Friday, October 30, 2015

When the doctor becomes the patient

CARING FOR A FRIEND: Members of The Suzanne Wedel XOXOut Ovarian Cancer Committee, established to fund ovarian cancer research.

As the director of the emergency medical transport group Boston MedFlight, Suzanne Wedel, MD, is a critical care doctor who often is
asked to provide an immediate diagnosis. Now Wedel is fighting for the possibility of an early diagnosis for tens of thousands of women like her, with ovarian cancer.

Three years ago her symptoms were vague – bloating and a pain in her shoulder. It took her concerned husband (she is married to Alasdair Conn, MD, chief emeritus of Emergency Medicine at the MGH), a persistent primary care physician and a series of tests and scans before Wedel was diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. She currently is a participant in an MGH research trial and wants to help fight the disease that is known as “the silent killer.”

“Every patient needs an advocate,” says Wedel. “Ovarian cancer gets no attention, it gets limited funding, it affects women in the prime of their life. There are no easy ways to find out if you have ovarian cancer or even do surveillance for it.”

A fundraiser was held Oct. 7 at the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead to benefit the Suzanne Wedel XOXOut Ovarian Cancer Fund, named because Wedel often signs personal emails “xoxo – skw.” More than $75,000 has already been raised to support critical research at the MGH.

At the fundraiser, Wedel and her MGH doctors, Marcela del Carmen, MD, and Michael Birrer, MD, PhD, thanked the more than 100 donors for their support in providing resources specifically to develop a tool for the early detection of ovarian cancer. Eighty-five percent of women first diagnosed are already in the late stages of ovarian cancer. Even then, studies show that more than half of the patients do not receive the most effective treatment of abdominal chemotherapy. Birrer and del Carmen are optimistic that those statistics will change, promising that researchers are on the forefront of breakthrough developments in treatment for the disease.

Wedel’s message in the evening’s program book thanked her new advocates: “Through your generous support, we will wage war on this dreadful disease and we will bring hope to the cause. We do this for our daughters and for our granddaughters, and we will make a difference. xoxo – skw.” 

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