Maria Mora - Patient Story
"I interviewed other doctors, but when I met Dr. Hoffman at Fox Chase, I just knew he was the one."
— Maria Mora
When it comes to her health, Maria Mora has always taken a proactive approach. After her mother died of ovarian cancer at age 47, she went through genetic testing and based on the results, she opted to undergo a prophylactic oophrectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries) to prevent the same diagnosis. Maria takes care of herself, eats right and exercises. So when she started experiencing bouts of indigestion serious enough to send her to the ER in January 2010, Maria knew something was up. While others might have tried to control their symptoms with Mylanta, Maria, who was 47, saw a gastroenterologist, who ordered an endoscopy. "The doctor called me a week later and I almost fell off my chair," she recalls. He explained that Maria had ampullary carcinoma, a malignancy at the opening of her bile duct. "The doctor said I'd need a Whipple procedure, and to start interviewing surgeons right away."
On a friend's recommendation, she called Fox Chase Cancer Center and got an appointment with surgical oncologist John Hoffman, MD, FACS, one of the nation's most experienced surgeons in the Whipple procedure. "I interviewed other doctors, but when I met Dr. Hoffman at Fox Chase, I just knew he was the one," she says. "I liked his credentials, and he's done over a thousand Whipple procedures. He had a competence and a sense of assurance that made me feel I was in good hands." The Whipple procedure involves removing the head of the pancreas, some of the small intestine and the gallbladder (if it hasn't already been removed). Dr. Hoffman then reconstructs the digestive tract to preserve function.
Maria was scheduled for surgery in late March. The day before the surgery, Dr. Hoffman not only came in to talk to her to go over everything but came into to see her on a Sunday! He came in to talk to her and her husband, taking them through the procedure step-by-step and answering all their questions. Although the Whipple is a major procedure, Maria knew if she was going to have a fighting chance, she needed the surgery as quick as possible in order to put the cancer behind her.
"Everybody at Fox Chase was so supportive and caring."
In typical self-described "Maria" style, she took her recovery in her own hands, forcing herself to walk and work through the recuperation with steely determination. "I couldn't leave the hospital until my body completed specific functions, so I kept walking. I knew what I had to do. Everybody at Fox Chase was so supportive and caring," Maria shares. She was still in the hospital when Dr. Hoffman popped his head in with good news. "He said my cancer was encapsulated. It wasn't in my lymph nodes. I was going to be fine."
Maria was home in a week, intent on regaining her strength. "Every day, I'd take another step, make a little progress," she said. In three months, Maria was back to work part time as a legal assistant and paralegal. "I was so anxious to get back to my normal life, but in hindsight, I should have taken more time," she said. "I'm either crazy or strong - or maybe a little bit of both." Almost 6 years later, she's is still walking two miles a day weather permitting, watches what she eats and takes her digestive enzymes with her meals as needed.
"I'm so lucky. God bless Dr. Hoffman and the nurses at Fox Chase."
"I'm so lucky. God bless Dr. Hoffman and the nurses at Fox Chase," she shares. "Now, I'm still just trying to live my life to the fullest every day. Through this whole thing, I felt divine intervention. I was carried through somehow, and I'm so grateful."