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Michelle Sealer - Patient Story

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"I am blessed that Dr. Jain and her team came into my life."

— Michelle Sealer, Mother, Ovarian Cancer Survivor

For over 25 years, Michelle Sealer, who is now in her forties, has valiantly fought ovarian cancer while keeping her faith. "I am a religious person and I pray a lot. I believe my faith has helped guide me through the years," says Michelle.

Michelle’s medical journey started when she was in college in 1993. "I started having irregular periods, pain in my right side, and I just wasn't feeling right. I visited the college health center and then was told to go to the local community hospital for treatment," she remembers.

Following blood testing and diagnostic tests, a mass was discovered. "The surgeon at the hospital in Columbia County, PA, told me a mass about the size of an orange was on my ovary. He recommended surgery to remove the one ovary," says Michelle. "My parents agreed and I was scheduled about a week later."

During the surgery, the doctor discovered both ovaries were affected by growth of the tumor, and the decision was made to give Michelle a total hysterectomy - eliminating her ability to get pregnant. Michelle woke up from surgery and was in shock to learn the extent of what had happened. "There wasn’t much I could do at that point," recalls a disappointed Michelle. She left the hospital with little answers and lots of questions.

An oncologist near Michelle’s home in Berks County, PA, informed her that the tumor was a low malignant potential tumor and that no chemotherapy or radiation was needed. "We wanted to make sure that all the cancer was contained and that I would be okay," Michelle states. "We went to Fox Chase Cancer Center based on the recommendation of family friends who knew others who had received excellent care there. We made an appointment and the oncologist back in 1993 concurred with the first doctor and believed I was treated appropriately."

Michelle remained cancer-free for the next 19 years.

During that time, she got married, became a mother to twin girls through adoption and worked full-time as a speech pathologist. Michelle faced other medical challenges in the form of fibromyalgia and lupus, but managed them with medications until a new medical crisis occurred in late 2010. Michelle began to experience heart palpitations. "They were scary — I would be lying on the sofa watching TV and my heart would be beating irregularly and fast," she describes.

"Following a CAT Scan, it was determined that I had calcified lesions on my breast bone that were likely to be bone cancer," recalls Michelle. She underwent a biopsy to confirm that the lesions were a recurrence of the ovarian cancer. To treat the cancer, Michelle began a course of chemotherapy to attempt to shrink the tumor so she could be a candidate for surgery. Unfortunately, it was not successful. "The surgery in 2011 was complicated by the need to remove most of my clavicle. I prayed that I would be OK."

"I decided to go back to Fox Chase Cancer Center for another opinion."

Michelle returned every three months for follow-up evaluation. By 2013, Michelle's local oncologist identified six tumors growing around her heart and lungs. "The doctor told me I couldn’t be cured and he didn’t know what more they could do," shares Michelle, who was feeling depressed. "I needed to do all I could to stay alive. I decided to go back to Fox Chase Cancer Center for another opinion."

Within a week, through the assistance of Carol Cherry, a nurse navigator at Fox Chase, Michelle was referred to Angela Jain, MD, a medical oncologist who specializes in treating patients in gynecological cancers. "When I first met with Dr. Jain she was very professional, sympathetic and thorough," Michelle shares. "I told her my complete story and she listened to every word and she told me she could offer some hope. She encouraged me to enroll in a clinical trial to see how my cancer would respond and confirmed it was the original ovarian cancer that had spread. She was the complete opposite of the oncologist who gave me no help at the first regional medical center. I left Fox Chase that day feeling hopeful and optimistic."

The first two clinical trials were not a good fit for Michelle and eventually the tumors grew again. The third, however, was a combination of two oral chemotherapy drugs which initially reduced and then have stabilized her tumors since 2015. Due to the precarious location of the tumors, Michelle is not a candidate for surgery so Dr. Jain hopes to stabilize the tumor growth.

"I am blessed that Dr. Jain and her team came into my life."

"I am extremely grateful to Dr. Jain and Patti Murphy Kelly, protocol manager, for their dedication and commitment to my care," adds Michelle. "I am blessed that Dr. Jain and her team came into my life, and I give thanks for them in my prayers."

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