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Time - The Greatest Gift of All

November 19, 2020
Time is something that many of us take for granted. For Ethel Zelenske, a patient in the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, time is something she will always be grateful for and never take for granted again.

Ethel’s journey began several years ago with a diagnosis of breast cancer, the same disease that her mother died from when Ethel was just six years old. Ethel received treatment from The Sandra and Malcolm Comprehensive Breast Care Center at GBMC. After Dr. Lauren Schnaper performed surgery, Ethel was referred to medical oncologist, Dr. Madhu Chaudhry. Today, seventeen years later, Dr. Chaudhry remains Ethel’s doctor.

Dr. Chaudhry enrolled Ethel in two clinical trials, one for chemotherapy and another for hormonal therapy years later. After seventeen years, her breast cancer has not returned.

However, it was not the end of Ethel’s battle against this horrible disease, nor was it the end of her relationship with GBMC HealthCare. Four years after her original diagnosis, Ethel went through genetic testing only to discover that she was positive for the BRCA1+ gene mutation that leads to a higher occurrence of breast and ovarian cancer. Despite a prophylactic gynecological surgery, Ethel developed a rare cancer similar to ovarian cancer. It was then that Ethel added another GBMC physician, gynecological oncologist, Dr. Kimberly Levinson to her treatment team. With a survival rate of less than 50%, Ethel has experienced two recurrences with this specific type of cancer.

After her initial diagnosis, she received chemotherapy, surgery, and three years of drug therapy. Dr. Chaudhry continued to study and treat Ethel and suggested she enroll in a new clinical trial, one with targeted oral therapy and a good response rate for women carrying the BRCA gene. This was Ethel’s third clinical trial with GBMC and after the second recurrence of gynecologic cancer, she is in remission and stable, almost ten years after her initial diagnosis.

Ethel still visits her team every three months, while also getting a CT scan, bloodwork, and more. The preliminary results of this trial have been published and Ethel is happy to report that she is in the small group of women who have not only had a reduction in the disease but have gone into remission.

The best part is that Ethel receives the oral medication at no cost since she is still being studied by the trial. Ethel continues to be grateful for the gift of time she has received thanks to the care of the many GBMC oncologists involved in the Clinical Trials Program.

“When I was first diagnosed with the gynecologic cancer, I remember my oncologist telling me she could give me a few good years. But here I am nearly ten years later. Every day is a bonus and I have a great quality of life - even during the pandemic! This trial has given me the best gift of all – TIME! That, I thought, I would never have.”



#GivingTuesday is a national day of giving back to support those in need that occurs each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. By donating to GBMC HealthCare's #GivingTuesday campaign benefiting the Clinical Trials program in The Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, you can give future patients like Ethel the gift of time. Time with their loved ones, time pursuing their dreams, and time to keep fighting!
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