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When Holly Dixon spent a spring weekend in New York city, her agenda wasn't taken up by the usual Broadway shows, shopping and sightseeing. Instead, Holly was attending the 2011 OMG Cancer Summit for Young Adults, an international oncology conference and social networking event for young adults affected by cancer.
First diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2009 at the age of 29, Holly is used to being the youngest person in the waiting room. "At the conference, it was helpful to be around so many other young people dealing with cancer," she said. Cancer had touched her life before her own diagnosis, the same year her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He passed away in 2010.
Holly's doctor highly recommended surgeon Dr. Mark Morgan at Fox Chase.
When Holly experienced spotting in between cycles, her gynecologist found what looked like a polyp on her cervix. In an unwelcome bit of irony, Holly, a medical editor, was editing questions about cancer when she got the phone call that her tests came back positive for the disease. "Nothing will ever shock you more than hearing those words," she recalled. Because of the aggressive nature of her grade 3 cervical adenocarcinoma, Holly's doctor recommended a complete removal of the cervix. "I wanted to have fertility sparing surgery, to preserve my option of having children," she said. Available at only 2 hospitals in Philadelphia, her doctor recommended Mark A. Morgan, MD, FACOG, FACS, chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center. "My gynecologist told me that the bedside manner at Fox Chase was far superior to any other hospital. I figured I'd need all the support I could get."
"Recovering from robotic surgery was easier than I expected."
Just a month after her diagnosis, Dr. Morgan performed a radical vaginal trachelectomy (RVT), a procedure that utilized da Vinci® technology, to remove Holly's diseased cervix. "Recovering from robotic surgery was easier than I expected. I really felt fine."
Unfortunately, Holly's cancer was more aggressive than she had hoped. Within 5 months, she began experiencing more pain. An MRI revealed 2 masses in her pelvic region. The cancer had spread, and Holly required an aggressive course of chemotherapy and radiation to stop the disease from progressing. Dr. Morgan referred her to Penny R. Anderson, MD, a radiation oncologist who specializes in treating patients with gynecologic cancers, as well as Michael V. Seiden, MD, PhD, Fox Chase President and CEO, who is also a specialist in gynecological cancer. That fall, her team of skilled physicians attacked Holly's cancer with aggressive course of treatment. "Finishing treatment was the best Christmas present I could have received," she said. Fortunately, the treatment worked. A January 2011 PET/CT scan showed no evidence of the disease. "I'm officially in remission," said Holly, who celebrated one year of being in remission in January 2012.
"I can't thank my team at Fox Chase enough. Without them, I don't think I'd be here."
"Fox Chase is the only place I'd send someone with cancer," she said. "Beyond the obvious specialization and medical expertise, it's just the most sincerely caring group of people," she said. "Getting cancer is a mixed blessing. Obviously, nobody wants it, but cancer changes the way you look at your life. I appreciate every single day now, and the little things I used to complain about, I don't worry about anymore. I can't thank my team at Fox Chase enough. Without them, I don't think I'd be here."