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In July 2012, Kelly Charles experienced discomfort caused by swelling on her right side. Emergency room doctors near her home in Toms River, NJ, ordered a CAT Scan. Kelly, who was 54, was told she had a mass on her ovary that had spread throughout her abdomen and liver. When further testing revealed she had Stage 4 ovarian cancer, Kelly and her husband, Donald, and children, Donald, Jr. and Danielle, believed the prognosis was fatal.
With a strong family history of cervical and ovarian cancer, Kelly had been vigilant about regular checkups .Upon hearing this devastating news, Kelly’s closest friend and confidant of 45 years, Nancy, immediately began researching the best possible cancer centers to get a second opinion. Nancy’s niece, a pharmaceutical representative, consulted with several doctors in her territory. Two centers were named again and again – Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City.
"Fox Chase got me right in to see Dr. Robert Burger."
“Nancy got on the phone and called both centers,” recalled Kelly. “It was apparent from the start that the people at Fox Chase understood the urgency of my situation and got me right in to see Dr. Robert Burger.”
Robert A. Burger, MD, FACOG, FACS, is the director of the Women’s Cancer Center at Fox Chase. He specializes in gynecologic oncologic surgery. Within two weeks of the initial call, Kelly had an appointment. She brought along her support team – including her husband, son, brother and Nancy – to meet Dr. Burger and learn more about her condition.
“From the moment we met Dr. Burger, it was evident that there would be no need to obtain any other opinions.”
“My brother and his family flew here from Arizona to offer me support,” said Kelly, who was incredibly touched by their thoughtfulness. “From the moment we met Dr. Burger, it was evident that there would be no need to obtain any other opinions.” After the painful experience of watching their mother suffer with cancer and their interactions with her doctors, Kelly and her family were unsure of what to expect from Dr. Burger.
“We were pleasantly surprised with Dr. Burger’s empathy and concern for me,” shared Kelly. “He took a lot of time with us to discuss every detail of my treatment. He was direct and a matter of fact, as if he was a parent giving his children the best possible advice on how to succeed in life.”
Kelly recalled that on several occasions Dr. Burger was helpful by redirecting them to focus on the situation at hand, rather than dwell on the past. They kept asking “what triggered this” and “why was it missed nine months prior.” Dr. Burger’s job, as he explained, was to create a treatment plan that would produce the best possible outcome for Kelly’s condition.
Kelly’s treatment plan was to remain positive and continue living her life in conjunction with three cycles of chemotherapy. If that was successful, Dr. Burger would perform surgery five weeks later to attempt to remove a large portion of the cancer.
As a family, the Charles’s discussed whether the chemotherapy treatments should be administered near their home in New Jersey or at Fox Chase. Without hesitation, they agreed that she should travel to Fox Chase for chemotherapy so that she could be closely monitored by Dr. Burger and his staff. That’s when Kelly met Kathy Smith, a nurse practitioner who works closely with Dr. Burger’s patients.
“I couldn’t believe the personal attention I received from both my nurse, Kathy, and Dr. Burger.”
“I couldn’t believe the personal attention I received from both my nurse, Kathy, and Dr. Burger,” explained Kelly. “Not once did I feel like I was a number – I was always treated as a person. During my treatment, surgery and hospital stay, everyone at Fox Chase treated me with respect, compassion, kindness and professionalism.” She was extremely impressed by the nursing staff, who was accommodating and understanding, tender and thorough. “The nurses kept me as comfortable as possible and always had a kind word and smile to lift my spirits.”
The Charles’s family could not have been happier with the outcome of the lengthy surgery. Dr. Burger reported that he was able to remove all visible evidence of the cancer.
“This was one of the happiest moments in our lives,” said Kelly’s brother, Jimmy Rizzo. “Dr. Burger was confident that Kelly would be okay and with tears of joy in our eyes we celebrated his success and our good fortune to have found Dr. Burger.”
Following her recovery, Kelly underwent a second course of chemotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence. Kelly and her family are extremely grateful to Dr. Burger and his team for their dedication. They recalled that at their first meeting, Dr. Burger suggested that Kelly continue to live her life and let him and his staff handle the cancer. Kelly followed his advice and everything worked out even better than they expected.