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Like most beach lovers of a certain age, Joe Weiss didn’t worry about too much exposure to the sun when he was spending childhood summers at the Jersey shore. Fast-forward five decades or so, and in 2009, at the age of 66, Joe noticed some changes in a dime-sized mole on his back. He went to his local doctor, who did a biopsy, which came back as a level 5 melanoma.
"I knew that Dr. Farma and his team would help me make informed choices and guide me every step of the way."
“My doctor gave me a choice of going to the local hospital, a large hospital in Philadelphia or Fox Chase Cancer Center,” recalled Joe. “Knowing the reputation for professionalism and competence that Fox Chase has, I wanted to be treated there.” He made an appointment with Jeffrey M. Farma, MD, FACS, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center who specializes in treating patients with melanoma. “I was very anxious,” he recalled. “But after our first meeting, I knew that Dr. Farma and his team would help me make informed choices and guide me every step of the way.”
After further testing, including a colonoscopy, Dr. Farma suggested that he would remove the mole along with three sentinel lymph nodes. The pathology would let him know whether or not the cancer had spread. Dr. Farma did find a suspicious spot on one of the lymph nodes, but it was too small to say for sure that it was malignant. "I preferred to err on the aggressive side with my treatment,” said Joe. To accomplish this, Dr. Farma removed the remaining 31 lymph nodes in November November 2009. “My wife was there the entire time I was in surgery," said Joe. "Dr. Farma personally came out and talked to her and explained how everything went. That meant a lot to us."
"Dr. Farma did an excellent job."
“Dr. Farma did an excellent job,” said Joe, who used physical therapy to regain his muscle strength after the surgery. Joe especially appreciated the benefits of Fox Chase’s team approach, which included a dermatologist, a medical oncologist and a surgical oncologist working to diagnose, treat and monitor his health. Joe continues to see Dr. Farma twice a year for check-ups and credits his faith in Fox Chase for helping him deal with a serious diagnosis.
“The mental part was challenging for me,” he admitted. “Anytime you talk about the big C, it’s pretty scary. But I had confidence that Dr. Farma and the entire team knew what they were doing. I felt that I was in good hands. If anything can be done to help you when you have cancer, it’s going to happen at Fox Chase.”