Cancer took Janice by surprise. She did her research and consulted with doctors at St. Luke’s, as well as the University of Pennsylvania. Ultimately, she put her faith and trust in Dr. Taylor and the team at St. Luke’s.
Janice, 60, of Berks County, had never known anyone with cancer. She and her husband of 35 years, Martin, had been fortunate enough to have never been touched by cancer’s devastating effects. But Janice soon learned that being touched by cancer could actually be a very unexpected blessing.
Ten years post menopause and experiencing some spotting, Janice consulted with John Stevens, DO of St. Luke’s Ob-Gyn Care Associates. Dr. Stevens commended her on listening to her body and not ignoring signs of a potential problem; in hindsight, it’s what led to such a positive outcome. Dr. Stevens ordered an ultrasound and biopsy and found a “septated” cyst on her right ovary, a cyst on her left ovary and thickening of the endometrial wall of the uterus - the latter of which was likely causing the bleeding. Even though she had never had any kind of surgery in the past, Janice decided follow Dr. Stevens’ recommendation to undergo a complete hysterectomy with Nick Taylor, MD – chairman of oncology and chief of gynecologic oncology at St. Luke’s Cancer Center.
A post-surgery pathology report revealed a small polyp found in the endometrial lining of the uterus that contained cancer. Dr. Taylor explained that, fortunately, her uterine cancer was caught very early. “Janice had early Stage 1A uterine cancer found within a polyp,” recalls Dr. Taylor. “However the “serous” cell in the polyp was a very aggressive cancer cell, so we needed to act quickly. Although uterine cancer is the women’s cancer we see most often, only about ten percent of uterine cancers contain this cell type.”
Janice was blindsided by her uterine cancer diagnosis. She fully believed that her healthy diet, regular exercise and overall positive attitude protected her from such a fate. But once the reality of the diagnosis sunk in, she went full steam ahead with her fight against cancer. The first step in the battle was finding the right care. After consulting with Dr. Taylor about the pathology report and treatment options, Janice and Martin decided to get a second opinion, which Dr. Taylor encouraged. Having lived in Philadelphia most of her life and having a connection at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Janice decided to consult the oncologists there.
Dr. Taylor recommended treating her cancer aggressively with both chemotherapy and radiation - a full six rounds of chemo and a full gamut of radiation which would come under the direction of Nicholas M Cardiges, MD, on St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology team. Penn’s second opinion concurred with St. Luke’s diagnosis, but differed on treatment strategy. The Penn specialists believed that three chemo treatments would suffice. For any patient facing chemotherapy treatments, three certainly sounded better than six, but Janice wasn’t naive enough to believe that fewer was necessarily better.
Janice and her husband ultimately decided to trust Janice’s care to Dr. Taylor at St. Luke’s. Both Janice and Martin knew that not only was St. Luke’s the region’s leader in cancer care, they also had great respect for Dr. Taylor and believed he was very thorough, kind, experienced and knowledgeable. When Janice and Martin discussed Penn’s recommendation compared to his, Dr. Taylor remained unwavering in his belief that six treatments is what was best, but agreed to go forward with three treatments and then reevaluate the situation, adding more if necessary.
And so began her aggressive treatment schedule. “I was actually excited to start the process and tackle this head-on,” recalls Janice. “There were days when I felt achy and my whole body hurt – but I just kept telling myself to take it one day at a time, one step at a time, one treatment at a time.” Janice and her husband were so impressed with each and every one of the nurses and staff at the infusion center and radiation facility at St. Luke’s Cancer Center in Allentown. “Janice and I would always thank everyone at St. Luke’s who gave us a genuinely warm greeting,” remembers Martin. “They would respond by saying how much they loved their jobs and working for St. Luke’s - that really impressed us.”
Even though she was going through cancer treatment, which, by anyone’s standards, is very difficult, Janice was mindful that there are others who have it worse. “I was always thankful that my cancer was detected early,” recalls Janice. “I know there are children suffering from this disease or moms with small children trying to hold it together through cancer treatments or even my teenage neighbor who was diagnosed with cancer and going through chemo the same time as me - my heart breaks for those individuals. They inspired me and made me stronger. When I would feel weak, I would think of them and I would have to stay strong.”
Finally, after the first three treatments, Dr. Taylor was confident that one final session would do the job. After the fourth treatment, he explained that given the risks and benefits of her chemotherapy journey from the beginning until now, the four chemo treatments coupled with three radiations had fulfilled her needs. A follow-up CAT scan supported his conclusion that all was clear. Now, Janice sees Dr. Taylor every three months for a checkup and blood-work.
After an intense seven months, Janice is back to running the family business with her husband and doing all the things she loved before - reading, cooking, walking, yoga, boating and looking forward to having her first grandchild. “We were so grateful the day that Dr. Taylor told us that the journey was nearing an end,” says Martin. “We will never forget what Dr. Taylor and his staff meant to us during this time. They never seemed bothered or annoyed with our questions or concerns - Dr. Taylor and I even hugged on a few occasions - that’s how grateful I was to this man who cared for my wife of 35 years. St. Luke’s was truly the best place for my wife’s care.”