Ramona L Patient Story: Ramona's Story

“I feel so fortunate to have the most unbelievable team of amazing physicians who take such good care of me. They help keep me positive.”

As a single-mom of two teenage boys and manager of David Burke Fromagerie, a landmark restaurant in Rumson, Ramona Lerner, of Ocean, was accustomed to a fast-paced life.

But when she experienced rectal bleeding and spotting, she knew it was a red flag and time to take a step back and put her health first. Ramona’s primary physician, Richard Meltzer, M.D., referred her to gastroenterologist Laleh Meriki, M.D. for a colonoscopy. Biopsy results following the procedure revealed that at age 53, Ramona had colon cancer.

Ramona turned to Roy Dressner, D.O., a practicing board-certified colorectal surgeon at Monmouth Medical Center to provide colon surgery. Dr. Dressner took a minimally invasive approach - laparoscopic resection - to remove the portion of the colon that contained a large, malignant tumor as well as associated lymph nodes. The successful surgery involved just three quarter-inch incisions and one two-inch incision. “This minimally invasive surgery offers many advantages over open surgery as the incisions are much smaller, recovery and healing time are quicker and there’s less scarring,” said Dr. Dressner

When Ramona awoke from surgery, she was informed that the colon cancer has metastasized to her liver. In other words, she had stage 4 colon cancer. “I knew there was a chance the cancer had spread to my liver, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Ramona. She was discharged just four days after surgery - on her 54th birthday.

“Dr. Dressner is absolutely skillful and approachable,” said Ramona. “From the very first meeting, I immediately felt confident in his care.”

As early detection is the key to fighting colon cancer, Dr. Dressner stresses the importance of getting a colonoscopy at age 50. “Even without symptoms and without a family history of colon cancer, the goal is to find polyps or tumors when they are in a benign stage where they can be easily removed. Screening should be started earlier for individuals with first-degree relatives diagnosed with colon cancer.”

Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, Dr. Dressner worked with oncologist Seth Cohen, M.D., to treat Ramona’s cancer. She started her first round of chemotherapy the day after Thanksgiving and finished her 12th and final round in late April.

Ramona will continue to receive thorough follow-up care by Drs. Dressner and Cohen. She’ll get rescanned to compare results to her baseline. The next step of treatment will be contingent upon the results. Ramona has also taken matters into her own hands by making healthy food choices and taking supplements. “I kept my hair during chemo and actually gained 10 pounds!” she says.

“I feel so fortunate to have the most unbelievable team of amazing physicians who take such good care of me,” said Ramona. “They help keep me positive.”

When asked about her overall experience, Ramona says, “cancer becomes part of your life – but it doesn’t define me. It’s not who I am.”