Survivor Stories


Brian Trainor

It was on January 7th that Penn law student Brian Trainor, a healthy and active 31 year old with no known symptoms had a sudden seizure. Brian was rushed to HUP, where he received a CT scan and MRI, which uncovered a 2.5 centimeter tumor on the left frontal lobe of his brain.

Annalisa Meier

During her week at college orientation at Columbia University in late August 2008, Annalisa Meier, an outgoing, self-reliant teenager, first noticed that she wasn't feeling well. She began having vivid nightmares and experienced an onslaught of headaches. In her first regular class, September 2, 2008, her jaw began twitching uncontrollably. After class, Annalisa made her way back to her dorm room and called her Mother, Pilar. While on the phone with her Mother, Annalisa fell to the floor and lost consciousness. When Annalisa regained consciousness, she called Pilar again, who "talked her" across campus to the Columbia University's Medical Center.

Andrew Vartanian

Immediately after being told by his primary care physician that the Abramson Cancer Center is one of the best cancer institutions in the country, Andrew Vartanian made his first appointment.

Tanya Zekovitch

By the age of seven, Tanya Zekovitch already understood what it was like to be a cancer patient after being treated for Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. So when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the summer of 2000, when she was still only in her early 20's, she felt lucky to find that Penn's Abramson Cancer Center offered patient support specialits and counselors to help patients cope with their diagnosis, not only to navigate the medical system, but also to address their emotional needs. Having benefited from counseling services when she was treated as a child, Tanya found Mindy Weismer, a Patient Service Coordinator, and they quickly developed a close relationship.

Edith Christmas

Edith Christmas lives up to the giving spirit of her last name. While caring for her ailing sister, Edith ignored the pain she was experiencing.

Kristi Elder

Kristi Elder lived cancer free for 12 years after treatments in her mid-20s for a rare cancer. While coming to Penn for routine follow-up, a staff member recognized that Kristi could benefit from our survivorship program. In Kristi's first visit with our Living Well after Cancer program, she and the Director, Linda Jacobs, PhD, CRNP, simply talked for over an hour about her life. Kristi received personal counseling and referrals to specialists to deal with specific side effects from her cancer treatment. This past year, Kristi was again diagnosed with the same form of cancer. Her physician at Penn has enrolled her in a clinical trial, and she credits the Living Well After Cancer program with bringing her to a place emotionally and physically where she can handle this recurrence and be hopeful about the future.

Nicholas Martell

Nicholas Martell was first diagnosed with prostate cancer more than ten years ago. He was healthy for many years after being treated with radiation therapy. Nick recently experienced a recurrence of his cancer. Physicians at Penn tailored his treatment and enrolled him in a new Phase I clinical trial using laser-based photodynamic therapy (PDT) followed by hormone therapy. This leading edge treatment plan was effective. Nick just returned from a vacation with his daughter, and in his free time, he plays golf every chance he gets.

Perry Rothaus

A fifteen-year cancer survivor, Perry Rothaus feels that not enough attention is given to caregivers, and he credits his wife, Judi, with his survival. Judi researched his type of cancer, decided on the Abramson Cancer Center for his care, and and accompanied him on every hospital visit. Having someone to rely on for support during treatments was very important to Perry and since he retired from his family business, he has dedicated time to volunteering at the Abramson Cancer Center. A long time cancer survivor, Perry enjoys walking around the until talking with cancer patients, and seeing people's faces change as they hear his survival story. They know he was once in their place.

Rosalinda (Linda) Madara

Rosalinda "Linda" Madara is a loving wife and mother and works as a florist and wedding planner. However, to the staff at the Rena Rowan Breast Center, Linda is the "Cookie Fairy" During her breast cancer treatments, Linda would bring in sweets each morning for the faculty and staff. Her desserts were such a hit that Larry Solin, M.D., her radiation oncologist, suggested that she write a cookbook. Linda started writing that summer, and she completed her 300 recipe cookbook titled, "Sweet Treats and Other Less Sinful Recipes" in 2005. She underwrote all of the publishing costs, and the book is now sold in the Rowan Center Boutique with all proceeds going to support breast cancer research and patient programs.

Sallie Nangeroni

In 2003 her doctors found a cancerous brain tumor, estimating that she had a year and a half to live. Sallie Nangeroni wanted the best neurosurgeon in the region. She came to HUP. Sally was rightfully scared. Her father died of brain cancer when he was just 40 years old, and her husband's brother had just passed away from a brain tumor. At the time she was diagnosed, Sallie just hoped that she would be able to see all three of her sons graduate from high school. Now, 7 years later, she has seen two of them graduate from college, with one now in medical school. Her next goal is to see her youngest son graduate from college next year.

Todd Sheridan

Todd Sheridan's family members have always supported his love of hockey and were his biggest fan when his team won the Junior A National Championship. They again showed their deep devotion by bringing him to Penn for the best possible cancer care. Todd's physician at Penn diagnosed cancer of the tongue and neck, which had spread to his lymph nodes. A possible side effect raised by his physicians was nerve damage in his right arm, limiting the motion in his arm. Gregory Weinstein, M.D., his surgeon at Penn, performed the detailed surgery and was able to avoid that outcome. Three weeks after surgery, Todd was not only doing push-ups, but was practicing with his hockey team in Ontari. But his journey didn't end there. As a survivor, Todd talks personally about how cancer has had an impact on his life and how he was able to combine his experience and passions to benefit his community.

Suzi F. Garber

Suzi F. Garber, of Reading, PA., a neuroendocrine tumor patient at the Abramson Cancer Center, writes about her experience so that others might benefit from her story and become proactive advocates for themselves and their loved ones.

For many years, I had been misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome. After I wound up in the emergency ward in intense pain, I had a battery of tests -- I had an ileal bowel obstruction. An octreotide scan showed spots in my liver which was subsequently biopsied and were positive for carcinoid cancer, Stage IV. I had been diagnosed with a rare cancer that both had metastasized and was inoperable at the time.

Jeanie Taddeo

Battling Cancer While Pregnant

Jeanie, an 8th grade Spanish teacher at Spring Ford Eighth Grade Center, and her husband Phil, a senior manager at Vanguard, absolutely love their jobs and had been happily married for 14 years.

After almost 12 years of trying to have children, they were thrilled to find out that Jeanie was pregnant. We couldn't believe it!" says Jeanie. "And then to find out we were having twins girls was the biggest blessing we could have asked for. My heart was melting."

But at only 15 weeks, fear and shock set in when Jeanie felt a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with stage II invasive breast cancer. "We are going to approach this head on. I just kept thinking about my girls, and how I wanted to get through this, and so I went to see the best," says Jeanie.

 

Frank McKee

Proton Therapy Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Donna Lee Lista

Donna Lee Lista shares her story.

Maryann Volpe

"There is a plan and meaning for everyone. If you get through cancer it really does change you. It makes you a better person: you live more in the moment, you become more compassionate, and you deeply understand what other people are going through when coping with the same terror of cancer. If I had to talk to someone who has to go through what I went through I would say, stay positive and live in the moment with gratitude. One sure way to take focus off yourself is to help and serve others. My spiritually and prayer was so important during my cancer journey. As Mother Teresa said 'the fruit of prayer is love and the fruit of love is service.' My experience at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center was magnificent! Doctors provide compassionate care, coupled with cutting edge technology!"

- Maryann Volpe