Laura Marblestone - Patient Story

"The doctors at Fox Chase were thorough - they didn't leave a stone unturned."

— Laura Marblestone, Breast Patient

Laura Marblestone's mother was only 43 when she lost her fight with breast cancer. That's why Laura, a registered nurse and resident of Langhorne, PA, regularly performed breast self-exams. In May 1990, at the age of 40, Laura detected lumps in her left breast. Results from a lumpectomy were benign, but around the same time, she developed a lump under her arm, which her doctor said was a swollen lymph gland, likely related to the surgery. "He told me it was nothing, I didn't have to worry."

But she did worry. Although her mammogram was negative in January 1991, she opted for a biopsy anyway. During the procedure, doctors removed the lymph node and to her surprise, the results revealed a diagnosis of encapsulated metastatic carcinoma. A doctor friend who'd trained at the National Institute of Health recommended that she go to Fox Chase Cancer Center. "He'd worked with Dr. Goldstein at the NIH, and she had just joined Fox Chase. I knew that's where I wanted to go."

Lori J. Goldstein, MD, a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer, created the Breast Evaluation Center at Fox Chase in 1990, and is a leader in the Center's breast cancer research program. While many of Laura's tests still proved negative for cancer, one blood marker tested positive.

On Dr. Goldstein's recommendation, Laura opted for a mastectomy, performed by Fox Chase surgical oncologist John Hoffman MD, FACS. He performed a mastectomy and removed 15 lymph nodes. Since her mother's breast cancer had recurred under her scar tissue, Laura opted not to have reconstructive surgery and wore a prosthesis instead. After a round of chemotherapy, she was considered cancer-free.

That happy state of affairs lasted 15 years, until she found a lump in her right breast in September 2006. The next day she was at Fox Chase for a mammogram, an ultrasound and a needle biopsy. A few days later, she got the call. "They told me what I already knew, I had cancer."

Within 9 days of finding her lump, a team that included breast surgeon Richard J. Bleicher, MD, performed Laura's second mastectomy. "I was home from the hospital the next day, and went to Rosh Hashanah dinner that night. Maybe I took one pain pill," she recalled. She underwent 6 chemotherapy treatments and was told her blood work was fine.

By 2009, Laura was convinced that her chances of getting breast cancer again were slim. She met with Neal S. Topham, MD, FACS, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase, and decided to undergo reconstructive surgery.

She opted for a bilateral TRAM flap, which utilizes a portion of skin, fat and muscle from the abdomen to form her new breasts. After all she's been through, Laura is absolutely thrilled with the results. "I have natural feeling breasts, and my stomach is flat as can be." Even though it took her 3 months to recover, she'd do it again in a heartbeat.

"It's been a long road," said the grandmother of twins. "The genetic research is so much farther along than the first time I had cancer. I'm a firm believer in being proactive, and being your own advocate. Ultimately, we're all responsible for our own decisions when it comes to our health."