Eleanor Mason

It was like any typical annual physical exam at her primary care physician in Egg Harbor Township. As usual, following her appointment, Eleanor Mason headed to the lab for routine blood testing. However, this time, test results showed Eleanor’s blood count was off; her red blood count was low.

“My doctor kept an eye on it, but things definitely got worse over the next couple of years,” recalled 78-year-old Eleanor, who also has diabetes. Her primary care doctor referred her to a medical oncologist for further testing. “I basically learned that my white blood cells were overtaking my red blood cells,” she said. In her late 60s at the time, Eleanor was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a disease that typically progresses more slowly than other types of leukemia.

Eleanor’s medical oncologist successfully managed her care with regular chemotherapy for the next seven years. “Every time I had chemo, though, I’d be in bed about four or five days,” she said. “That was terrible. It stopped me from doing the things I loved, like watching my grandkids play sports.”

Eleanor proudly showing her paper beads and braceletsEleanor proudly showing her paper beads and braceletsAt that point, two of Eleanor’s four daughters, Tisha and Liana, encouraged her to seek another opinion. They wanted her to go directly to Fox Chase Cancer Center, but Eleanor told them that simply would not work. Getting there as often as she needed would be difficult, as her daughters had their own jobs to maintain. She knew what that was like, having worked as a teacher’s aide for 22 years.

With AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute located in her own hometown, Eleanor made an appointment with a Fox Chase oncologist who also sees patients in the Department of Medical Oncology at AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute. Through the Fox Chase Cancer Center Partners Program, Fox Chase physicians treat patients at select Partner hospitals, bringing advanced care to the local community.

“I didn’t realize AtlantiCare was a Fox Chase Partner,” said Eleanor. “I actually came to have the best of both worlds. My doctor talked to me about new studies with chemo pills, and that’s the treatment he put me on.”

Happily, Eleanor no longer deals with the side effects she did with regular chemotherapy. She takes three pills once a day to manage her CLL. “I do a lot now. I have lunch once a month with the secretaries I used to work with at the school,” she explained. “I also spend time with my sisters, ages 85 and 88, and do my favorite crafts, washi tape and paper beads.”

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