Renee Dratch testimonial

Breast Cancer Patient Stories

Breast Cancer
Renee and her family - Todd, Jessica and Sammy

Renee and her family - Todd, Jessica and Sammy

Since she was in her late thirties, Renee Dratch, mother of two girls, had a hunch breast cancer could be in her future.  For three years in a row (2008-2010), she had mammograms twice a year due to abnormalities.  Then, in the summer 2010, her doctor reported that nothing had changed and she could return to annual mammograms. In July 2011, Renee, who was 41 at the time, scheduled her mammogram. Within two days, she received a phone call from her doctor who said it looked suspicious. “Here we go again,” thought Renee, who expected everything to be fine. When she returned to meet with her doctor, they ordered a biopsy. “This time it was cancer,” recalled Renee, who was admittedly surprised.

She shared the news with her husband, Todd, right away, but decided to wait to tell her girls. “I wanted to have an action plan and know that I’d be okay before we told them.”

Renee's mother-in-law researched the top hospitals for breast cancer - which brought her to Fox Chase.

Renee’s mother-in-law, Barbara, researched the area’s top hospitals for breast cancer and recommended she see Marcia Boraas, MD, a surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center who specializes in treating patients with breast cancer. In August, Renee met with Dr. Boraas and her nurse practitioner, Barbara Cunningham. “They told me I had ductal carcinoma in situ,” said Renee, who answered, “What does that mean?”

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a type of non-invasive breast cancer. Women who have DCIS are at risk for developing an invasive cancer, and require specific treatment to prevent this.

“When I heard I had breast cancer, I burst into tears,” recalled Renee, who never shed another tear after that. “Once I digested the news and learned more about my diagnosis, I was grateful that it was not invasive and that surgery would most likely provide me with a cure. When I saw other patients at Fox Chase, I knew it could have been worse.”

Dr. Boraas presented Renee with her options – a lumpectomy to remove the tumor followed by radiation and five years of Tamoxifen to reduce the risk of recurrence, or a mastectomy to remove the entire breast with immediate reconstruction. After much deliberation – and talking to lots of people – Renee opted for a lumpectomy. Unfortunately, it was not possible to achieve clear margins around the DCIS, as it was more widespread than initially thought.

At that point, Renee opted for an aggressive surgical approach and was admitted to Fox Chase in October for a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. 

“Dr. Boraas made me feel like I was her only patient.”

Sameer A. Patel, MD, FACS, is a plastic surgeon at Fox Chase who specializes in breast reconstruction. “I felt so comfortable with Dr. Boraas and Dr. Patel,” shared Renee. “They spent a lot of time listening to me, answering my concerns and explaining the process.” When Dr. Boraas called with the final pathology report, Renee learned that there had been residual DCIS in her breast, but no invasive cancer. She felt that she made the right decision with the mastectomies and was relieved. “I was very impressed. She called me herself and spent a lot of time on the phone. Dr. Boraas made me feel like I was her only patient.”

Once she recovered, Renee continued the reconstruction process with Dr. Patel and his physician assistants, who happen to be married, Lisa DiSandro-Wetherhold, PA-C and Matt Wetherhold, PA-C. “The whole team made me feel very comfortable. They are truly amazing.”

"I felt it in my heart and in my head that I was in the right place, with the best team.”

Renee recalled that before the first reconstructive surgery, her healthcare providers took time to talk to her, which was very meaningful. “I was treated with respect knowing that everyone really listened to me and cared about me.” Renee laughed when she recalled that she asked Dr. Patel the same question each week for seven weeks. “Each time, he answered me like it was the first time I asked. He was so patient. I think deep down I knew I would be okay. I felt it in my heart and in my head that I was in the right place, with the best team.”

With each visit to Fox Chase, Renee found it became easier to get around. “I really liked the kiosks for check-in,” she shared. “I could ask 15 people how to get to my appointment, and everyone smiled and helped me.” She was also pleased with how quickly she was seen, admitting “I rarely had to wait more than a few minutes to be seen.”

Renee underwent her last reconstructive procedure in May 2012. She was up and driving within a week. “I’m a busy mom,” added Renee. “In the fall of 2012, my girls started 6th and 8th grades. I work part-time, play tennis, cook dinner every night and hop on the treadmill in my spare time!” Renee’s oldest daughter, Jessica, will become a Bat Mitzvah in the fall 2012 and has decided to raise money for breast cancer research at Fox Chase in honor of her mom. “I am so proud of Jessica,” shared Renee.

"Every single person I met at Fox Chase was so reassuring, caring and nice."

Renee feels very fortunate that her cancer was detected in its earliest stage when it was most treatable. “And I am thankful to live near a fabulous center like Fox Chase.  Every single person I met at Fox Chase was so reassuring, caring and nice. I definitely made the right decision.”