Joan Foley - Patient Story

Patient Story Tags

Treatment Type

"It was wonderful to have such a caring and dedicated team of nurses who were there to care for patients during treatment."

— Joan Foley, Ovarian Patient

My symptoms began in early 2014 at the age of 60. When I felt bloated and had indigestion for several months, I made an appointment with my family doctor for a blood work-up. I thought I was lactose- or glucose-intolerant or had a stomach virus, but the test results revealed elevated levels of CA-125, a marker of ovarian cancer. A follow-up CAT scan detected a 5-inch mass in my abdomen. It was stage 3 ovarian cancer.

I have always been healthy, trim, and active. I take 25-mile bike rides several times a week, and I enjoy sailing, boating, and nearly every activity on the water. I work as a researcher at a university in Philadelphia, so after my diagnosis I started doing some research about treatment and physicians in this area who specialize in ovarian cancer.

My personal physician told me about the comprehensive care available at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and my own research turned up information about Dr. Stephen Rubin, a gynecologic oncologist who had recently joined the surgical team at Fox Chase. I was very impressed with all I read about Dr. Rubin. I visited the Fox Chase website and began reading about the doctors and patient experiences at Fox Chase. One testimonial described a woman who was treated there for ovarian cancer and provided the details of her diagnosis and treatment. The details helped me better understand what might take place if I chose Fox Chase.

Fox Chase was responsive to my request for an appointment, which really impressed me. Dr. Rubin was caring and compassionate, and he explained things in a realistic way. He told me what his approach would be and what his expectations were for me.

My surgery took place less than a week after my consultation with Dr. Rubin. The debulking procedure removed all of my gynecologic organs to prevent spread of the cancer. I had access 24/7 to Fox Chase nurse practitioners if I had any questions, concerns, or needed advice.

I started chemotherapy about four weeks after surgery and continued weekly treatments for 18 weeks. My side effects were limited and were similar to what Dr. Rubin had projected. Sometimes the treatments were three to four hours in length, and it was wonderful to have such a caring and dedicated team of nurses who were there to care for patients during treatment. The treatment room is a busy place, but each of us was treated as an individual with our unique needs. I cannot say enough about their dedication to their patients.

Since my last treatment in August 2015, all testing to monitor any recurrence has been negative. I get a CA-125 test every eight weeks and a CT scan once a year. Dr. Rubin has established a strict monitoring protocol to ensure prevention or early diagnosis of any recurrence.

My life now is much the same as it was prior to my cancer experience. I focus a considerable amount of time on aerobic exercise at least five days each week, and I continue to pursue my own research endeavors with the intention of publishing my results in peer-reviewed journals. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to thinking about a cancer recurrence on an on-going basis; however, that is likely the same for many cancer survivors.

I recommend that anyone diagnosed with cancer should do their homework and research well-regarded oncologists who have expertise in a specific diagnostic area of cancer. Also, be mindful of the staff surrounding those oncologists because treatment will involve a multitude of staff members beyond the oncologist.

My family now contributes to a research fellowship program led by Dr. Rubin to train research fellows in the field of gynecologic cancers. We also sponsored a successful run/walk fundraiser last year to support that program. Because Fox Chase is a research institution, it offers patients a treatment edge, and research at Fox Chase can inform existing treatment protocols to yield better outcomes now and in the future.

Patient Story Tags

Treatment Type

Connect with Fox Chase