The CHOICE Study’s Patient Advisory Board includes cancer survivors from varied backgrounds and professions. This month, we hope you enjoy reading short biographies of two such members.
I am a New Englander. I was born and raised in Connecticut, went to college in New Hampshire (Dartmouth), and grad school at the University of Massachusetts. After that, I migrated to the Philly area where I’ve been a professor of mathematics at Arcadia University for a long, long time (since 1977!). I love most aspects of my job and figure that I’ll give it another four years before I retire at age 73.
I greatly enjoy playing tennis and do so up to three times a week. In addition, my wife and I love the great outdoors and are avid bird watchers. We’ve been at it a long time but somehow haven’t gotten beyond the “advanced beginner” stage. That’s probably because we hang out with some truly expert birders and over-rely on them to identify any unusual species. We also enjoy taking vacations in northern New England and have recently expanded our horizons to include such places as Scotland, Iceland, and Costa Rica. When at home, we hang out with our cat and dog.
My cancer history: Nine years ago, I started experiencing strange tingling sensations in my left ear. My family doctor assumed that it must be allergy related and for the next six months had me take progressively stronger antihistamines, none of which made any difference. Finally, I took myself to an ear, nose, and throat doctor who, likewise, first thought I simply had a clogged eustachian tube but two months later, when the symptoms hadn’t disappeared, offered me the option to have a CT scan. The scan revealed that a tumor on my pyriform sinus (in my throat) had been irritating my vagus nerve, causing the tingling in the ear. I can’t really blame my doctors for their misdiagnoses since I presented as a healthy person who was neither a smoker nor drinker. Fortunately, despite the eight month delay in figuring out what I had, it appears that my cancer was caught in time. I underwent surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering in October 2007, followed two months later by radiation at Penn. Since then, I have been in complete remission and feel great. I am eager to offer any support that I can to fellow cancer patients and survivors.
Raised in the mitten state, I loved Michigan snowstorms and winter weather. However, I also enjoy how quickly Pennsylvania springs appear. After living in North Carolina, where my husband’s family lives, we moved to Montgomery County, PA, in 1996. We love it here, and are nearly finished raising our family, which includes two grown children and one in high school.
Though I earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint (yes, the same city now suffering lead-poisoned water supplies) in French and History, I really wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. For the past twenty years, “mom” has been my chief identity as we raised two adopted children, one with special needs, and a birth child. Being an adoptive parent has humbled me, and taught me more than I ever thought possible.
Since childhood, I’ve been a bookworm and have always processed the world through writing, rapidly filling journals from my teen years until now. For the past decade, I have worked part time as a writer, researcher, and professional assistant to a medical massage therapist; though he and his family have moved out of state, I still maintain his professional website and blog. Now, of course, I’m enjoying writing for the CHOICE Study, and am fascinated by this opportunity to view medical research from the inside. Besides reading and writing, I also enjoy sketching, painting, learning languages, and conversing with my husband, who always makes me laugh.
Twelve years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age thirty-four. After undergoing intensive treatment including surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, gene therapy, hormone therapy and more surgery, I remain forever grateful to the doctors at University of Pennsylvania for the survivorship I enjoy today!