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Patient Stories: Linda Snow
As soon as Linda Snow learned she was adopted, she was curious about her roots. As a teen, she wondered about the health history of her birth parents. In addition to suggesting she have her first mammogram at age 30 to obtain a baseline, Linda’s OB/GYN referred her to the Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center founded by Mary Daly, MD, PhD.
After learning she carried the BRCA1 gene that increases risk for breast cancer, combined with the fact that she lost her birth mother to bilateral breast cancer, Linda was counseled by surgeon John Hoffman, MD, at Fox Chase, to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy. Due to limitations with her insurance because she did not have a cancer diagnosis, Linda had the procedure performed at a community hospital.
“Unfortunately, the surgeon at my local hospital did not achieve clear margins and left too much tissue,” recalled Linda. Dr. Hoffman followed Linda annually because she still had a risk of breast cancer. In 2009, Linda underwent a second surgery to remove the remaining tissue. She had also followed Dr. Daly’s recommendation to undergo a prophylactic hysterectomy at age 42 to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Hoffman responded quickly and saw Linda the following week.
Although Linda no longer had a need for annual mammograms, she occasionally performed self-exams and in August 2012, she discovered a small lump near her left underarm. “I sent Dr. Hoffman an email and even though he was on vacation, he responded quickly and asked me to make an appointment for the next week,” recalled Linda.
Dr. Hoffman performed further testing and Linda learned the results when she was on her way to a client. “I had triple-negative breast cancer,” explained Linda. “That was when my positive experiences with Fox Chase really took off.” She began to refer to Dr. Hoffman as her QB1 – or her quarterback. He built Linda’s team by recruiting Fox Chase breast surgeon Marcia Boraas, MD, medical oncologist Paula Ryan, MD, her fellow, Julie Innocent, MD, and radiation oncologist Penny Anderson, MD. Even though Dr. Hoffman handed her off to a talented team, he stayed involved and in touch throughout the process. Dr. Boraas referred Linda to Fox Chase plastic and reconstructive surgeon Sameer Patel, MD, to develop the best surgical plan.
“With my aggressive form of breast cancer and history with two double mastectomies, Dr. Patel and Dr. Boraas agreed that I should begin with a lumpectomy,” said Linda, who reported that this procedure was much easier than her previous surgeries. Next, Dr. Ryan started Linda on a course of chemotherapy. She managed the sometimes difficult side effects of chemotherapy, including losing her hair, which she later admitted wasn’t so bad.
Linda appreciated the encouragement and kindness shown by her physicians.
“When I’d see Dr. Ryan and her fellow before going to the infusion room, they’d always give me a hug of encouragement and kindness, the kind my mom would have given me if she were alive,” shared Linda.
Once she recovered from the chemotherapy, Dr. Anderson began a 30 day course of radiation treatments. “My dream team in radiation oncology always made me feel welcome and comfortable with the process,” added Linda, who knew that exercise could help her control the stress she was experienced. Determined to exercise when she felt up to it, Linda really pushed through some tough workouts. Once she finished her most difficult chemotherapy, she slowly worked her way back to the P90X regimen, which Linda believes helped to manage the fatigue she was told to expect. Her next step, after finishing radiation, was the Insanity workout.
"The radiation technologists were literally the faces I looked forward to seeing each morning."
“The radiation technologists – Barb, Alyssa and Kristy – were literally the faces I looked forward to seeing each morning,” admitted Linda. “They were so thorough each day as they carefully positioned me on the table, making sure that I felt physically AND emotionally comfortable every step of the way.” When Linda heard them call her name in the waiting room, she recalled that they greeted her in a truly genuine fashion, asking how she felt.
“Each one of them exhibited consummate professionalism and truly cared about my well-being. I know that these women have a tough schedule with lots of patients. I also know that dealing with the public isn't always fun; however, these three always managed to make it seem like they were having a good time.”
“My experience with Fox Chase has been extremely positive and I enjoy spreading the word.”
“My experience with Fox Chase has been extremely positive and I enjoy spreading the word,” said Linda. She recently switched to a Fox Chase gynecologist because it provides peace of mind knowing everything is in one place. “My doctors told me that staying active would help my recovery and I believe it did. I am feeling great and hoping that I've truly been cured. I would recommend Fox Chase to anyone facing a diagnosis of cancer.”