Robert Burger, MD, Director, Women’s Cancer Center at Fox Chase Cancer Center
Beth and Mark at the White House for President Obama's Town Hall Meeting in June 2009
Early in the morning of August 7, we received an e-mail from Mark Corkery, who was desperately looking for his wife’s wedding ring. He thought it might have been left at the hospital in the evening, after she passed away. The gold band was plain, with an inscription, “To Beth. Love Always, Mark.”
Whenever Beth was admitted to the hospital, he would wear the ring on his pinky. After she died, Mark didn’t remember what happened — other than it was missing the next morning.
Beth Corkery had been listed among our “success stories” living with stage IV breast cancer for several years, thanks to the expertise of her oncologist, Dr. Lori Goldstein, and access to a clinical trial that had closed. Dr. Roger Cohen helped her gain permission to remain on the study medication, which was working for her.
When Beth was 35 and her children were age four and six, she picked up an issue of Glamour magazine and read an article about breast self-examination. Since she had no family history of breast cancer, she had not yet had a mammogram and wasn’t even sure how to conduct a self-exam. But she did examine herself for the first time and detected a lump. Although her husband did not feel the lump himself, he encouraged her to seek medical care. He went so far as to leave notes taped to the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, back door and on her steering wheel that read “Make a Dr. appointment.”
Beth (left) was featured in our Love Versus Cancer video
Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatment at her local hospital. Several years later, the cancer recurred. This time her mother insisted she come to Fox Chase for treatment. To appease her mom, Beth made an appointment with Lori Goldstein. Although her cancer eventually would spread throughout her body, Dr. Goldstein was able to extend her years on earth and with a good quality of life.
We had the pleasure of working with Beth when she originally shared her story on the Fox Chase web site. Because she was so well-spoken and had a positive outlook, we invited Beth to participate in several media relations activities, including a 6-ABC Breast Cancer special in October 2009, an appearance in the Love Versus Cancer video, and inclusion in an editor’s letter in Glamour magazine in October 2009. Last June, when President Obama held a Town Hall meeting on the state of health care, ABC News reached out to us looking for a terminal patient who might like to attend. Beth and her husband, Mark, were delighted to participate. In the days that followed, her local newspapers wrote articles about her momentous trip.
Beth pictured with her son, Dylan, her daughter, Megan, and her husband, Mark.
On Friday, August 6, at the age of 43, Beth, whose son was now 14 and daughter 12, passed away at Fox Chase. Her husband sent the note below, which I am sharing here because I firmly believe that “success” in managing cancer is measured in many different ways. Although Beth eventually lost her fight with cancer, she enjoyed several good years with her family that she might not have otherwise had, thanks to the support of a loving family and the care she received here. Mark is grateful to the physicians and staff of Fox Chase, and has already talked about planning an event to raise money for breast cancer research in Beth’s memory. Here are his words:
My wife Elizabeth’s cancer returned in 2005. We switched to Fox Chase Cancer Center, and soon realized we should have been there from the start. Dr. Lori Goldstein has seen Beth through many highs and lows, even going so far as to call in from Italy while on vacation to monitor Beth’s status. While Beth struggled with her disease, Lori gave her the precious gift of QUALITY time with my children & me. Fear is part of facing cancer, for the caregiver as well as patient. If cancer were a human enemy, Lori would be a warrior cancer feared. We had confidence every time we entered her office.
Eventually, Beth’s body wearied of the fight, and her lungs began to fail. Enter Dr. Earl King (Director of Fox Chase’s Respiratory Care unit). Beth saw Dr. King after her cancer had made a major offensive, yet he gave her the breath to say a final “I love you” to our children before she passed away. His compassion for our family has made him PART of our family in my book.
Beth’s passing wasn’t a failure, but a triumph. My wife, and both of these doctors, has shown my children the true meaning of heroic.
We miss Beth and are grateful to have known her and enjoyed her generous spirit while she was at Fox Chase. We are also happy and relieved to report that Mark recovered Beth’s wedding ring.