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Margaret McCaughey - Patient Story

"We got an appointment with Dr. Kutikov the next morning. I was very impressed with that."

— Margaret McCaughey

At 54, Peggy McCaughey is counting her blessings. In addition to her husband, Hugh, and their two daughters, Hannah Rose and Grace Kelly, she feels blessed to be alive. "I am overjoyed to share my experience about Fox Chase Cancer Center,” she says. 

Peggy's journey began with heavy menstrual periods, losing hair and back pain. She shared her concerns with her gynecologist who suggested hormone therapy. “I could not tolerate it,” Peggy recalls.

After several D&C procedures, Peggy developed anemia. “Finally, my gynecologist agreed to a hysterectomy in 2010," recalls Peggy, who was only 49 at the time. The pathology was positive for high grade endometrial stromal sarcoma confined to the uterus wall. My gynecologist referred me to an oncologist at community hospital. That oncologist told me not to worry and return in six months for a check.” 

Not long after, Peggy started to have bad back pain – which she attributed to gardening. She saw both a chiropractor and her family doctor, but they could not identify or treat the pain. In April, 2011, Peggy had her first colonoscopy. “When I came home I was in excruciating pain and could not stand. We thought they perforated my bowel so I went to the ER and the doctor on duty ordered a scan. The doctor identified a large tumor leaning on my kidney and smaller tumors as well. I had a biopsy taken at that community hospital so I could receive a diagnosis,” Peggy remembers.

Frustrated, she said, it took weeks to get the results of her biopsy. “They said they could not properly identify what type it was,” Peggy says. Upset, she asked the doctor who performed her hysterectomy for a referral.

The McCaugheys were referred to Alexander Kutikov, MD, FACS, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “We got an appointment with Dr. Kutikov the next morning. Hugh and I were very impressed with that, especially after the frustration of waiting so long for the result of a biopsy at my local hospital,” she says.

When Peggy met with Dr. Kutikov, she said she immediately was impressed with his compassion. As part of the multidisciplinary team approach to treatment employed at Fox Chase, he invited Margaret von Mehren, MD, a medical oncologist, Jeffrey Farma, MD, a surgical oncologist, Shelly Hayes, MD, a radiation oncologist, and Jill Seely, RN MSN, CRNP, a nurse practitioner to join Peggy’s treatment and assessment. "We often refer to Peggy's team as 'The Fantastic Five', " shares Hugh. "We were also extremely grateful to Peggy's sister, Maura, who quit her job to help our family during this challenging time."

“Dr. von Mehren literally wrote the book on sarcomas. My family calls her the ‘Sarcoma Slayer,’” adds Peggy.

Peggy had a new biopsy performed at Fox Chase. “Finally I had an answer,” said Peggy. Her biopsy proved to be a recurrence of her high grade endometrial stromal sarcoma. Although she was upset to learn her cancer had recurred, Peggy was relieved to finally have an answer - and a plan

In July, 2011, Peggy began a course of five cycles of chemotherapy that took her to October 2011. Next, she underwent radiation therapy at Fox Chase's Buckingham facility. “After chemotherapy, radiation felt like a walk in the park,” Peggy laughs.

March, 2012, Dr. Farma performed surgery to remove the cancerous tissue surrounding Peggy's small intestine, a portion of her liver and and Dr. Kutikov removed one kidney. "Dr. Farma and Dr. Kutikov are my heroes," Peggy adds. 

Post-surgery, during an examination, Dr. Farma noticed a growth on Peggy’s inner calf. “It had changed size and color so he sent me over to see Jill Seely, RN MSN, CRNP, a nurse practitioner at Fox Chase. She is a wonderful woman. She took a biopsy and diagnosed Peggy with a type of skin sarcoma. Dr. Farma performed a second surgery to remove the growth in May 2013.”

At the age of 54, in 2015, Peggy reports that she is feeling great. “My quality of life is back to normal, thanks to my fantastic medical team at Fox Chase. I will always send people I know to trust with their cancer care to Fox Chase.” She added that the pastoral care group at Fox Chase “are a true blessing to the patients and truly help those in need. Praying really helps!” Peggy enjoys spending time with her family. She is particularly proud of her eldest daughter, Hannah, who changed her major to nursing after watching her mom's journey. "We are very proud of her knowing that she will be making a difference in patient's lives, just as my team has made such an impact on mine." 

Learn more about sarcoma treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

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