Mary Jean Flannery - Patient Story

"Dr. Boraas gave me all the time I needed."
‐Mary Jean Flannery

When I felt a strange lump in my right breast, I was quick to make an appointment with my gynecologist. In March 2012, I was devastated when the test revealed the news I had Stage 2 breast cancer, and was eager to seek medical attention right away.

Because I live within walking distance of Fox Chase Cancer Center, I decided to go there for a second opinion. At my first appointment, I met with Dr. Marcia Boraas, a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating patients with breast cancer. I was impressed by her peaceful demeanor. After explaining what she found on my scans, she listened to my questions and concerns, and gave me all the time that I needed to process the information. She explained the approach she would take for my situation and what I could expect to happen.

The first step in my treatment plan was chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, which would allow me to choose between two options after that—either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. After undergoing the chemotherapy, I had a mastectomy in August 2012.

Other people were on my treatment team from the beginning. One was nurse practitioner Kathleen J. Smith, who spent a lot of time with me and provided guidance on each step of my treatment. Dr. Sameer A. Patel, my plastic and reconstructive surgeon, was very patient and explained all the options for reconstruction. After talking with him, I decided to have an implant in my right breast after the mastectomy. I went home just one day after the procedure.

Throughout all of my appointments and procedures at Fox Chase, the experience felt less like a traditional hospital and more like a welcoming home. I still go back to Fox Chase regularly to meet with my medical oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Winn, and Kathy Smith.

I also stay involved with Fox Chase in other ways. I participate each year in the Paws for the Cause event that raises funds to support cancer research. In 2016, I made my fifth walk with my rescue dog, Buddy, at the 17th Annual Paws for the Cause. During my treatment I had relied on Buddy for his love and companionship.

Having an event like Paws for the Cause brings people together to tell their stories and to possibly help someone else. When I walk with Buddy each year I am reminded to enjoy the gift of life and to live it to the fullest with the ones around me. The money we raise through that event helps Fox Chase continue to treat patients using an integrated approach to the healing process, and allows us to share hope within a fantastic community of survivors and their loved ones—including their pets.

My advice to anyone facing a diagnosis like mine is to go to Fox Chase for treatment. During such a difficult time in your life, the caring and compassionate staff will guide and support you as if you are part of their family.