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Mary Carr - Patient Story

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"I felt like finally somebody was finally paying attention and listening to me - and it was Dr. Farma."

— Mary Carr, Colon Cancer Survivor

It sounds like something out of a movie.

Although she was under twilight anesthesia, Mary Carr could hear the doctors talking during her colonoscopy in May 2011.  “I couldn’t feel anything but I heard them talking about the Phillies,” Mary recalls.  “All of a sudden I hear one of them say, ‘There’s something there, I can’t go any further.  The other one said, ‘Is it cancer?’  “What range is she?’ 'Two to four.' I heard everything. When they wheeled me out, I said to the nurse, 'So I have colon cancer?'”

Mary, an IRA administrator who lives in Schwenksville, PA, had been sick since January 2011. Her stomach was constantly upset and she couldn’t hold down food. Her local doctor diagnosed Mary with the flu, but as the months went by and she continued to lose weight, he sent her to an internist, who couldn’t seem to find the cause. “Somebody in the office told me to go on the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and tea) diet,” she explains. This continued until May, when the doctor finally ordered a colonoscopy.

Mary was referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center.

“The doctor who discovered the tumor told me to go see Dr. Farma at Fox Chase Cancer Center right away, not to wait,” Mary recalls. Jeffrey M. Farma, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating patients with gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer.  

At Mary’s consult, Dr. Farma reviewed her test results and listened to her story. “He said this went on way too long,” admits Mary. Dr. Farma ordered a virtual colonoscopy for the following Wednesday, with surgery scheduled the day after.

“Dr. Farma sat me down and explained that the tumor was wrapped around my colon," shares Mary. "He went on to explain exactly what was going to happen with my treatment. I felt like finally somebody was finally paying attention and listening to me - and it was Dr. Farma.” He referred Mary to his colleague, Anthony J. Olszanski, MD, RPh, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase, who would manage her care following surgery.

Dr. Farma explained that during surgery, he would attempt to remove the tumor using laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, surgery. “I was hoping I’d wake up and be able to go to work in a few days. But that’s not what happened.”

During the delicate procedure, Dr. Farma discovered that Mary had numerous complications. Her colon was severely inflamed with diverticulitis and the tumor had encroached on her ovaries. Dr. Farma and his team, that included a gynecologic surgical oncologist, removed Mary’s ovaries and resectioned her bowel. “I had quite an incision,” she recalls. Post-surgical laboratory results brought good news: the margins were clear (there was no cancer in the tissue surrounding the tumor) and the nearby lymph nodes were cancer-free. 

"Every single person I met at Fox Chase was excellent."

After she recovered from surgery, Dr. Olszanski began Mary on a six month course of chemotherapy. “Every single person I met at Fox Chase was excellent. I can’t say enough,” explained Mary.

“It was faith, my family and friends and the good doctors at Fox Chase that got me through this,” said Mary. “Those other doctors just kept missing the problem. I’m just lucky I found Dr. Farma when I did.”

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