It was August 2012 when Mary Pallotta was diagnosed with cancer. After a recommendation from her primary care doctor, she had scheduled a mammogram and bilateral ultrasound only to find out that what she had thought was a cyst turned out to be something much more: Stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.
“I was in a state of shock and extremely distraught,” said Pallotta, who didn’t have a personal or family history of the disease.
Still, Pallotta made an appointment for her mammogram and ultrasound. It was there that she met Cathy Scallon, breast care coordinator, who was in the room to deliver the results of the tests: the mass that had been discovered during her appointment was likely cancerous.
Anxious about the possibility of cancer, Pallotta made an appointment with Dr. Jennifer Sabol, breast surgeon with Main Line Surgeons at Lankenau Medical Center, who confirmed the diagnosis. Immediately, the two began discussing Pallotta’s treatment options: first, a mastectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation.
It was overwhelming, and Pallotta began to think twice about pursuing treatment. She confided her second thoughts in Scallon.
“I told Cathy that I didn’t think I wanted any treatment, that I just wanted to let things be,” says Pallotta. “Within hours, she had called Dr. Sabol, who then called me and reassured me that we could get through it together. From that point on, my trust in the team was 100 percent.”
With her confidence restored, Pallotta began her treatment with a series of tests, including bone scans, echocardiograms, and blood work. Scallon accompanied her to each appointment, easing her anxiety and reassuring her at every step.
After surgery and regular appointments with Dr. Sabol, Pallotta also scheduled her first appointments with Dr. Zonera Ali for chemotherapy and Dr. Marisa Weiss for radiation. She met with both initially to discuss her treatment plan.
Having always been an independent person, Pallotta made the decision to go to her first appointments alone rather than have a friend or family member accompany her. Her first stop was with Dr. Weiss, who was concerned that she had decided to come alone and called Scallon, who joined Pallotta for her next appointment with oncologist Dr. Zonera Ali.
“Dr. Weiss wasn’t just about the radiation treatment. She wanted to make I had support and felt good about myself,” says Pallotta. “She made a comment to me that she, Dr. Sabol, and Dr. Ali were all proud to be a part of my team…and that’s how I felt: like I was part of a team.”
As she began her chemotherapy treatment, Pallotta found additional support from Dr. Ali.
“At one point during chemotherapy, I got very sick. I called Dr. Ali and told her I couldn’t do it anymore,” says Pallotta. “But she and the nurses who cared for me during chemotherapy sat me down, talked to me, and pulled me through it even when I was sure I couldn’t do it anymore.”
Now, just over a year after her diagnosis, Pallotta continues to see Drs. Sabol, Weiss, and Ali. Looking back on her diagnosis and treatment, she credits the staff of the Lankenau Comprehensive Breast Center for making the journey easier to travel.
“Dr. Sabol…I can’t say enough good things about her. She was so compassionate, and from the moment I met her, I just loved her. It was clear that she cared about more than just my surgery and the follow-up,” she says. “It was more than that. I knew she—and the rest of the staff, from the maintenance and parking staff to the nurses—genuinely cared.”