Stephen McNamara

Pancreatic Cancer Patient Stories

Stephen McNamara

Raised with 12 siblings in Ireland, Stephen McNamara enjoyed his childhood and his country. However, in 1949, when the opportunity presented itself to come to America, he acted on it. Mary, a nursing student whom he met in England, followed her heart and came to America to marry Stephen. They settled in the Philadelphia area and raised their own family with 5 children. During this time, Stephen was drafted and served stateside during the Korean War. Not long after, he became a citizen of the United States. "I just fell in love with America," shared Stephen. "I had a great job at General Motors and a wonderful family."

In 2003, Stephen's wife was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center. He recalled, "The people at Fox Chase were wonderful and so encouraging."

The following year, Stephen believed he was having a gallbladder attack and went to his local hospital. There he had emergency surgery to remove the gallbladder, but blood work indicated something additionally was wrong. In case it was cancer, Stephen decided to return to Fox Chase. In January 2005, Oleh Haluszka, MD, director of gastrointestinal endoscopy at Fox Chase, performed an endoscopy. Although the results were negative, Dr. Haluszka was not comfortable with the numbers. He referred Stephen to James Watson, MD, a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

"Dr. Watson's confidence washed off on me."

"When I first learned I had cancer, I was so scared," Stephen admitted. He was very impressed with everything at Fox Chase. "Dr. Watson's confidence washed off on me. After he explained everything to me, he showed me a video. Dr. Watson gave me the courage to go through with the surgery."

During surgery, a tumor was discovered. Dr. Watson performed the complex surgery by removing the part of the pancreas that harbored the cancer and spleen, while preserving full function of the organs. His daughter, Kathleen Woodward, explained, "My dad had a 100 percent recovery. We are so lucky to have him."

"I really have to hand it to Dr. Haluszka and Dr. Watson."

Stephen McNamara

Stephen, pictured in his garden.

Stephen added, "I really have to hand it to Dr. Haluszka and Dr. Watson. They treated me like family - but even better. And their nurses had the best attitudes."

In addition to follow-up appointments at Fox Chase, Stephen also saw his family doctor regularly, who recommended a PSA blood test to indicate his risk of prostate cancer. Then, in 2007, Stephen learned he had prostate cancer.

"Once again, I headed right over to Fox Chase," said Stephen. There he met with Mark Buyyounouski, MD, a radiation oncologist who specializes in treating prostate cancer. Dr. Buyyounouski treated Stephen with intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for 39 treatments ending in October 2007. His prognosis looked hopeful.

Unfortunately, his PSA recurred in 2009 and there was evidence that the cancer had spread to a lymph node in the pelvis. Because the cancer had spread, his treatment would involve more than radiation therapy.

Stephen was referred to Elizabeth Plimack, MD, a medical oncologist specializing in prostate cancer. She recommended hormone therapy, which has thus far been successful in controlling the spread of disease. He will continue on this course of treatment.

"Fox Chase is an entirely different world than most hospitals."

"Fox Chase is an entirely different world than most hospitals," said Stephen. "I cannot say enough about the nurses, who were true ladies and gentlemen. Being treated at Fox Chase was like a Godsend." He added that the pleasant atmosphere helped keep his spirits high.

Today Stephen is enjoying retirement and feeling good. He spends much of his time outdoors, gardening, painting and caring for his wife, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

"It is because of the care I got at Fox Chase that I am doing so well today."

"It is because of the care I got at Fox Chase that I am doing so well today," shared Stephen. "I wish I could tell everyone how kind the people are at Fox Chase. Everybody there is in a tough situation and they try to accommodate each and every patient. I believe your success in beating cancer is directly related to where you go for treatment. That's why I chose Fox Chase - cancer is all they do."