug. I’ve never met a cranky person working there, and no one has ever rushed me or seemed impatient. They act like you’re the most important person in the world. I would never hesitate to recommend them.

Learn more about treatment for breast cancer and bile duct cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center.