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Publications

Walking the tight rope of cancer treatment

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Driving over the Walt Whitman bridge, the music was pumped up; the windows were rolled down. Something flew out the window. It wasn’t a stray piece of paper. It was a clump of Susan’s hair.

“The worst part about my breast cancer treatment was losing my hair,” says 42-year-old Susan Forte. So Susan asked her son to shave her head, which he did. “My three sons and my mother were an amazing support system during my treatment,” says Susan. “So was my Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program team,” she says.

Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. She underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction and chemotherapy. During this time, she still had to balance the responsibilities of being a mom, having a full-time job, and undergoing cancer treatment.

“Life didn’t stop because I was sick,”says Susan. “The two things which helped me balance my life and treatment was the support of my family and the teamwork and skill of my Virtua doctors.”

Maureen Kling, MD, Virtua breast surgeon, helped Susan by laying out a game plan for her care. “Dr. Kling told me exactly what to expect,” says Susan. “Understanding the process helped me make it through.” And Sameer A. Patel, MD, FACS, an assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase Cancer Center, who practices at the Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program, guided Susan through breast reconstruction.

Virtua’s Maurice Cairoli, MD, medical oncologist, administered Susan’s chemotherapy. “I help my patients physically and mentally prepare for what’s going to happen during chemo. I also remind them to take it one day at a time and to focus on the fact that their precancer lives will return,” says Dr. Cairoli.

In addition to her doctors, a Virtua nurse navigator supported Susan every step of the way with scheduling and referrals to resources like the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better program. Throughout treatment, Susan remained positive: “I didn’t allow myself to think negative thoughts. I knew if I followed my treatment plan, everything was going to be okay. And guess what? A year later, it really is.”