One doctor. Two sisters with ovarian cancer. Saved at the same time.
Pati Disantis felt awful: “I had severe hot flashes and was living in the bathroom.”
Something was wrong, but what? Pati got the answer at a gynecology appointment when her physician discovered an ovarian mass.
Was It Cancer?
The gynecologist immediately sent Pati to see Robert L. Giuntoli, II, MD, gynecologic oncologist at Chester County Hospital, a Penn Medicine hospital.
Dr. Giuntoli’s clinical impression was that Pati had ovarian cancer. But surgery and biopsy were needed to confirm the doctor’s assessment.
“From the moment I met him, I felt comfortable with Dr. Giuntoli, so I knew everything would be alright,” says Pati.
On the day of Pati’s surgery her family gathered to support her. Part of her inner circle was Pati’s sister, Kim Pearson.
Trouble for Kim
While Kim waited for Pati’s surgery to finish, she reflected on the fact that she, too, had experienced troubling symptoms.
“My lymph nodes were painful and I had swelling in my belly,” says Kim.
Realizing something was amiss, Kim went for an ultrasound and learned that she also had ovarian cancer.
Unfortunately, Kim’s cancer was far more extensive than Pati’s.
Kim Insisted on Dr. Giuntoli
Now, it was Kim who had to make life-saving decisions about her treatment. To whom would she entrust her care and her life?
The answer was Dr. Giuntoli.
“I saw how he treated my sister Pati and our family. He was clinically brilliant, gentle and a true patient advocate,” says Kim.
A 12-Hour Surgery Plus 12 Rounds of Chemo
Kim’s underwent a 12-hour abdominal surgery at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital, close to home and family.
Her disease was widespread, so Dr. Giuntoli took his time and removed as much cancerous tissue as possible.
After Kim healed from surgery, she started a 12-week course of chemotherapy to destroy any cancer that remained. Her diagnosis: Stage 3C ovarian cancer — caught just in time.
A Genetic Link?
Because it was highly unusual that two sisters would develop ovarian cancer at the same time, Dr. Giuntoli suggested genetic counseling and testing. The sisters agreed. But results from the test showed that neither carried the BRCA genetic mutation commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancer.
For Pati and Kim, it was just bad luck.
But, Good Luck Prevails.
“We got through this as sisters, as a family and with the amazing support of Dr. Giuntoli and the entire Penn team,” says Pati.
“I owe my life to Dr. Giuntoli,” says Kim. “Without him, neither Pati nor I would be sitting here today.”