Nicole Holtz

Breast Cancer Patient Stories

Nicole Holtz

Nicole and her daughters take in a Phillies game!

After several biopsies and a lumpectomy at her local hospital, Nicole Holtz did not feel confident that she was getting the treatment she needed for her diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer. “I continued to have a discharge from my breast. The surgeon admitted he did not get all of the cancer and time was moving on,” recalled the mother of two young daughters. “My husband was really freaking out.” She had first felt a painful lump in her breast in February 2010, but she did not have a lumpectomy until November of the same year. 

At her sister’s and  husband’s insistence, Nicole made an appointment at Fox Chase Cancer Center, with Paula D. Ryan, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer and Elin R. Sigurdson, MD, PhD, FACS, a surgical oncologist. Dr. Sigurdson invited Neal S. Topham, MD, FACS, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, to join her treatment team. Nicole would require a mastectomy and reconstruction and there was no time to waste. Her surgery was scheduled within the month.


“From the start, I felt like everything at Fox Chase was handled with a team approach.” 

Nicole Holtz

Nicole smiles with her oldest daughter, Olivia.

“From the start, I felt like everything at Fox Chase was handled with a team approach,” she said. “If I needed blood work, there was no waiting. They called me to schedule my appointments, and all of the doctors really spent time with me, explaining exactly what was going on and going to happen.”  

On April 5, 2011, Dr. Sigurdson performed the mastectomy, removing her left breast and several lymph nodes. Next, Dr. Topham performed the reconstruction. Nicole had opted for the free TRAM (Transverse Rectus Abdominis Muscle) flap method, in which fat, muscle and blood vessels are removed from the lower abdominal wall. Dr. Topham attached blood vessels from the flap to blood vessels in the chest area. This requires special expertise in microsurgery (the use of a microscope) to connect the tiny vessels.

Once Nicole recovered from surgery, Dr. Ryan started her on a course of eight rounds of chemotherapy, which she tolerated particularly well.

"I have had nothing but a positive experience since coming to Fox Chase."

“I have had nothing but a positive experience since coming to Fox Chase,” said Nicole. “Besides my incredible team of doctors, the nurses and staff in the infusion room cared for me and calmed me. I found that everyone at Fox Chase genuinely cared about me.  They never made me feel like just a number.”

In November 2012, Nicole and her daughter, Olivia, were nominated by Dr. Ryan to participate in Tickled Pink, a fashion show organized by Teens for the Cure (part of Susan G. Komen Philadelphia). "It was a really special experience to share with Liv," said Nicole. 

"If you have breast cancer, that’s where you want to be. Period."

In her mind, the treatment Nicole received at Fox Chase made all the difference in how she coped with a diagnosis breast cancer. “When people tell me they’ve been diagnosed  with cancer or know someone who was, I just say they have to go to Fox Chase. If you have breast cancer, that’s where you want to be. Period.”