Maria Carosella - Patient Story
"There wasn't a doubt in our minds that I was getting my treatment at Fox Chase."
— Maria Carosella
"I'll never forget the day I was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was February 14, 2002 - my husband's birthday," recalled Maria Carosella. She asked her doctor to perform a colonoscopy because she had been symptomatic for quite some time. At only 36, Maria's colonoscopy revealed she had cancer.
"I was kind of in denial. I had symptoms during my pregnancy, but hoped they would go away. By the time my twins were 13 months old, and the symptoms were still there, I figured it was time to get checked."
Maria worked in downtown Philadelphia at the time, so she decided to have surgery at one of the large city hospitals. She shared, "Although my doctors told me I was surgically cured, I agreed to have chemotherapy because of my young age."
After she finished chemotherapy, Maria had a CAT Scan. The doctors noticed a spot in her lung, but guessed it was scar tissue, so they were not too concerned.
Maria remembered "waiting and waiting for my doctor to call with the results. I even called to ask if they were ready. Finally, after three weeks, on a Friday evening, they called to tell me the spot on my lung was suspicious. Bad timing! Some friends suggested Fox Chase Cancer Center and made me an appointment."
"As soon as I met Dr. Goldberg at Fox Chase, we connected. I adored him. He explained everything in a direct, honest way - yet he was very kind about it. Everyone I met was so friendly. There wasn't a doubt in our minds that I was getting my treatment at Fox Chase. Maria's doctor confirmed that the colon cancer had spread to her lung. She underwent a right lower lobe resection and spent over a week in the hospital. "The nurses were so, so good. One night I was having trouble sleeping. In a soft, comforting voice, my nurse promised to watch over me until I fell asleep. It was like having your mom in the room with you. I was just amazed," said Maria.
Although Maria was satisfied with the care she received at the other hospitals, she arrived at Fox Chase and could not believe the difference. She said, "At Fox Chase, I received wonderful care from everyone. It is truly a special place. The nurses are angels! Especially Ann Pellegrino, my nurse practitioner. I wish I had come to Fox Chase from the beginning. Since I started my cancer patient 'career' elsewhere, I can truly compare the care."
Pain management is a top priority for all health care providers at Fox Chase. Maria explained, "Whether I was on the patient floor or in the infusion room, the nurses were on top of pain. The first thing they ask is 'are you in pain?' They really want you to be as comfortable as possible."
Maria recalled, "The infusion room nurses take time to get to know each patient. By talking to you about your family, they are able to distract you in such a way that you almost forget you're getting chemotherapy."
Social workers play an integral role in patient care at Fox Chase. During her treatment, Maria thought she had enough support from her extended family and friends. She was mistaken. "Fortunately, my social worker, Susan Haney, knew what was best and connected us with two charitable organizations to help my family with day-to-day living expenses while I could not work. They later sent us to Disney World!" said Maria. "Susan knew my needs better than I did! She is a truly amazing person. I will always remember how much she helped my family and me. At Fox Chase, a whole team of people take care of the whole person - mind, body and soul - every step of the way."
By the spring of 2004, Maria was feeling better and knew she needed to look for a job. Her husband, who is a tennis pro at a nearby club, supported her decision. "With my new perspective on life, I wanted to work somewhere that I could make a difference, even if I didn't work directly with patients. I found Fox Chase on the Internet and began my search," said Maria.
Maria landed a job at Fox Chase in Institutional Advancement. "Our department handles fundraising, marketing and communications. Although I don't work with patients, I do feel that in some small way, I'm helping Fox Chase accomplish its mission, which is rewarding."
Not long after Maria started work, her oncologist, Dr. Jonathan Cheng, noticed a new spot on her lung during a follow-up visit. "We thought we were finished with cancer, so this news was so upsetting. Fortunately, the biopsy confirmed that it was not cancer. The medical team that performed the biopsy cheered for me. I felt like I was with family. I guess I was."
In the summer of 2008, Maria reached the 5-year mark. "It was a great feeling knowing that I reached this milestone. I'm feeling good, enjoy working at Fox Chase, and most of all, I love being an active mom!"