Leader of Breast Cancer Nonprofit Shares Her Own Survivorship Story
As the executive director of Susan G. Komen New Jersey, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending breast cancer, lifelong Freehold resident and CentraState volunteer Suzanne Corson, 41, has advocated for women’s health and shared many stories of breast cancer for nearly a decade. She never expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer in July 2019.
“I have a completely new understanding and appreciation for the words ‘you have cancer’—and what it means to go through the process of trying to be cancer-free,” says Suzanne.
Pursuing a Diagnosis
After feeling unwell with no explanation from various doctors, Suzanne visited Family Practice of CentraState, where Paola Raguseo, MSN, APN-BC referred her to board-certified colorectal surgeon Thomas Kayal, MD.
“When I first met Dr. Kayal, I was immediately comfortable with him and knew I could ask him any question,” says Suzanne. “I could see he genuinely cared about the pain that I was in and wanted to help.”
When various measures to alleviate Suzanne’s pain failed, Dr. Kayal recommended she undergo a colonoscopy. During the procedure, he found a golf ball-sized tumor partially obstructing Suzanne’s colon.
Following her colonoscopy, Dr. Kayal successfully removed the cancerous mass through minimally invasive robotic colorectal surgery using the da Vinci Xi® surgical system, which typically allows patients to recover quicker with a shorter hospital stay.
After her surgery, Suzanne started chemotherapy. Now cancer-free, she recalls the strong multifaceted team approach that coordinated her care.
“It was as easy as it could have been for me and my family because we have this community hospital right here,” says Suzanne. “I can’t say enough positive things about the experience.”
In particular, she recalls when a nurse in the short stay unit, Leticia Butay, BSN, RN, CPAN, comforted her during a time that she needed it most—right after hearing the news about the tumor. At her follow-up appointment in December, Suzanne and Leticia reunited with joyful tears and hugs.
Suzanne also called Family Practice of CentraState to thank Paola for the role in her care, as the referral to Dr. Kayal helped make early detection possible.
“Early diagnosis is the key; it’s critical,” says Dr. Kayal.
Supporting Other Survivors in Crisis
Months after her diagnosis and successful treatment, Suzanne is back to fighting breast cancer in the community. She has spent the last few months connecting breast cancer patients and survivors with resources that they need during the coronavirus pandemic.
Suzanne continues to share her tale of triumph as a survivor, using these challenging times as an example of why it’s important to know your body and speak up when something doesn’t feel “right.”
“I credit doing what I do on a daily basis for pushing me to be my own advocate,” says Suzanne. “I took my own advice, and because of that, I’m a cancer survivor.”