Topics in This Section
Learn More About
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Patient Stories, Inflammatory Breast Cancer Patient Stories, Risk Assessment Program Breast Cancer Patient Stories, Breast Cancer Patient Stories, Risk Assessment Program Patient Stories
In 1991, Dr. Mary Daly, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center, created the Family Risk Assessment Program, to research the genetic risk of certain types of cancer. In order to get the program off the ground, she needed to recruit participants in the program.
"Dr. Daly's goal is to reduce the occurrence of cancer. She really loves her job."
At about the same time, Norma Snyder, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, lost her mother to ovarian cancer. When she saw the notice that Fox Chase was studying the genetic link to ovarian cancer, she jumped at the chance to participate. "I was among the very first women to enroll in the program at Fox Chase," Norma said. "When I first met Dr. Daly, I knew it was a good match. She is dedicated, compassionate and interested in reducing the occurrence of cancer within families. She really loves her job and cares deeply about her patients."
As a participant in the Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program, Nancy was caught off guard with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Then, in 1997, Norma, who was just beginning to enjoy her retirement, began experiencing symptoms that caused alarm. Her left breast was red, enlarged, hot, itchy and sore with dimpled skin and an inverted nipple. She immediately showed it to her gynecologist, he was unsure of what it was and said "call your friends at Fox Chase".
"I never had to 'shop' for a hospital."
"I never had to 'shop' for a hospital. As soon as we suspected it was breast cancer, I knew I'd seek the expertise of Dr. Daly," explained Norma. Dr. Daly saw her the next day to conduct various tests. Norma was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), one of the most aggressive breast cancers.
Norma and her family accepted the news with much concern. "My directness helped me come to terms with my cancer. I am an optimistic person. I thought to myself this is what I have to do and this is what I am going to do," said Norma.
"Dr. John Hoffman is a very talented surgeon."
Her treatment started with chemotherapy, in order to shrink the tumor, reduce its spread and make surgery possible. The next step was surgery - a modified radical mastectomy. "Dr. John Hoffman performed the procedure. He is a very talented surgeon and I felt most confident in his care," said Norma.
Once she recovered from surgery, Norma began five weeks of daily radiation therapy followed by another course of chemotherapy, to prevent the cancer from recurring. Dr. Neal Topham, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase, performed Norma's breast reconstruction. Finally, Norma took Tamoxifen, a drug that has been shown to reduce recurrence, for 5 years. Today Norma is cancer-free and is under the watchful eye of her doctors.
"If you have to be sick, Fox Chase is a wonderful place to be."
"If you have to be sick, Fox Chase is a wonderful place to be. I always knew Fox Chase was one of the best cancer hospitals in the country and I am fortunate to live close by," said Norma. "All of my experiences at Fox Chase were good. I never had anything but nice things to say about Fox Chase."
Norma and her husband, Melvin, spent many hours in the cafeteria during her treatment. "We used to see the same friendly faces day after day and soon began sitting together. We made some great friends with some of the employees at Fox Chase," said Norma.
"I wanted to help other women with IBC."
Norma kept her positive outlook through her ordeal, although there were some challenging moments. She decided to help other women who have been diagnosed. She has served as a volunteer for Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a local organization dedicated to breast cancer survivors. She also founded an Inflammatory Breast Cancer support group at the Wellness Community in Philadelphia http://www.twcp.org/and was the recipient of the Komen Celebrate Life Award in 2003.
Today, Norma is legally blind with Macular Degeneration. That has not stopped her from her favorite hobby - needlework, including knitting, crocheting, needlepoint and quilting. She has also traveled the world.