Dee Sherman, who turned 60 in 2010, is a vivacious dynamo of a woman, who also happens to be the only female police chief in Chester County. Her experience with cancer started in 2000, right after she was promoted to the top police job in Spring City, a historic town just north of Valley Forge. She found a lump in her breast, which turned out to be cancer. She sought treatment at Paoli Hospital, a Fox Chase Cancer Center partner hospital, and worked closely with medical oncologist, Stephen Fox, MD. Dee underwent a lumpectomy, followed by radiation and drug therapy, a combination that successfully banished the cancer from her busy life.
However, at her annual check up in June 2010, Dr. Fox noticed that a cancer marker in Dee's blood work was slightly elevated. He scheduled her for a bone scan and a combination PET/CT scan to see if there was any evidence of cancer. The tests revealed a new mass on her left adrenal gland. A PET scan measures the metabolic activity of the cells, and the cells in Dee's tumor were extremely active. Because it is very unusual for benign tumors to show so much PET activity and adrenal biopsy has significant limitations in accurately diagnosing rare malignant adrenal tumors, Dee elected for surgery.
A self-described meticulous researcher, Dee chose Fox Chase.
Dee is a meticulous researcher. She says, "It comes with the job." She considered a couple of surgeon recommendations, one at a big teaching hospital in downtown Philadelphia, the other at Fox Chase Cancer Center. "The first time I had cancer, I chose a doctor who was associated with Fox Chase. And that's what I wanted again, in case the tumor was malignant." She made an appointment in July with Alexander Kutikov, MD, urologic surgeon at Fox Chase. A laparoscopic left adrenalectomy (minimally invasive surgery to remove the adrenal gland) was set for the following month. The surgery, which was done through 3 small keyhole incisions, was a success. Dee went home within 48 hours after the operation.
"Dr. Kutikov is caring, compassionate and very knowledgeable."
"I've been nothing but thrilled with Dr. Kutikov's responsiveness to my questions and patience with me. Dr. Kutikov is caring, compassionate and very knowledgeable. He even called me at home the night I was released from the hospital to tell me the tumor was benign," she said. "That was a real gift - especially since that day would have been my mother's 97th birthday.
A self described "difficult patient," Dee appreciated being kept in the loop every step of the way during her treatment. She was impressed when Joe Spanier, a physician's assistant, spent some extra time with her. "He let me talk through my fears. That was important to me. The nurses were fabulous, I can't say enough good things about Dr. Kutikov and his staff. They're always willing to work around my schedule, do my tests on the same day so I only have to take one day off from work."
Dee returned to the force less than a month after surgery.
Dee returned to work less than a month after her surgery. Her main worry? "Wearing 17 pounds of equipment around my waist. When that gun belt goes on, I'm sure I'm going to feel it, laparoscopic surgery or not." Dee got creative the first few days, padding her mid-section to take the pressure off her incision site. "It worked like a charm."
"I'd send anybody and everybody I know to Fox Chase. Without hesitation."
"I didn't sign up for this to happen," said Dee, who appreciated the love and support of her close circle of friends during her recovery. "But it did. And I'd send anybody and everybody I know to Fox Chase if they had the same problem. Without hesitation."