Deb Kolanko

Breast Cancer Patient Stories

Breast Cancer
Debbie Kolanko

Debbie Kolanko is pictured holding her granddaughter, next to her best friend, Sue Brewster, who happens to work at the Fox Chase Buckingham facility. 

Deb Kolanko truly believes that everything in life happens for a purpose and reason. On that note, she believes her cancer diagnosis was just part of her bigger plan. In June 2012, Deb was enjoying retirement and preparing for the birth of her first grandchild. “I was extremely busy with  life and the fun things it had to offer … family, friends, my puppies, and of course, planning for the little one who was due in June,” said Deb, who added “life could not get any better.” Her beautiful granddaughter Madeleine was born on June 13. “I was over the moon!” Within two weeks, on June 28, everything changed drastically.
Debbie Kolanko Dr. Hayes

Debbie Kolanko is pictured with her radiation oncologist, Dr. Shelley Hayes.

Deb had a routine mammogram in late June. She figured it would be “just another day of testing.” But the radiologist saw something suspicious and ordered an ultrasound immediately. “Before I knew it, I was being sent for a needle biopsy,” said Deb, who went home and called her best friend, Sue Brewster, who works with Dr. Shelly Hayes in Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Buckingham facility.

With this news in hand, Suzanne immediately passed it along to Dr. Hayes and Deb had a plan. Dr. Hayes referred Deb for a needle biopsy which confirmed she had stage I invasive ductal carcinoma in the left breast.

Deb had the lumpectomy at a hospital near her home and by the fall, she was ready to begin radiation therapy. “Dr. Hayes was absolutely terrific,” shared Deb, who started a course of 23 treatments in September 2012.

Debbie Kolanko

Debbie Kolanko proudly held a sign to mark the end of radiation treatment!

“With Dr. Hayes and Sue on my side - along with my wonderful family and friends - I knew I would be fine,” Deb said. "The love and support I received from Sue and my own family is what got me through this challenge.”

“Showing up for treatment every day was like a breath of fresh air,” noted Deb, who lives close to the Buckingham facility, “The nurses, techs, receptionist, secretary, Dr. Shelly and the others were truly wonderful. The doctors I met along the way could not have been more he kind, helpful and always there to lend a sympathetic ear. I was actually saddened the last day of my treatment that I would not see everyone on a regular basis.”

To mark the end of radiation treatment, Fox Chase has a tradition of offering patients the opportunity to ring the bell. Deb described the ringing of the bell as a passage she will never forget.

Today, Deb takes the drug, Arimidex, to prevent the chance of recurrence. She works part time and admits she feels good. Dr. Hayes referred her to the THRIVE Program at the Doylestown YMCA, which provides an opportunity to exercise with other patients.

Deb Kolanko

Debbie Kolanko loves holding her granddaughter, Madeleine, who was born in June 2012, shortly before her cancer diagnosis.

“I highly recommend Fox Chase Cancer Center for anyone going through any type of cancer. I felt welcomed as part of their team. As someone who has worked in the medical/dental field, I can tell you that making people feel special and comfortable is half of the battle when they are going through the fight of their lives.”

“I am forever grateful to Dr. Hayes and Sue for getting me through this cancer journey. I am so fortunate that I get to spend time with my granddaughter. Life is good!”