Donor Stories

Karen Hoffman

Karen Hoffman, a patient treated by John Glick, MD, Former Director of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center and President of Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, is a strong advocate for Penn Medicine and Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, recognizing the importance and promise of having access to the best possible are right here in Philadelphia.

Karen is a second-generation patient of Dr. Glick. Her father was treated for liver cancer at Penn in the early 1980s, and during his month-long stay in the hospital, Dr. Glick made it a point to visit him every single day. "I remember thinking more than once that if I ever needed him, I hoped that he would be there for me too," Karen said.

On July 22, 2004, Karen learned that she had breast cancer. Her husband immediately called Dr. Glick. John asked to speak to Karen. "Today is your worst day," he assured her. "Everyday you will be a little better. We are going to take care of you." Karen believed him, and found that everything he told her was true.

"You have heard a lot about Penn's patient-centered focus today," Karen told the crowd at the groundbreaking. "John calls it the 'cocoon of caring.' Well, I lived it."

Karen's treatment began with a series of tests, all done early in the morning. More often than not, Dr. Glick would call her on her cell phone with the results of her tests on her train ride home. At the end of her first visit, he handed her a letter with a summary of what had transpired. At the bottom was a hand-written note. It simple said, "Karen, I am going to cure you." He also handed her a prescription with the words, "I am going to be cured." It still hangs on Karen's refrigerator, and she reads it every day. Karen left his office that day feeling calm and empowered to win the battle against her disease.

Dr. Glick explained to Karen and her husband that they would need a team of both family and friends, and great medical professionals. The doctors, nurses and staff at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center were tremendous teammates to them during that time.

Karen found an amazing, caring atmosphere at Penn's Rena Rowan Breast Center. "Everyone there treated me as Karen Hoffman, not a breast cancer case. I took advantage of the free emotional counseling the Abramson Cancer Center offres. It made all the difference. I consider my counselor, Greg Garber, to be one of my healers, and as a result of this process, one of my dearest friends," Karen explained.

"Everyone on the 14th floor was wonderful. Beginning with Gwen and Carmen, who not only took my blood at each visit, but also told me they were praying for me. The chemo nurses and my surgical oncologist, Dr. Marcia Borass, were always very warm and upbeat," she said.

Marcia Borass, MD, still think of Karen warmly. "I truly believe that Karen's care was enhanced by her access to the resources at the Cancer Center. With completion of the planned new facilities, I am proud that we will extend this level of care to a greater number of women," she said.

The cancer experience often involved complex surgery, and Abramson Cancer Center patients benefit from the expertise of more than twenty-five surgeons specialized by type of cancer. "Even for rare tumors, we have a doctor who's likely to have treated it more than a hundred times," said Dr. Borass.

Karen was grateful that the team kept her well informed at every phase of the treatment. She knew what to expect, and if she asked a question, it was answered honestly and directly. She never felt that her concerns were considered trivial.

Karen's treatment coincided with the demolition on the site for the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, and she watched the old buildings come down. "I have heard a lot about the kind of healing environment the building will offer, and it excited me. It excited me that Penn will expand its individually tailored and collaborative medical care. It excites me to learn about the new raidation oncology department, outpatient surgery space, and cardiovascular center -- all of which will enhance the patient experience," Karen told onlookers at the Perelman Center groundbreaking.

"As I face my future with confidence, I am honored to join in this celebration for Penn Medicine's bright future, and the future of the Abramson Cancer Center in this buliding." Karen ended her speech to booming applause. Since the time of the Perelman opening, Karen has continued her involvement with Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, and not only as one of its generous donors -- she is also a member of the Pink Ribbon Committee, a volunteer group that bolsters awareness and philanthropic support for breast cancer patient care and research at Penn Medicine. It is the experience of thousands like Karen that drives the Abramson Cancer Center to continue its fight against cancer.

With the help of our many advocates and generous donors, our vision to provide comprehensive and personalized patient care with the most advanced and transformative research available has been realized with the completion of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center and the Translational Research Center.