Frances Hatalovsky

Carcinoid Cancer Patient Stories, Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Patient Stories

Frances Hatalovsky

At 74 years old most people have eased into retirement, or are at least thinking about doing so. Not Fran Hatalovsky. In fact, when she was told by her Fox Chase Cancer Center surgeon that carcinoid cancer had spread throughout her body, her main concern was whether she'd be able to return to work. Her surgeon, James Watson, MD, assured her that he would do everything in his power to make it happen. Just 2 months after Dr. Watson performed a very complex procedure to remove the cancerous tissue that affected Fran's colon, small intestine, ovaries and liver, she was able to return to work and couldn't have been more pleased.

Fran's story began in 2000, when she began to experience colitis, stomach bloating and all kinds of abdominal discomfort. Rounds of tests were inconclusive, but when she had her diseased gallbladder removed in late 2005, the surgeon identified a tumor nodule on the adjacent liver. A biopsy of the tumor revealed Fran had metastatic carcinoid cancer, and subsequent tests showed the cancer had spread throughout her body.

"I'll never forget how patient, kind, compassionate and attentive Dr. Watson was when he first met with us."

Fran was referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center and specifically to Dr. Watson by her family physician. Fran and her husband John felt fortunate that Dr. Watson was on the case. "I'll never forget how patient, kind, compassionate and attentive Dr. Watson was when he first met with us," said Fran. "He reviewed my records and test results, he showed us my X-rays and pointed out exactly where the cancer was located and how far it had spread. He asked me how I wanted to proceed and he gave me the confidence I needed to know I could beat the cancer."

In January of 2006, Dr. Watson performed major surgery on Fran, who had the spirit and determination to recover fully and continue to remain active and engaged.

"Dr. Watson was the first surgeon I had that followed-up like that."

"Dr. Watson visited me during the evening of my surgery to report what he had to remove to rid me of my cancer, and for that I was very thankful," said Fran. "He was the first surgeon I had that followed-up like that. And, all the nurses were really great at boosting my morale," continued Fran. "We had a lot to celebrate on the days following my surgery. The day after the surgery was my birthday, and then the day after that was my daughter's birthday, so we had several cakes and all of the nurses shared in our celebrations."

On January 17, Fran was discharged from Fox Chase. Coincidentally, this was also the date of her and her husband John's 53rd wedding anniversary. John was thrilled to be able to carry Fran over the threshold of their home just as he had 53 years prior.

In 2010, at the age of 78, Fran continues to work full-time (since she returned just 2 months after her surgery). Every few months, she sees Fox Chase medical oncologist, Dr. Barbara Burtness, who monitors her medication, including sandostatin (a type of chemotherapy that is administered by a monthly shot and inhibits carcinoid tumor cell growth). Fran also sees Dr. Watson once a year on the anniversary of her surgery.

In addition to work, Frank loves reading, shopping, going to the movies, an occasional trip to the casinos, taking drives, working on various craft projects, and spending time with her loving husband, children and grandchildren.

"I received phenomenal care at Fox Chase."

In fact, Fran feels that keeping busy was one of the keys to a successful recovery. "Of course the other key was the phenomenal care I received from the doctors and all the staff at Fox Chase Cancer Center," concluded Fran.