In her own words, cancer survivor, Denise Teter, shares her story for Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
In the throes of cancer treatment or treatment of a chronic condition—making positive connections with medical professionals can make your experience more pleasant and satisfying. When I leave Perelman, I feel accomplished. I showed up, I conquered treatment, and I left on my own two feet.
Penn has become my second home. I don’t have to explain my tears if I’m having a bad day or apologize for my crankiness due to pain. When I’m at my second home, I can let down my guard and just be. My friends at Penn listen with understanding—by the time I leave, I’m flying high again.
Every three weeks, I go to Penn to see my surgeon’s physician assistant, Grace. And every two weeks, I know that in an effort to heal me— she is going to cause me 30 seconds of pain that will last one to two days. I’m thankful for Grace. She is intelligent, compassionate and funny—which makes every visit a little less stressful and a learning experience.
When I was first diagnosed with FAP colorectal cancer, my primary GI doctor immediately sent me to Penn. After my first appointment with the surgeon, whom I’ve been seeing for seven years, I knew I was in the right place. She was soft-spoken, brilliant, and the kindest surgeon I’ve ever met. Alongside my oncologist, they calmly reminded me of all the goodness in my life on my off days.
Every Monday, a visiting nurse, Faith, comes to my home and changes the dressing for a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter), which I’ve had for the past three years. The PICC helps me to administer TPN (total parental nutrition). It’s located in the soft underneath of my upper arm. She changes the dressing to keep the area clean, dry and free of infection. She is not just a visiting nurse, she’s a therapist too, not by degree but definitely by vocation. She sees me on my worst days and in my worst moods and shares in my most happy days as well. She is part of the family.
I know my experience is not unique. I’m also sure that there are plenty of stories that are counter-intuitive to mine and I wish that wasn’t the case. I do believe in being prepared – I talk to people, research and make lists of questions. I believe in being proactive in the care of me. Maybe doctors recognize my interest and one of my questions or concerns might lead to a progressive discussion of my treatment. I was perfectly healthy at one point in my life and I’m determined to get there again. I think with the help of all the staff at my second home, a pain-free lifestyle will be part of my future once again.
To learn more about supportive services available at Pennsylvania Hospital, call 215-829-6466. For services at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, call 215-615-0534.
Denise Teter, lives in Kimberton, Chester County, with her family. She is a survivor with FAP colon cancer. She has written several articles related to the cancer journey for the Philadelphia Inquirer.