Cheryl Veney

Learn More About

Sarcoma Treatment

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Patient Stories

Cheryl Veney

The 2006/7 school year turned out to be a challenging one for Cheryl, a teacher.

What should have been an uneventful start to Cheryl Veney's usual teaching year turned frightening in September 2006.

It was the second day of school, and this Philadelphia teacher started experiencing severe stomach pains, which increased in intensity as the day wore on. Cheryl was diagnosed with pancreatitis at her local hospital, with no apparent reason for its onset. Testing included an endoscopic exploration down her throat, which revealed a mass on her stomach.

"At that point, they didn't really know what it was," recalled Cheryl, 52 in 2010. Her doctor suggested she consult with a specialist at either Fox Chase Cancer Center or a large teaching hospital in Philadelphia. She started with the latter, only to be frustrated by red tape and delays when she called repeatedly to make an appointment. "I didn't know anyone who had been to Fox Chase, but I decided to take a chance and give them a call." Cheryl got an appointment right away with James C. Watson, MD, FACS, an oncologic surgeon who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers.

"Dr. Watson was really great. My mom and I felt so comfortable with him."

"Dr. Watson was really great," she recalled. "My mom went with me for the appointment, and we both felt so comfortable with him." Further testing revealed that Cheryl had a fast growing gastrointestinal stromal tumor, or GIST. At this point, she wasn't having any pain or symptoms. "Dr. Watson told me the tumor had to be removed immediately. Waiting would be dangerous because of how fast the tumor was growing," she recalled.

"Normally, I'd go for a second opinion automatically," she said. "But I felt comfortable with Dr. Watson. He explained everything to my husband and me, told us what to expect, and what would happen afterwards. I really felt confident that Dr. Watson was going to take care of me, and I was going to get better."

Surgery was scheduled for November 2006. Although Dr. Watson couldn't guarantee it, he told Cheryl he would first try minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery to remove her tumor. "When I woke up, I had three little incisions," she recalled. "He told me everything went well and the tumor was gone. And I wouldn't need further treatment, such as chemotherapy, which was a relief." After a 3 day hospital stay, Cheryl went home to recuperate, and was back to school right after the New Year.

"I'm very thankful for the care I received from Dr. Watson, and Fox Chase."

With GIST in her rear view mirror, Cheryl credits her loving husband, caring friends and family members and her faith for pulling her through a difficult time. "I'm very thankful for the care I received from Dr. Watson, and Fox Chase," she said. "Throughout it all, everyone was so caring and compassionate," she said. "I would definitely recommend Fox Chase to anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis."