Diane Mitra knew something wasn’t right when she experienced abnormal bleeding. Living in Erie at the time, she went to her local gynecologist who diagnosed her with endometrial cancer. The cancer had metastasized to multiple organs. Diane commented, “It was an advanced stage of cancer and I knew the prognosis wasn’t very promising.”
Diane needed to meet with a gynecologic oncologist. Unfortunately, at that time, there were none in the Erie area. Diane’s physician highly recommended Dr. John Comerci who was located in Pittsburgh.
Diane was scared facing her cancer diagnosis. “You never think you’ll get cancer yourself. As soon as you walk into an oncologist’s office, you know your life is changing,” she said. But she was put at ease when she first met Dr. Comerci. “He was so kind, patient, and open with me. He made me feel safe at a time when I was so terribly, terribly scared. He makes it seem like you are his only patient.”
Dr. Comerci, a gynecologic oncologist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, also remembers how easy it was to work with Diane. “She’s the perfect patient because she just said ‘what do I need to do?’ and she did it. She is a wonderful individual.” Dr. Comerci tries to make all of his patients feel the way Diane did. “I keep the lines of communication open. When I’m with patients, I sit with them instead of standing with my hand on the doorknob. I also try to elicit some non-medical information about how they’re feeling from an emotional standpoint,” he said.
It’s been eight years since Diane was diagnosed. Today, she is cancer-free and doing extremely well. Now that UPMC and Magee-Womens have expanded to the Erie area, gynecologic oncologists are a part of the medical community in Erie and Diane is able to see Dr. Comerci there for her follow-up care. “I live in the New York City area now and I’m close to institutes like Sloan Kettering. But I still fly into Erie to see Dr. Comerci. When you have the best, you stay with it,” Diane said.
After Diane’s positive experience, she wanted to give back to fund research and support work done specifically in the Erie community. Working with Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, Boo Hagerty, Chief Development Officer at Hamot Health Foundation, Gary Maas, a prominent area event planner, Diane and Gary created the Seeds of Hope event. In May 2016, about 55 attendees gathered at the Sunset Inn in Erie for a fashion show and luncheon. Proceeds from the event will support gynecologic oncology research and the expansion of Magee-Womens Research Institute’s research initiatives in the Erie area in coordination with Magee-Womens Hospital UPMC Hamot.
Dr. Comerci attended the event and commented on the importance of research support, “This event was so important and we were touched that Diane wanted to do this. It allowed us to introduce the idea to the Erie community that clinical care is important but in order to make inroads with many of these diseases, you need research.”
Diane is looking forward to continuing the event and supporting research. “The world-renowned research of Magee-Womens Research Institute benefits the women of Erie as well as women the world over. I’m just one of thousands of women who depend on that research every day.”