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Like most people, Cindy Danko had no time to be sick. A full time house painter, Cyd – as she’s known to her friends – was used to keeping a busy schedule packed with physically demanding work. In February 2009, shortly before her 50th birthday, Cyd went to her gynecologist for an annual exam. Within a few days, her doctor called to explain that her Pap test was abnormal. “I thought it was a mistake,” said Cyd.
Although Cyd had not experienced any symptoms, her gynecologist discovered that one of her ovaries was suspiciously solid. She ordered an ultrasound which revealed something suspicious. The doctor suggested that Cyd get herself to an oncologist, and fast. “I was busy, and didn’t even follow up right away,” admitted Cyd.
She made some calls in April 2009, and immediately got a return call from Fox Chase Cancer Center to schedule an appointment with Mark A. Morgan, MD, FACOG, FACS, Chief of Gynecologic Oncology. “Everything happened so quick from there,” said Cyd, who was impressed by how the responsiveness of Fox Chase.
After reviewing her tests, Dr. Morgan confirmed the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. He recommended surgery, followed by chemotherapy. He brought a medical oncologist who specializes in ovarian cancer, Lainie P. Martin, MD, into the care team. “I told Dr. Morgan that I was in my busy season at work, and asked if the surgery could wait until Christmas,” Cyd recalled. “He was honest with me and strongly encouraged me to take care of this now. He even said that if could do it today, he would have. Believe it or not, I actually tried to leave the office. But he asked me to please stay and listen. That's when I could see how much he cares about me - and all of his patients."
Dr. Morgan's calm personality and reassuring manner helped Cyd deal with the reality of her diagnosis.
Dr. Morgan’s calm personality and reassuring manner helped Cyd deal with the reality of her diagnosis. “He must have thought I was crazy,” she said. “But he was very patient with me and straightforward. I trusted him completely.”
Within the week, Dr. Morgan had admitted Cyd to Fox Chase for surgery. He performed surgery to remove the cancer and did a complete exploration, which is a staging procedure to determine if the cancer had spread. “After the surgery, I kept asking Dr. Morgan when I could go back to work. The cancer thing didn’t even register with me," admitted Cyd. "I was scared, in shock.”
The surgery took place on a Friday and Cyd was anxious about getting home. In order to expedite her recovery, she was walking up and down the hospital corridor by Sunday. “I had a normal amount of pain, but I recovered without any problems.”
Once she recovered from surgery, Dr. Martin started Cyd on six rounds of chemotherapy designed to target any remaining cancerous tissue, and prevent recurrence. “As a result of the chemotherapy, I was bald on my 50th birthday! But I was happy to be alive and so happy to have Dr. Martin on my team," she said. By October, Cyd's CAT scans were clear - meaning she was cancer-free. To this go-getter, retuning to work was paramount, so she incorporated her job duties into her recovery. “I spend a lot of time on ladders, so I set up a plank at home to practice walking on it.”
"I know that I’m one of the lucky ones."
Going back to work felt normal to her, like she was getting her life back. “I wanted to get past the cancer diagnosis,” she said. “I know it’s never going to be over – you can never cross cancer off your list. But for now, I feel great. Fox Chase was where I needed to be and Dr. Morgan and Dr. Martin were both amazing. It was hard to believe at the time, but I know that I’m one of the lucky ones.”