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Judy's Story

Coaldale Woman Beats Breast Cancer with Help from SLUHN Doctors; Returns to School to Become a Nurse

Judy Veron

Judy Veron will turn 60-years-old on May 9, a milestone she says she might have missed without the skills and caring of SLUHN doctors near her home.

The Coaldale mother, wife and former “Mail Lady” for Carbon County, received a grim diagnosis of stage 3 invasive breast cancer in her left breast in 2008. She was just 49.

She credits her now-retired radiologist, David Bohri, MD, at St. Luke’s Miners with finding and diagnosing the disease during a routine mammogram. She says a breast expert in the Lehigh Valley had misdiagnosed her lump.

Though Veron had no family history of breast cancer, her mother had died of a type of gastric cancer known to be linked to her breast cancer, which is known to spread to both breasts.

Veron did her homework when choosing her treatment and treatment team. She wanted to remain local, believing that it wasn’t necessary to travel for the best care. She was referred by her gynecologist to SLUHN general surgeon Michael Martinez, MD, whom she describes as “concerned and compassionate” throughout her care, which was extensive.

During an 11-hour surgery at St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten, Dr. Martinez removed both of Veron’s breasts. Next SLUHN chief of plastic surgery Michael Morrissey Jr., MD, reconstructed them using her abdominal muscle and fat.

Following chemo and radiation therapy, provided by Nimisha Deb, MD Veron joined a national clinical research trial to help science test the effectiveness metabolic Tamoxifen in premenopausal women.

Then she did something she had desired for years: she went to Penn State-Hazleton and earned a nursing degree. It’s in her blood: her mother was a nurse and her daughter is a nurse. Veron has worked with mental health patients at the Coatesville VA since 2014.

“Judy is an inspirational individual both as a champion for breast cancer survivors and as a nurse,” says Dr. Martinez.

Now, more than a decade after her diagnosis and surgery, Veron hesitates to say she’s cured. Instead, she declares she is “totally optimistic” about her health and is looking forward to retirement just two years away.

To celebrate her health and the decade ahead, Veron will take a road trip to West Virginia to visit her best friend, who convinced her to have her first mammogram. Undoubtedly, it will be a much more joyful birthday than 10 years ago, thanks in a large part to her SLUHN doctors.

“Having local care was important to me,” she says. “I thank God every day for my doctors at St. Luke’s.”

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Kathy's Story
Kathy Smith

Kathy and Jim Smith believe people have a path and purpose in life, even when there’s suffering involved.

Kathy, 55, nearly died in 1997 after 17 hours of abdominal surgery at a Philadelphia hospital where a large cancerous tumor was removed. She lay in a coma for seven days after the operation before her body began to heal.

Jim, her husband, never left her side. Family and close friends were summoned to say their good-byes. Miraculously, Kathy pulled through to the astonishment and joy of her doctors, her and her husband, who live in Mt. Bethel.

But complications from the operation and radiation treatments plagued her. For two years, Kathy suffered 28 bouts with intestinal blockages and the wrenching pain, frequent trips to the ER and major weight loss they caused.

Buoyed by their faith, Kathy and Jim never lost hope, though several doctors refused to operate on her to correct these problems. The couple found their answer in 2017 in general surgeon Richard Sharpe, MD, at St. Luke’s Warren Hospital, who brought 30 years of complex surgical expertise into the OR. During five hours of surgery, Dr. Sharpe removed the intestinal adhesions and gave Kathy back her life, providing her hope for a future without pain.

“I feel fantastic,” she says, beaming. “Dr. Sharpe saved my life.”

Jim, a surgical technician at St. Luke’s Warren, calls the outcome “nothing short of a miracle.” He says he was put in the OR to meet Dr Sharpe and witness his immense skills.

Kathy has returned to her hobbies of cooking, creating crafts and reading, which she had to give up when she was suffering with her post-surgical conditions. With help from Jim who manages her ongoing health needs, an enduring faith in God and undying gratitude for Dr. Sharpe, the former nurse pictures a bright future ahead on a healthier path.

“I’m back to my abnormally normal self,” she jokes, adding that she’d happy to live with her new normal.

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