Deborah Lech

Colon Cancer Patient Stories

Colon
Deborah Lech Bowker

Deborah and her husband, Claus.

Debbie Lech had always considered herself healthy. She ate well and stayed active, and at 51 was enjoying newly married life with her second husband Claus. But following surgery a few years earlier for pelvic organ prolapse and unbeknownst to her, the surgical repair created a fistula that was slowly becoming infected. (A fistula is an abnormal connection or passageway between two epithelium-lined organs or vessels that normally do not connect.) “I had some spotting which was concerning since I had already undergone a hysterectomy, ” recalled Debbie. "My doctor suspected I had a vaginal infection, but we later learned, it was something more."

“My husband wanted me to choose a hospital with an outstanding reputation that specializes in cancer.  That was Fox Chase Cancer Center.”

At her husband’s urging, Debbie made an appointment for her overdue routine colonoscopy.  The procedure was scheduled for January 4, 2012, and resulted in the the removal of a large polyp. “The following Monday, my doctor called me at work and told me my worst fear. I had colon cancer.”  Debbie had lost both her mother and grandmother to cancer. Debbie and Claus discussed her treatment options. He urged her not to go to a general care hospital. “My husband wanted me to choose a hospital with an outstanding reputation that specializes in cancer.  That was Fox Chase Cancer Center.”

Debbie made an appointment with Fox Chase surgeon, Elin R Sigurdson, MD, PhD, FACS, who specializes in treating patients with colon cancer. After Debbie explained her other symptoms to Dr. Sigurdson, surgeon Mark A. Morgan, MD, FACOG, FACS, was recruited to the team. Dr. Morgan is a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in repairing fistulas. While this was not related to her colon cancer, Dr. Morgan joined the surgical team to repair her fistula during the laparoscopic surgery to remove a section of her colon. 

"Dr. Sigurdson and Dr. Morgan are so compassionate."

"Dr. Sigurdson and Dr. Morgan are so compassionate," said Debbie. "They really listened to us and answered all of our questions. I felt calmer knowing that we had a plan and the team from Fox Chase behind us. We felt confident that I was going to have the best care and treatment."

While her surgery was a success, the fistula repair needed time to heal, so Debbie had a temporary ostomy. Two months later, Dr. Sigurdson performed the procedure to reverse the ostomy. Although she missed several months of work as an accountant, Debbie was grateful to be surgically cured, well aware that her situation was more complicated than most.

“It was tough, especially telling our five kids I had cancer. But we got through it," shared Debbie. “I have one daughter living in Florida and telling her over the phone was very hard. Another daughter was in Afghanistan and I had to wait for her to come home to tell her which was only a week before surgery. The first question my youngest daughter asked is "Will you be okay or is it going to be like Grandmom?" Debbie and Claus worked together explain her situation and instilled the confidence she got from her Fox Chase team into their children. 

“I can’t praise Fox Chase enough – the compassionate care I received from all the nurses and doctors was just amazing. 

“I can’t praise Fox Chase enough – the compassionate care I received from all the nurses and doctors was just amazing.  Even the maintenance workers are kind and compassionate. We are very thankful for the teamwork of our 'family' at Fox Chase.”