Mary Carr

Colon Cancer Patient Stories

Colon

It sounds like something out of a movie.

Although she was under twilight anesthesia, Mary Carr could hear the doctors talking during her colonoscopy in May 2011.  “I couldn’t feel anything but I heard them talking about the Phillies,” Mary recalls.  “All of a sudden I hear one of them say, ‘There’s something there, I can’t go any further.  The other one said, ‘Is it cancer?’  “What range is she?’ “Two to four.” I heard everything.  When they wheeled me out, I said to the nurse, So I have colon cancer?”

Mary, an IRA administrator who lives in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, had been sick since January 2011. Her stomach was constantly upset and she couldn’t hold down food. Her local doctor diagnosed Mary with the flu, but as the months went by and she continued to lose weight, he sent her to an internist, who couldn’t seem to find the cause. “Somebody in the office told me to go on the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and tea) diet.” This went on until May, when the doctor finally ordered a colonoscopy.

“The doctor who found the tumor told me to go see Dr. Farma at Fox Chase Cancer Center right away, not to wait,” Mary recalled. Jeffrey Farma, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating patients with gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer.  

At Mary’s consult, Dr. Farma reviewed her test results and listened to her story.  “He said this went on way too long,” admitted Mary. Dr. Farma ordered a virtual colonoscopy for the following Wednesday, with surgery scheduled the day after.

"I felt like finally somebody was finally paying attention and listening to me - and it was Dr. Farma."

“Dr. Farma sat me down and explained that the tumor was wrapped around my colon," shared Mary. "He went on to explain exactly what was going to happen with my treatment. I felt like finally somebody was finally paying attention and listening to me - and it was Dr. Farma.” He referred Mary to his colleague, Anthony J. Olszanski, MD, RPh, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase, who would manage her care following surgery.

Dr. Farma told Mary he would attempt to remove the tumor using laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, surgery, but could not promise her. “I was hoping I’d wake up and be able to go to work in a few days. But that’s not what happened.”

Dr. Farma found that Mary had numerous complications. Her colon was severely inflamed with diverticulitis and the tumor had encroached on her ovaries. Dr. Farma and his team, that included a gynecologic surgical oncologist, removed Mary’s ovaries and resectioned her bowel. “I had quite an incision,” she recalled. Post-surgical laboratory results brought good news: the margins were clear (there was no cancer in the tissue surrounding the tumor) and the nearby lymph nodes were cancer-free. 

"Every single person I met at Fox Chase was excellent. I can’t say enough."

After she recovered from surgery, Dr. Olszanski began Mary on a six month course of chemotherapy. “Every single person I met at Fox Chase was excellent. I can’t say enough,” explained Mary.

“It was faith, my family and friends and the good doctors at Fox Chase that got me through this,” said Mary. “Those other doctors just kept missing the problem. I’m just lucky I found Dr. Farma when I did.”