The stereotypical bartender listens patiently as patrons bare their souls.
Coopersburg Fire Company bartender Maureen Carney gained heightened compassion
for her customers’ troubles as she faced challenges of her own. At age 36, she
was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“Having a life-threatening disease puts things into perspective,” she said.
“I appreciate everything and can help my customers find positive things in their
own lives. When they hear my story, their own problems don’t seem so
About a year ago, Maureen experienced sharp pains in her
breast that worsened with her menstrual periods. She saw nurse practitioner
Elizabeth Grusmeder-Smith of Stoneridge OB/GYN Associates, who urged Maureen to
have a mammogram immediately. Results and further testing revealed
Maureen selected Bux-Mont Oncology/Hematology Medical Associates
for treatment. Her medical oncologist, Alan Kaufman, MD, diagnosed her as having
inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) – a rare but very aggressive type of disease in
which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. It is called
“inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red and may be
characterized by an inverted nipple. More prevalent among younger women, IBC
accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases in the U.S.
To make matters worse, a PET scan revealed tumors in Maureen’s lymph nodes
and liver – a sign the cancer had spread to other parts of her body. To combat
the disease, Dr. Kaufman developed an aggressive treatment plan that included
hemotherapy to prevent further growth and spread of the tumors and radiation
therapy to reduce or eliminate tumors in her lymph nodes and breast. Given
Maureen’s young age, he suggested she receive a second opinion. He
explained that Grand View is a Fox Chase Cancer Center Partner, and one of the
benefits of this distinction is a Second Opinion Service.
Grand View’s Second Opinion Service Coordinator Susan Tisdale Lezoche
scheduled an appointment for Maureen at Fox Chase Cancer Center and provided
physicians there with medical records needed to review Maureen’s case. “Fox
Chase did a thorough evaluation of the recommendations Dr. Kaufman made,”
Maureen said, “and supported the plan of treatment he outlined.”
Maureen’s treatment began with several rounds of chemotherapy at the Infusion
Center located in Grand View’s Outpatient Center at Sellersville. She continues
to receive radiation treatment at Grand View under the supervision of radiation
oncologist Maureen’s Fight against Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Martin
Hightower, MD. To reduce her cancer risk, she decided to have a double
mastectomy even though the cancer had not spread to the left breast. Surgeon
John Pagan, MD, performed the surgery.
Maureen has never second-guessed her decision to receive all of her treatment
at Grand View, despite urgings from her Drexel Hill family to seek treatment
Philadelphia. Maureen knew she would receive high-quality treatment at
Grand View without the hassles of the city. She also felt comforted by the
caring attitude at Grand View.
“The staff here is wonderful,” she said. “After surgery, my stay was awesome.
The nurses were great. I have no complaints. I recovered so quickly. The
of my surgery, I walked out to the nurses’ station and started handing
out cookies.” Maureen also speaks highly of Breast Care Coordinator Suzanne
Campbell’s devotion to her job. Suzanne assisted Maureen with scheduling tests
A PET scan taken in April showed Maureen is now cancer-free. That is
miraculous given the ferocity of IBC. Although statistics show that IBC is an
aggressive type of cancer, Maureen doesn’t give too much credence to the
numbers. They do not predict a person’s outcome. “I’m an individual, not a
statistic,” Maureen said. “It’s been a long haul and it’s not over yet. Someone
has survived every type of cancer, no matter how menacing. I’m determined to
beat the odds and talk about it when I’m 80.”