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In 2000, Doris Kramer lost her husband and became a widow. She tried to remain positive with that challenge, just as she had with many others in her life - suffering a stroke, losing several family members, and confronting breast cancer. With her perpetually positive outlook, Doris always looks on the bright side of life, even when faced with ovarian cancer in September 2011 at the age of 86.
Doris had been experiencing vaginal infections on and off for about 20 years. “My doctor would give me this pill or that pill, and it usually went away,” she admitted. But in the summer 2011, Doris was not improving so she went to a new gynecologist. “The doctor took one look and she said, ‘Doris, you’re a mess inside. Then she referred me to Dr. Burger at Fox Chase,” recalled Doris.
Robert A. Burger, MD, FACOG, FACS, is the director of the Women’s Cancer Center at Fox Chase. He is a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating patients with gynecologic cancers, including ovarian cancer, which is what Doris had. By the time Dr. Burger met with Doris, her ovarian cancer had progressed to stage 3. Doris recalled that friends and family asked her why she wasn't diagnosed sooner. "They wondered why didn’t I ask my doctor about cancer being a possibility," she said. Doris went to her gynecologist regularly and listened to what he said. "I didn’t think to ask.”
"Dr. Burger explained everything to me and was so compassionate."
After reviewing Doris's tests and evaluating her, Dr. Burger recommended a complete hysterectomy followed by a course of chemotherapy to ensure the cancer was gone. “Dr. Burger explained everything to me and was so compassionate," explained Doris. "His nurse, Kathleen Smith, took care of every little detail. I just can’t say enough about what they did for me.”
Due to of the increased size of her tumors, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery was not an option for Doris, so she underwent traditional, or open, surgery. “Because I had a large incision, I spent five days in the hospital,” recalled Doris, who was happy to return to her independent living unit in The Philadelphia Protestant Home. The day she got home, Doris insisted on having dinner in the dining room with her son rather than eating in her room. She wondered why everyone was looking at her. "My son said, ‘Mom, you just had major surgery and you’re walking around just fine'. But I felt pretty good considering what I had been through."
Several days later, Dr. Burger called Doris to share the good news - the operation was a success. Her next step included four rounds of chemotherapy, treatment that she breezed through with her typical can-do attitude. To top it off, a recent recurrence of breast cancer didn't even faze her.
"I am so grateful for everything Fox Chase and Dr. Burger did for me."
"When I had my stroke, I was bad," Doris admitted. "Doctors didn't expect me to walk. But I'm walking, not as good as I did, but still. Although I wish my doctor had found my cancer sooner, it is what it is. Maybe if I'd have had pain, I would have asked more questions. But it's all in the past. I feel good now. And I am so grateful for everything Fox Chase and Dr. Burger did for me."