It's never too late to take a mother's advice. That is who urged Kathy Kelk to go to the gynecologist when she noticed some spotting in June 2010 at the age of 62. "I really didn't think much of it," she recalled. "I probably would have ignored it, but I asked my mother if she'd ever spotted after menopause. She said no, but suggested I get it checked out."
An ultrasound revealed a small cyst on one of Kathy's ovaries. Since the prospect of surgery looked likely, her long-time gynecologist referred her to a younger colleague, who noticed a thickening of her uterus, a possible indication of cancer. A biopsy revealed that indeed Kathy had a malignant fibroid inside her uterus.
"My doctor referred me to Fox Chase Cancer Center, where this this specialized surgery is done routinely."
Armed with test results, Kathy and her husband David were seated in Dr. Robert Burger's office in January 2011. Dr. Burger is a gynecologic surgical oncologist who specializes in complex procedures such as this. He is also director of the Women's Cancer Center at Fox Chase.
A retired teacher, Kathy wanted to stay informed about her diagnosis every step of the way. She'd read her MRI report, and saw something that scared her. "There was some mention of something on the pancreas, which was new information to me."
Kathy inquired about this during her consult. "Dr. Burger took me seriously, and said that while there was a good chance there was nothing to worry about, he would consult with gastroenterologist Jeffrey Tokar, MD," she said. "There was an immediate rallying of the troops." Dr. Tokar agreed that a problem was unlikely, but he ordered an endoscopy to be sure. "That made sense to me, I felt so relieved."
To accommodate Kathy's schedule, she was offered the opportunity to have her pre-admission testing performed that same day. "At the end of the day, my husband and I had such a comfort level with the hospital," she said. "From Dr. Burger's staff to Dr. Tokar's office, to the admission staff, everyone along the way asked if we had any questions. We weren't rushed at any point."
"My nursing care was just fabulous."
Kathy's endoscopy showed a small cyst on her pancreas, something to monitor but not worry about. In late January 2011, Dr. Burger performed a radical hysterectomy. She spent four days in the hospital recovering. "My nursing care was just fabulous," she said. "Best of all, Dr. Burger called to say the results of all biopsies were good. Kathy's treatment team had reviewed the results and felt she didn't need any other treatment. "There was a real sense of being taken care of."
Her home recovery went well. An avid walker and hiker, Kathy was given the green light to do as much walking, on flat ground, as she felt comfortable doing. Seven months after her surgery, she feels great and in 2011, she spent time in Durango, Colorado with her husband and friends.
"With Dr. Burger, there's so much competency, compassion and professionalism."
"With Dr. Burger, there's so much competency, compassion and professionalism, and never a sense of false hope. At Fox Chase, I felt that I was given exactly the kind of information I needed to make the right decision for myself."