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Maureen Frazer

Something Good out of the Pandemic

Holy Name - Maureen Frazer

Few people would consider a world-wide shutdown due to the COVID pandemic a good thing when it comes to a cancer diagnosis, but that’s exactly how Maureen Frazer sees it. It landed her in Holy Name, and might have even saved her life.

A bladder infection that wouldn’t resolve sent the otherwise healthy, 75-year-old widow to a hospital near her Highlands Lakes home. Her physician had closed the office due to COVID and recommended she go to the emergency department.

“I’ve never had any health issues before – the only time I was hospitalized was to give birth to my son 47 years ago,” Maureen said. “But I found myself in a hospital where the doctors wouldn’t even come into my room until my COVID test came back negative. They waved through the door and spoke to me on the phone – that’s how I found out I was dealing with something much more serious than a bladder infection.”

It seems scans of her bladder also picked up images of her ovaries, which after further testing revealed she had cancer that had already spread to her peritoneum – the lining of the abdominal cavity – and chest. The oncologist came into her room to tell Maureen she had stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Under normal circumstances, Maureen would have been transferred to a larger hospital near her home for immediate surgery. But with everything shuttered due to COVID, she started a chemotherapy regimen first. This afforded her the time to delve into ovarian cancer treatment while she waited for hospitals to resume normal operations.

Through her research, she found Dr. Sharyn Lewin, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Holy Name, who was renowned for her expertise in treating ovarian cancer. One of her specialties is providing hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), informally known as a chemo bath, that has been effective in treating ovarian cancer.

The larger hospital closer to her home didn’t offer HIPEC and Maureen had a history with Holy Name – her son and seven of her siblings were born at the Medical Center. Her decision was easy – the drive to Holy Name was worth getting the more advanced treatment in a hospital she already loved.

“When I met Dr. Lewin she was just wonderful,” Maureen said. “It was during COVID so no one could come with me but she asked if I wanted to call someone and then took the time to explain everything to me and my sister, Peggy, on the phone. She was great about making sure we understood everything.”

Dr. Lewin said she would perform a complete hysterectomy, followed by HIPEC, during the same surgery. Maureen wouldn’t have to undergo two procedures.

As much as she wanted HIPEC, Maureen was apprehensive about it. She thought it was a very lengthy procedure – heated chemotherapy medications are inserted directly into the abdomen to wash over the area – and she was scared.

“Dr. Lewin explained that it would only add about 90 minutes to my surgery, and it would give me a better chance of keeping the cancer at bay for a longer period. To help ease my concerns, she connected me with another patient (Mary Jane Bisanzo) who had undergone the procedure,” Maureen said. “I’d like to believe God sent me an angel the day I received a phone call from Mary Jane. Not only did she share her success story, but we bonded over our shared faith and trust in God. Her words gave me the confidence to move ahead with Dr. Lewin’s plans for me.”

Despite how comforted Maureen was by Dr. Lewin and Mary Jane, she still had to face surgery alone because of COVID restrictions. However, Dr. Lewin made sure to keep Maureen’s son updated on her status.

“It was comforting to know my son was kept updated through the whole thing,” Maureen said. “My recovery went far better than I expected, with little pain. Everyone was just wonderful – the nurses took care of my needs and I was walking the halls with a physical therapist the next day. So many of the staff, including Dr. Lewin and her team, the anesthesiologist, the hospital chaplain and countless others took time to look in on me. Four days later I was released.”

Dr. Lewin works with Maureen’s oncologist for her follow-up care, to ensure Maureen has the best possible results. And Maureen is back to doing all the chores of a homeowner, both inside and out – cooking, cleaning, yard work or shoveling snow – as the seasons require. She also enjoys doing genealogy research on her computer and participates in various ministries at her church.

“The best choice I ever made was going to Holy Name,” she said, “I have a feeling if my bladder infection had not gotten so bad, I probably still wouldn’t have known about the cancer. The way it all happened – I would have been at a different hospital and not received the great treatment I did. I am so grateful to all my family and friends for their support and prayers. By the grace of God, I’m celebrating one year cancer-free, feeling great and thankful for each new day.”

Learn more about Maureen Frazer's gynecologic oncology doctor today