Ellen Anthonisen

Breast Cancer Patient Stories

Ellen Anthonisen

Just one month after her annual mammogram, the last thing Ellen Anthonisen expected to find was a lump in her breast. But that's exactly what happened.

"Because of my family history with cancer, I am very aware of the importance of self breast exams and have encouraged friends to know what their breast tissue feels like - otherwise, how would they know something is wrong?" shared Ellen. For Ellen, something was certainly wrong.

"I'd be nuts not to go to Fox Chase."

In August 2009, she made an appointment with a breast surgeon she had known for many years. He performed a biopsy, which confirmed the tumor was malignant. "As soon as I knew it was cancer, I knew where to go for treatment. Right to Dr. Lori Goldstein at Fox Chase," Ellen said. "I'd be nuts not to go to Fox Chase. What sets them apart from other cancer hospitals is the warmth, compassion and genuine caring from the staff. That warmth, coupled with their expertise, is priceless."

Being diagnosed with breast cancer was not shocking to Ellen, whose mother underwent a mastectomy at the age of 80, whose sister died at the age of 42 and whose niece lost a difficult battle with metastatic liver cancer when she was 47. "Obviously, cancer runs strong in our family, even though I don't carry the BRCA gene."

At the age of 75, Ellen did some research and learned that her outcome would be the same whether she had a lumpectomy and radiation or a radical mastectomy. "I didn't want to deal with reconstruction at my age, so I opted for the lumpectomy," she recalled. Once recovered from surgery, Ellen met with Dr. Goldstein, who did not believe chemotherapy was necessary.

Next, she met with former radiation oncologist Gary Freedman, MD, at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Main Campus. Ellen was aware that Fox Chase had just opened a new radiation facility in Buckingham (Bucks County), not quite fifteen minutes from where she lives. Although the short drive made sense to her, she wanted assurance from Dr. Freedman that the new facility reflected Fox Chase's philosophy and that the staff was Fox Chase trained.

"The decision to go to Fox Chase-Buckingham was a no-brainer."

According to Ellen, "When I learned that radiation oncologist Dr. Shelly Hayes trained with Dr. Freedman for four years and clinical nurse coordinator Kathy MacDonald had been at Fox Chase for over twenty years, the decision to go to Fox Chase - Buckingham was a no-brainer."

"Dr. Hayes is wonderful."

"As soon as I received the first phone call from the Fox Chase Buckingham facility, I knew I was in the right place," recalled Ellen. "They had the most advanced treatment technology and from day one, everyone I encountered was welcoming, attentive, caring and excited about where they were working. Dr. Hayes treats all patients at the Buckingham facility. "Dr. Hayes is wonderful," Ellen shared. "She's a cracker jack! So young, but so talented and she is a lovely human being."

Over a 6 week period, Ellen received radiation through intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). She explained that the treatment went smoothly and she had minimal side effects. Before she knew it, Ellen was finished treatment and returned to life as she knew it.

"I kept my regular routine and as a result, felt healthy and more in control of my life."

Ellen recalls "It is more than mere convenience to leave home and arrive at your facility within fifteen minutes or less. I would have gladly driven to the main campus, but being able to drive myself without getting into any kind of traffic was empowering. It enabled me to be less tired and free of traffic worries. I kept my regular routine and as a result, felt healthy and more in control of my life."

She encourages other women facing breast cancer to be their own advocate. "I was fortunate to be near such a wonderful cancer center. But for women who are not, they really must stand up for themselves."

Ellen works closely with her husband of 44 years, George, and their son, Daniel, both artists, managing their collections and promoting their shows. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, Rachel (puppeteer and mask maker) and granddaughter Ursula who live in Maryland.

Ellen Anthonisen talks about her Buckingham experience. See more on the Fox Chase Cancer Center YouTube Channel

See more on the Fox Chase Cancer Center YouTube Channel

Hear Ellen Anthonisen talk about her treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center.