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POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

“I’m going to be okay.”

That’s what Deb Beck said to herself as she entered the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute and met Deenie Cochran, gynecologic oncology care coordinator. The last few days had been tumultuous for the Astatula (Lake County) resident. What started as a visit to her physician for a stomachache turned into a diagnosis of cancer. Deb was overwhelmed, until she found Deenie.

How the Roller Coaster Began
In October 2013, Deb, then 55, began experiencing abdominal bloating. She saw her gastroenterologist, and a CT scan showed a pelvic mass. After a biopsy, the mass was determined to be stage 3 ovarian cancer.

“This all happened late on a Friday, so I spent a sleepless weekend doing research,” Deb explains. “I read positive reviews and statistics for the cancer institute and I knew that’s where I wanted to go, but I had no doctor referral.”

On Monday morning, Deb spoke with Deenie for the first time. “When Deb called, I could hear fear in her voice,” Deenie says. “As a care coordinator, I quickly assess each patient’s situation — in Deb’s case, her pathology report and family history of ovarian cancer — and expedite appointments. We’re here to calm patients, helping them through the process.”

After just that one call, Deb felt a measure of relief. “Deenie’s concern was immediate and sincere,” she says. “She assured me they’d take care of me. I felt a burden had been lifted.”

Within a few days, Deb met James Kendrick, MD, a gynecologic oncologist, and was scheduled for surgery to remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, omentum and lymph nodes.

“Deb’s scans showed that we needed to expedite surgery,” says Dr. Kendrick. “Fortunately, the cancer was contained and didn’t require additional procedures.”

Surgery went well and Deb began the process of recovery, but her adversity was far from over. 

A Second Misfortune
During recovery, Deb experienced another devastating blow: Her husband died of a heart attack.

“I was three months post-op,” Deb says. “I’d forged a close relationship with Deenie, so she was one of the first people I reached out to after my husband passed.She helped me get through this new hardship.” 

“These relationships are a two-way street,” Deenie says. “Deb blessed me in many ways. Her faith and perseverance are a great inspiration.”

The kinship between Deb and Deenie is a testament to the care patients at the cancer institute receive. The institute approaches each patient as an individual and involves him or her in treatment. And it’s working. Five-year survival rates for patients even with advanced-stage ovarian cancer do significantly better at Florida Hospital than the national average.

Dr. Kendrick says patient attitude is also an element of success: “Deb has such an optimistic outlook,” he says. “She’s managing this disease and has an excellent prognosis.”