Maryanne Kipe

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Steven J. Cohen MD

Video: Radio interview with Maryanne Kipe and Dr. Steven Cohen

Maryanne Kipe and Dr. Steven Cohen

VIDEO: BEN FM radio DJ, Marilyn Russell speaks with Maryanne Kipe, Nurse Navigator Debbie Scanlon, and Dr.Cohen at Fox Chase Cancer Center. (4:10)

Perspectives: A Cancer Journey From Three Points of View

A doctor, a patient, and a nurse navigator describe their journey through treatment.
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Colon Cancer Patient Stories

Colon Cancer
Maryanne Kipe

Maryanne (left) is pictured with her school principal, Karen Kanter, who encouraged her to schedule a life-saving colonoscopy.

The Hatboro-Horsham School District staff are like family to Maryanne Kipe and her husband, Craig. Since 1990, Maryanne has managed the front office at the busy Simmons Elementary School while Craig teaches math at the high school. And just like a real family will encourage you to be on top of your healthcare, Karen Kanter, the principal at Simmons, watched Maryanne like a sister. “When Maryanne turned 50 in 2010, I encouraged her to schedule a colonoscopy,” recalled Karen, who admitted Maryanne was reluctant. Finally, in the summer of 2012, Karen jokingly said she couldn’t leave for the day until she made the appointment. That appointment – and Karen’s persistence – may have saved Maryanne’s life.

Maryanne followed the instructions and had her colonoscopy in August 2012. During the procedure, the surgeon uncovered a suspicious growth. He removed one small polyp but asked her to schedule a procedure at the hospital where he would have access to more resources. “I was a little alarmed, but didn’t really think much of it since I was in great health otherwise,” shared Maryanne.

"My son and his wife stepped in and encouraged me to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion."

Following the second procedure at her local hospital, Maryanne learned she had colon cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. “I was in total shock,” she said. “I felt so good that summer – I had no health issues.” The surgeon was ready to refer Maryanne to his colleague to begin a course of chemotherapy. “My son and his wife stepped in and encouraged me to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion,” Maryanne shared. “At Fox Chase, they specialize in cancer treatment. They are experts and everything is state-of-the-art. He told me I couldn’t be in better hands.”  

Maryanne Kipe

Maryanne has been managing the front office at Simmons Elementary School since 1990.

"Dr. Cohen is much more than a doctor – he is extremely compassionate and truly understood where I was coming from."

Maryanne scheduled an appointment with Steven J. Cohen, MD, a medical oncologist who specializes in treating patients with colon cancer. “I felt an immediate connection to him,” Maryanne smiled. “He was so reassuring and made me feel very comfortable. Dr. Cohen is much more than a doctor – he is extremely compassionate and truly understood where I was coming from. He was like a friend.”

Maryanne was grateful for the support of her husband and friends to get her through treatment. “Because he’s a teacher, I didn’t want Craig missing so much work so my friend Nancy joined me at every chemo appointment,” said Maryanne. “The nurses called us the Fox Chase Follies because we were always laughing and knew how to make the best of a difficult situation.” She was very impressed with the infusion room staff who always treated her with compassion, support and respect.

When Maryanne began to experience some side effects of treatment, such as neuropathy (numbing in her feet), Dr. Cohen was particularly empathetic and offered useful suggestions to make it bearable. “Although it was a temporary problem, he knew how I felt, which was very comforting,” said Maryanne.

"There is a real sense of camaraderie in the Fox Chase waiting room."

Just before Memorial Day of 2013, Maryanne was ready to “ring the bell” to signify the end of treatment. Nancy made her a pink t-shirt with the words “Ring the Bell” and had special music for the occasion on her iPad. “It was so sweet – everyone clapped for me on the in the waiting room. I looked around and wanted to cry. Here were patients in much more serious condition than me, and they were cheering for me. It was a very humbling and emotional experience.” She recalled one patient, who was deaf, began signing to her and blowing kisses. “There is a real sense of camaraderie in the Fox Chase waiting room that I have not witnessed before.”

During one visit to Fox Chase, Maryanne met Anne, a volunteer for Art a la Carte. Anne delivers books, puzzles, magazines, snacks and more to patients and family members. After watching her fellow patients react so positively to the art card, Maryanne decided this was the opportunity she was looking for to help. “March is colon cancer awareness month so I asked our principal to have a ‘dress-down day.' Rather than make a monetary donation, I asked the staff to bring in books for the cart,” described Maryanne. She hopes to make her book drive an annual tradition.

Maryanne Kipe

Maryanne Kipe and her school principal, Karen Kanter, work side-by-side in the front office.

Maryanne was grateful to the support of her co-workers at school. “I spend more time with them than my family – they have become my family.” During treatment, they often visited her and left healthy treats on her desk at work. “They said I always took care of them, so it was their turn to take care of me,” Maryanne recalled with a smile.

Since completing treatment, Maryanne noted that her experience has changed her outlook on life. A self-described “tanning-bed addict,” Maryanne visited the tanning salon for 10 minutes every day for seven years. “I admit it was my relaxation time – no phone, a warm bed and a nice scent. But it wasn’t healthy. And I could never live with myself if I developed melanoma. So I stopped.”

To celebrate her husband’s 50th birthday and the end of treatment, Maryanne and Craig, a bicycle enthusiast, traveled to watch the Tour de France in July of 2013. “Craig was incredibly supportive during my treatment and I really wanted to do something special to mark our accomplishments this year.”

Maryanne believe she made the best decision to seek treatment at Fox Chase. “The staff at Fox Chase helped make what could have been very difficult time in my life upbeat and positive and I am grateful to them for that,” Maryanne concluded.