Taking on stage 4 cancer and Mount Kilimanjaro

Patient Story

Cathy Thorn was diagnosed at Lankenau with a rare form of ovarian cancer that occurs in the fallopian tubes. Cathy went into remission after surgery and a six-month course of chemotherapy but the cancer eventually returned. A second round of chemotherapy and radiation later, Cathy is 3 ½ years into her second remission and continues to look forward with the mindset of a perseverant and a third climb of Kilimanjaro on the horizon.

Dear Lankenau Leaders,

Put it this way, if it weren’t for Dr. Dunton, I couldn’t have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for the second time.

In 2000 I climbed for the first time, age 60, and had everything set for my second ascent in January 2007...but life got in the way. Three weeks before our trip I was diagnosed with stage 4 fallopian tube cancer. My family physician said “you’re only going to one place.” She always gives me options. Not this time. She sent
me to Dr. Dunton.

I’ve never been more impressed with a hospital than I was with the care I received at Lankenau. Dr. Dunton has an unbeatable team – from his office staff to the entire oncology team at Lankenau. Dr. Dunton knows who the best person is for all of my questions, whether it’s about nutrition, or genetic testing, and he sends me to them. Because of that humility and teamwork you get the best treatment anybody can get.

In 2008, in remission, I hiked Mount Kilimanjaro for the second time.

Those of us who have battled cancer took on the challenge without a choice. This climb up Kilimanjaro is a challenge I choose, and I hope to do it again for the third time. In the meantime, my husband Jim and I continued our annual 210-mile bike ride across Europe, I ran the 8 “tuff” miles up and down mountains in the Virgin Islands, and I climbed Machu Picchu with Jim by my side. I don’t use the word survivor. A survivor looks backwards to what you went through, not forward to your life ahead. I call myself a perseverant.

Lankenau truly holds a special place in our hearts. We’ve made life-long friends with physicians, nurses and staff – in fact, we were invited to the wedding of the resident who treated me and just attended his baby’s first birthday party.

I’m now 71 years old, Jim is 80. I tell those diagnosed with cancer not to feel sorry for your- self, don’t say “why me”, take each day as a gift, use it, do what you can with it. I volunteer at Community Volunteers in Medicine – an organization providing medical and dental services for people who can’t afford insurance, and have spoken at events across the region. Thanks to Dr. Dunton, I look forward to welcoming my 13th great-grandchild this winter.

Originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of 'Lankenau Leaders'

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