Mary Martin

Colon Cancer Patient Stories

Colon Cancer
Mary Martin

Cancer was an unfortunate fact in Mary Ellen Martin’s family life.  Her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2003, the same year her four-year-old niece Colleen Murphy was diagnosed with leukemia. But when the Mercerville, New Jersey resident started having stomach and bowel issues in 2007 at age 39, cancer didn’t cross her mind. Her family doctor did not consider the possibility of cancer either. For more than a year, he was unable to determine what was causing Mary to feel bloated all the time. He attributed the blood in her stools to possible hemorrhoids.

Mary went to Fox Chase for a second opinion.

“All the symptoms pointed to colon cancer, I just didn’t know it,” remembered Mary.  “I finally went back to him and said something just isn’t right.”  Mary was referred to a gastroenterologist, who ordered a colonoscopy.  The diagnosis was stage four colon cancer.  “I had a tennis ball-sized tumor in my colon.  My whole world turned upside down.” After doing some research online, Mary decided to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion. 

“My husband Bruce called Fox Chase and we got an appointment with Dr. Watson right away," said Mary. James C. Watson, MD, FACS, is a Fox Chase oncologic surgeon who specializes in treating patients with gastrointestinal cancers. Dr. Watson made it clear that Mary had no other option but surgery. Diagnosed in January 2008, she had a five-hour surgery in early March.  Dr. Watson and his team removed the tumor and one of six lesions he found on her liver.  The tumor was situated between her rectum and colon, which turned out to be the best case scenario for a successful outcome with minimal after effects.  

"Dr. Watson was the best – he literally saved my life."

"Dr. Watson was the best – he literally saved my life," explained Mary. "He’s a great doctor with an amazing bedside manner. I just love him and his entire staff.” Mary admitted that the hardest part of her treatment was undergoing chemotherapy for 17 months to treat the lesions on her liver. Mary's treatment lasted from April 2008 until September 2009. She lost 50 pounds. But at the end of her treatment, there was no evidence of disease.

During this time, Mary only missed four months of work. Her daughter Jennifer, was only nine years old at the time. “It was hard on all of us, but with the support of friends and family, we made it through,” she said. 

Her niece Colleen, who was also nine years old, was an inspiration through Mary’s ordeal. “We have matching port scars,” she said. “Colleen is doing terrific. She really helped me stay positive. If it wasn’t for my family and Dr. Watson, I know I wouldn’t be here.”