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Sandy’s Fast Recovery From Endometrial Cancer Treatment

A few weeks after undergoing a robotic hysterectomy, Sandy Schlemmer was back to her normal routine.

Sandy Schlemmer

Sandy Schlemmer has learned to listen to her body.

The 72-year-old Shenandoah resident is no stranger to medical concerns, so when she noticed post-menopausal bleeding in early 2021, she made an appointment with her doctor right away.

A concerning endometrial cancer diagnosis

Schlemmer’s gynecologist performed a biopsy of her uterus, and soon after, she received an official diagnosis: endometrial cancer.

“I let myself be upset for a few minutes, and then made the choice to get over it,” Schlemmer says. “I wasn’t going to crawl into a hole and accept it. I have a lot ahead of me, and I wasn’t going to let cancer take that away.”

A partner in health

Schlemmer’s doctor knew that she would need advanced care, and they were both in agreement on where to go.

“I had already been receiving care through Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute for bladder cancer,” says Schlemmer. “I was thrilled with my initial treatment and follow-up care, and I knew that even though I would be seeing different doctors, I would be in very good hands.”

At her first appointment with M. Bijoy Thomas, MD, Chief, Gynecologic Oncology at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute, she knew she had made the right decision.

“When Dr. Thomas came into the room, he had a big smile on his face that put me right at ease,” Schlemmer says. “He told me he read my chart and had a plan.”

The first step was a robotic hysterectomy, which was scheduled within a week of Schlemmer’s first appointment. The procedure went well, and after a short overnight stay, she returned home.

Bouncing back

Schlemmer was surprised by how well she felt after the procedure.

“From the moment I got home, it was like I hadn’t had surgery,” Schlemmer says. “Aside from some tenderness where the small incisions were, I didn’t experience any pain.”

This is common for the type of procedure Schlemmer underwent.

“Many patients who undergo robotic hysterectomies experience minor discomfort, and many are ready to return to work and their regular activities within a few weeks,” Thomas says. “This was important to Sandy, and our gynecologic oncology nurse practitioners and I were dedicated to helping her reach that goal.”

Although further testing showed that the cancer had not spread beyond her uterus, Schlemmer met with radiation oncologist Alyson McIntosh, MD, with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates, for additional guidance. It was recommended that she undergo a few sessions of radiation therapy to decrease the chances of her cancer recurring.

“Endometrial cancer can recur, even if it is identified and surgically treated in earlier stages,” McIntosh says. “Sandy was a great candidate for radiation therapy after her hysterectomy to further prevent her cancer from coming back.”

Schlemmer was glad that her treatment plan included input from various specialists.

“Dr. McIntosh was thorough and already knew so much about my diagnosis when we met. I was so glad that she was looking out for the future and not just what the scans said then,” Schlemmer says. “I only needed three sessions of radiation, and that part of my treatment flew by.”

Living life to the fullest

Schlemmer has held her dream job for over 30 years: working as a hairdresser with many long-term clients.

When she received her second cancer diagnosis, she didn’t know how long she would be off her feet.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think I would be back to work soon,” she says. “While I ended up taking three weeks off for follow-up appointments, I felt well enough to go back after two.”

Now receiving regular follow-up care from various Cancer Institute clinicians, she is looking forward to many more years behind the salon chair.

“I am so grateful for everyone who cared for me,” Schlemmer says. “My doctors and nurses know me by name – I’m not just a number to them. I’m remembered, and that is so important when you are facing something as difficult as multiple cancer diagnoses.”

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