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Mary Anne Barlow - Patient Story

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"The dedication he offers patients goes above and beyond what a doctor does."

— Mary Anne Barlow, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Rectal Cancer Survivor

After experiencing about six months of symptoms, including rectal bleeding and pain when I was sitting down, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2011 at 55 years old. When those symptoms continued to worsen, I went to a local doctor who ordered a colonoscopy, which detected a cancerous tumor on my rectum.

I have a very strong faith, and I try every day to make the world a better place. I have worked as a parole officer and as a drug and alcohol counselor, and I currently run a nonprofit organization to help at-risk pregnant women. I believe that the Lord leads me to help others. I am also a wife, mother, and grandmother. I was terrified and in shock when I found out I had cancer.

My doctor referred me to a local oncologist to begin treatment when I was diagnosed, and I soon began a course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy near my home in southern New Jersey. After that treatment, I saw a surgeon several times, and at each visit he told me that I was not yet ready for surgery. One day he said that he could not perform such a complex surgery and referred me to Fox Chase Cancer Center. Within a few days I had an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey M. Farma, a surgical oncologist.

From the first few minutes of meeting with Dr. Farma, I knew I had come to the right place. The staff of Fox Chase was so professional from the beginning, and Dr. Farma explained exactly what needed to be done. He told me that I needed surgery and that it should be done soon. He has a rare gift of being straightforward and compassionate at the same time, and his confidence made me confident about coming to Fox Chase. He scheduled my surgery for that week.

My surgery turned out to be very complex. Dr. Farma had to remove my rectum, portions of my colon and intestines, and one of my ovaries. Over the new few months, I had two additional surgeries to treat ostomy issues that were associated with the first surgery. Each time, Dr. Farma oversaw my treatment recovery. Knowing that he was taking care of me put me at ease. The nursing care at Fox Chase was beyond excellent. They were very attentive and managed my pain, and Dr. Farma checked on me at least three times every day.

About 18 months later, I had a Pap smear that was abnormal. Once again I was referred to Fox Chase, where I was referred to Dr. Cynthia A. Bergman, a gynecologic oncologist, and I made an appointment with her a month later. When I had my regular follow-up visit with Dr. Farma a few days after I made that appointment, he got Dr. Bergman on the phone to ensure that I could see her that same day. I couldn’t believe how Dr. Farma continued to be my advocate and protector.

Dr. Bergman performed a complete hysterectomy in the spring of 2013, and no cancer was detected. The recovery from that surgery was so much easier than the rectal procedure, and I was up and walking around the next day.

In 2016, I celebrated the five-year mark since my cancer diagnosis. I believe that my faith helped to keep me on a positive path and that positive thinking played a strong role in improving my health.

I still go back to Fox Chase twice a year to see Dr. Farma and Dr. Bergman, and when I go there, everyone is so kind and special. They all know me. I am very grateful for Dr. Farma. The dedication he offers patients goes above and beyond what a doctor does. I truly do not have enough words to thank him.

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