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Maria Bento - Patient Story

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"Dr. von Mehren was wonderful, and the nurses were very nice and supportive."

— Maria Bento

I have learned many lessons over the years, including the importance of following my instincts and questioning the decisions of others. Those lessons may have saved my life.

I started having severe stomach pain in May 2003, had appointments with different doctors, and went through test after test, but I got no definitive answer about what could be causing the pain. The doctors saw a spot but told me it was probably nothing and to come back in a year.

That was unacceptable advice to me and very frustrating. I had lost a sister and nephew to stomach cancer, and I feared the worst and wanted some answers. In November that year I finally made an appointment at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

After going through several tests, I received the diagnosis of gastrointestinal stromal tumor, or GIST, a relatively uncommon type of sarcoma. When I heard it was cancer, I couldn’t believe it. Even though I was proud that I had persevered with doctor after doctor, I was very scared.

I was then put under the care of a fantastic team of doctors, including Margaret von Mehren, MD, a medical oncologist who has expertise in sarcoma treatment. My husband, Jose, and I had relocated to the U.S. from Portugal in 1973, and so I do not speak perfect English, but my doctors and my family explained things in a way I could understand about the treatment options. I was recommended surgery to remove the tumor, and I agreed.

Dr. von Mehren was wonderful, and the nurses were very nice and supportive. My surgery was successful and I recovered well. Dr. von Mehren is a real sweetheart, and said that I was doing well and felt that I did not need additional treatment. Instead, I would periodically return to Fox Chase for check-ups and CAT scans.

Since our move to the U.S., my husband and I had built a close-knit family and a successful construction business in Philadelphia. I was pleased that I could return to work with my husband and could travel to Portugal to spend time with family. Five years after my surgery, in 2009, I became a grandmother for the first time.

My advice to other people who are experiencing health problems is to persevere and follow your instincts. If you don’t like what you hear from one doctor, get a second opinion. By following this advice, I was diagnosed relatively early and my cancer is behind me. I am free to enjoy my family and my life.

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