Rosella Nelson - Patient Story

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"I was just told I had cancer. I wanted a second opinion."

— Rosella Nelson, Breast Patient

"Get a second opinion, and go to a nationally recognized cancer center!" This is the advice Rosella Nelson wants everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer to hear. Had she not practiced what she preaches, Rosella would have had both breasts removed needlessly in 2007 at her local hospital. Fortunately, a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center provided Rosella with alternatives, as well as hope.

After years of being treated for non-cancerous fibroids in her right breast, Rosella Nelson wasn't concerned when she heard back from her doctors about an abnormality that was detected during a routine mammogram. That is until she heard that this time the problem was with her left breast.

Rosella and her husband reside in the farm community of Milleville, PA, about 3 hours northwest of Philadelphia. She recalls meeting with the general surgeon from a regional hospital in February of 2007.

"He told me that I had invasive carcinoma and that I would have to have both of my breasts and lymph nodes removed within the week," shared Rosella, who was referred to a reconstructive surgeon right away. "I just couldn't process it all. Everything was happening way too quickly for me. So I told the doctor I wanted a second opinion. Let's just say he was less than thrilled at my request. But I didn't care. I was just told I had cancer. I wanted a second opinion regarding my options."

Thankfully for Rosella, she stood her ground. She met with her family to discuss not only a second opinion, but how crucial it was that she be seen at a hospital that specialized in cancer treatment. At the time, her daughter lived in Philadelphia and her son lived in New York - both cities home to the nation's top cancer centers. Although Rosella lived several hours from both Memorial Sloan Kettering and Fox Chase Cancer Center, she could stay with her son or daughter, depending on which institution she chose. Even though her father and grandfather (who also had cancer) had positive experiences in New York, Rosella felt a warmth and comfort level at Fox Chase Cancer Center that convinced her she would receive the level of care and attention she desired as she fought her cancer.

Just as she had been persistent with her regional doctor about the second opinion, she didn't let up when it came to securing an appointment at Fox Chase so she quickly gathered her test results. "I was persistent because I knew how important it was to be seen by their team of professionals," said Rosella. "My husband and I were on the phone virtually every day to ensure I would get seen at Fox Chase."

Rosella was assigned to a multi-specialty team of doctors at Fox Chase, including Richard Bleicher, MD, a surgeon, and Penny Anderson, MD, a radiation oncologist. Rather than undergoing a radical double mastectomy (as suggested at her local hospital), Rosella's team recommended a much less invasive surgery to remove the Stage 2 (non-metastasized) tumor. The surgery was performed on an outpatient basis, so that Rosella went home on the same day the surgery was performed. Because of the type of cancer, and the stage, Rosella did require additional treatment. Now, 3 years later, Rosella reports that all of the work was worth it.

"I can't say enough about everyone at Fox Chase Cancer Center," said Rosella. "There was not one person that I met - from the schedulers, to the nurses, to the doctors, to the other support staff, that wasn't helpful, supportive and knowledgeable."

"Everyone was well educated - not only in how to treat my cancer, but also how to treat me as a person and to help me with my own personal situation."

Even though Rosella has been given the "OK" to go to physicians that are closer to home for check-ups, she reports that, "Despite the great distance that I have to travel, I will always go back to see the doctors at Fox Chase Cancer Center. I feel very protected in the Fox Chase environment. I feel they really care for me and about me."

Rosella offers the following advice to anyone faced with cancer: "You may have to fight a little harder with your primary doctor. You may have to work a harder to get all of your records in order and transferred. And you may even have to travel a little farther, but getting treatment at a cancer center is worth it. Thanks to Fox Chase Cancer Center, I have both of my breasts, and my life to prove it."

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