Beth Brendlinger

Colon Cancer Patient Stories

Metastatic Colon Cancer
Beth Brendlinger

Beth and her husband, Brian, enjoy spending time together in Ocean City, New Jersey.

In November 1999, Beth Brendlinger followed doctor's orders and had her first colonoscopy. She was 52. Beth learned she had a villous adenoma in situ (a precancerous lesion) which was surgically removed. Follow-up visits proved she was fine, so Beth went on with life as usual. Eight years later, in 2007, routine blood work revealed Beth's alkaline phosphatase (a liver enzyme) level was high. Through further testing, Beth learned she had a mass on the right lobe of her liver. Ironically, she had no symptoms and felt completely fine. A biopsy confirmed Beth's cancer originated in her colon and spread to her liver.

Beth and her husband, Brian, were referred to John P. Hoffman, MD, FACS, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center with extensive experience in treating patients with gastrointestinal malignancies. Beth had no idea what to expect, but she had decided that if the cancer were advanced, stage 4, she would refuse chemotherapy. "I was really anxious about chemotherapy from hearing stories," admitted Beth. "What I didn't understand at the time is that everyone reacts differently to treatment and that the doctors can tailor the treatment to each patient."

Beth was referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center

The Brendlingers met with Dr. Hoffman, who explained that Beth had a very large tumor, stage 4, that was pressing on her vena cava, a large vein that returns blood to the heart from the lower part of the body. The tumor could not be surgically removed until it shrunk with chemotherapy, which is an intravenous drug regimen administered on a daily basis. Because Beth lives in Pottstown, PA, about an hour from Fox Chase, Dr. Hoffman suggested she see Ronald Swaab, MD, a medical oncologist at Pottstown Memorial Regional Cancer Center, which is a Fox Chase Cancer Center Partner. Dr. Swaab could oversee her chemotherapy, which would be much more convenient for Beth. If the cancer responded to the treatment, she would be a candidate for surgery. 

Beth Brendlinger

While Beth was undergoing cancer treatment, her family continued to grow. She is grateful to her doctors so that she can spend time with her grandchildren.

"It was a great relief knowing Dr. Hoffman had a plan for me and I didn't have to make a choice," said Beth, whose survivor instinct kicked in and she felt ready to fight this disease. "I felt like an observer and that this was happening to someone else. I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I wanted my life to continue as normal as possible, and with God's help, I was going to do my best to make that happen."

In June 2007, Beth began a course of chemotherapy that would last 21 months. She was fortunate that her side effects were relatively mild and included fatigue, hair loss and a little nausea. During that period, she continued to see Dr. Hoffman every three months to learn whether the treatment was working. “Dr. Swaab was wonderful and spent a lot of time with me prior to treatment,” said Beth. “A staff nurse also provided patient education materials and answered all of my concerns and questions and put my mind at ease.”

Finally, after 21 months, Dr. Hoffman decided Beth was ready for surgery. To prepare for the procedure, Jeffrey Tokar, MD, a gastroenterologist at Fox Chase ordered a PET Scan and performed an embolization of the right portal vein to reduce blood loss during surgery. In late March, 2009, Beth was admitted to Fox Chase where Dr. Hoffman performed a right hepatic lobectomy. The surgery was successful, and she has been home growing stronger every day with no evidence of disease.

Beth Brendlinger

"I cannot say enough about the care I received at Fox Chase."

"Dr. Hoffman is my hero," said Beth. "I truly believe that I am enjoying life today because of Dr. Hoffman's compassion, skills and thoroughness."

"Everyone I have come in contact with at Fox Chase has been kind and treats me with respect. It's easy to see that the staff genuinely cares about the patients. Patient comfort and peace of mind is top priority at Fox Chase."

“I felt that both hospitals were partnering in my care and I got the best of both," said Beth, who attributes her strength to her faith in the Christian religion and the support of her growing family. “Through medicine, prayer and love, I am here today to talk about this experience and it has made me a stronger person.”

"The doctors and nurses never gave up hope and neither did I. We made a great team."

During her chemotherapy treatments she became a grandmother three times. Today, she enjoys snapping photos of her grandchildren to show off at her doctor's visits. She vacations with friends and family in Ocean City, NJ. “Life goes on and you make the best of what is handed to you." Beth came across this quote in a book she received as a gift. According to Gracie Allen, "Never place a period in your life where God only meant to place a comma." Words to live by for Beth Brendlinger.