More Than a Cancer Patient
Meredith Tarditi had just returned from Nicaragua and her young family’s first vacation together and she was under the weather with a headache and fatigue. Her body was still adjusting to life after pregnancy, juggling a job, her infant daughter Sarah, and the rest of a full life – of course she was feeling run down.
Even so, when she stepped into Abington – Jefferson Health’s ER, she was taken seriously. Her recent trip abroad got the attention of the hospital’s infectious diseases team, which suspected it might be some kind of insect-borne illness. A battery of tests – blood work, scans, and a spinal tap – ruled that out. She was admitted for observation while they waited for her results. They came in the form of a visit from Mark Shahin, MD, director of the Hanjani Institute for Gynecologic Oncology and chief of clinical gynecologic oncology.
“That was June 15, 2017,” says Tarditi. “You never forget your diagnosis day.”
What Shahin told her was alarming. She’d developed choriocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer that often begins during pregnancy, and which, in Tarditi’s case, had spread up and down her spine as well as into her lungs and brain. “I almost reacted by saying, ‘I'm sorry, this isn't a good time for me to get cancer. I have a young child at home,’” she recalls, “but the doctors told me that it was very aggressive and we needed to start chemotherapy as soon as possible.”
She was back at Abington the next day, receiving her first dose of chemo at noon. What followed was an intense weekly cycle of treatment that lasted six months and left her feeling tired and, at times, defeated. But her care team at Abington kept her feeling determined, offering advice on what was to come or just listening.
“Everyone just took care of the little things, asking me about what TV shows I was watching or what Sarah was doing or saying,” she says. “It reminded me that I was still a person.” Though her condition was rare, Tarditi’s care team had a network of experts they could draw on for assistance, and they did just that, reaching across the country to the physicians who’d had success in beating the disease.
Then in December 2017 came some good news. She was – and is – in remission as of December 11, 2017. That Christmas to her is special, as it was the first gathering she’d had energy for in months, arriving without any worry of whether she’d catch a cold in her weakened state.
Now, she’s relishing time spent with her daughter and husband and imagining, not worrying about, the road ahead.