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Arlene Koller is no stranger to adversity. She lost her first husband when he suffered a massive heart attack, leaving Arlene with 3 small boys to care for. She was the treasurer of a wholesale paper business. After she lost her husband, Arlene added the responsibility of presidency of her late husband's chemical business. Arlene later remarried, and in 2000, she and her husband began to travel the world.
They traveled to Australia, Thailand, China, Europe and more. But when her husband was diagnosed with lymphoma, they had to stop.
Just four years later, in 2004, Arlene's own health became compromised. After extensive testing, Arlene was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.
"My condition was complicated," shared Arlene, who was undergoing treatment in northeastern Pennsylvania. "My local oncologist suggested I go to a specialist at Fox Chase. He made the arrangements for me and that's where I went."
By enrolling in a clinical trial at Fox Chase, Arlene had access to the latest treatment options.
Due to her medical circumstances, Arlene's team of specialists at Fox Chase recommended that she enroll in a clinical trial evaluating a new drug combination to treat lung metastases. "At that point, I would have signed up for anything! I just wanted to recover," she recalled.
Widowed once more, Arlene had to face treatment on her own. With the help of her sons, Arlene traveled to Fox Chase on six separate occasions for a week at a time. She remembered, "When we learned the drugs were working - and that that the tumor was shrinking - we were ecstatic!"
"I am thrilled that the clinical trial worked."
Due to her success, Arlene feels she was the poster child for her clinical trial. She admitted, "I was terrified when I was diagnosed, but am thrilled now because it worked."
"Fox Chase was like no hospital I had ever been in before," Arlene explained. She felt that everyone, including the nurses, doctors and staff, treated her like a person, not a number. "As a cancer patient, that is very important. They hug you hello and hug you goodbye. You don't see that anywhere else. It just doesn't exist."
"It's hard to explain the setting to someone who hasn't been to Fox Chase, but it's very uplifting."
During the warm weather, Arlene enjoyed the grounds at Fox Chase, especially its beautiful gardens. She shared, "In the courtyard at Fox Chase, you don't feel like you are at a hospital. Sometimes the doctors would stop by and sit with me. It's hard to explain the setting to someone who hasn't been to Fox Chase, but it's very uplifting."
Arlene has five grandchildren who are the love of her life. She refers to them as the greatest kids in the world, although she admits she's a bit prejudiced. They take turns visiting each other, but her favorite time is to have everyone together for a holiday celebration at her house.
Before her cancer treatment, Arlene volunteered her time raising money for the American Cancer Society and serving Meals on Wheels, among other things. Since finishing treatment, Arlene has picked up where she left off. She serves as a finance chairperson on many committees. Her most rewarding job at the moment is to bring a local Holocaust survivor to area schools and organizations to speak about his experience.