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After Ovarian Cancer, Stamford Woman Says She is “One of the Lucky Ones”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - Danbury, CT

Michael Cohenuram, MD and Shohreh Shahabi, MD

Shohreh Shahabi, M.D.
Chairman, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
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Michael Cohenuram, M.D.
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"On January 4, 2012, I went into Danbury Hospital thinking I was getting a simple hysterectomy," recalls 51-year-old Laura Barzetti. "My gynecologist had found what he thought were fibroid tumors in my abdomen during an office visit, and said they should be removed. He told me it was pretty routine and I'd be back to work in no time."

However, Barzetti later learned that there was much more to her gynecologist's prediction. "When my doctor opened me up that morning, he was shocked. He found two 'fibroids' all right, one five and the other three inches across, but they were malignant. I had Stage III ovarian cancer. The crampy, bloated feeling I had noticed in late fall was the only symptom, but it had not been severe enough to raise a red flag. And certainly, not reason to think I might be statistically months away from dying."

"Fortunately, my gynecologist wasted no time in calling in Shohreh Shahabi, MD, Danbury's expert in advanced gynecological cancers. This wonderful woman literally saved my life," says Barzetti without exaggeration. Over four and a half long hours of surgery, Dr. Shahabi skillfully removed the two tumors and surgically debulked as much of the cancerous cells that had spread to the abdominal walls as she could.

"When I awoke in recovery," Barzetti continues, "everyone was very supportive but told me things in the OR hadn't gone exactly as planned. Soon, Dr. Shahabi came by to introduce herself. She told me that the road ahead for anyone with Stage III cancer was going to be difficult, but that if I would put up a good fight, she would do everything possible to make my story end well. Something about her directness and honesty reassured me. I also had a visit from Dr. Mike (Michael Cohenuram, MD), who would be my hematologist/oncologist. I couldn't wish for a more caring, sympathetic doctor."

Barzetti remained at Danbury Hospital for a full week and then went home to wait for chemotherapy to begin. "I live in Stamford, so my family kept trying to persuade me to transfer the rest of my treatment to Sloan Kettering in New York. But I knew in my heart where I felt comfortable. Dr. Shahabi, Dr. Mike and the rest of my 'team of angels' were going to be right for me. Over the next several months, I sometimes felt like their sole focus was to make me better - and they did. By July 4, my hair and my strength were coming back, and by autumn, I was able to return to work," she explains.

But having had advanced ovarian cancer, Barzetti had more to do to prevent a recurrence. As a patient of Drs. Shahabi and Cohenuram, she was only too glad to participate in a National Cancer Institute clinical trial testing an advanced chemotherapeutic protocol for combating new tumor growth. "These days, I visit the Danbury Hospital Praxair Cancer Center every few weeks to get a new infusion. The staff there is outstanding in the personalized treatment they give. They really make you feel they care about how you are doing and they are never too busy to talk if that's what you need. They keep me positive which has to be important to my recovery. I know it is a cliche, but I am one of the lucky ones," Barzetti says.

For more information on women's cancer services or to Find a Doctor, visit or call 1-800-516-4743.

About Western Connecticut Health Network

Western Connecticut Health Network is the region's premier, patient-centered health care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. The organization is anchored by two nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital, as well as their affiliated organizations. In addition to the two hospitals, the continuum of care offered includes the following affiliates:

  • Western Connecticut Medical Group, an integrated physician practice with primary and specialty care expertise
  • Western Connecticut Home Care, an agency for home care and community health services
  • The Western Connecticut Health Network Foundations
  • emergency medical and Level II trauma services
  • an occupational wellness and medicine program, providing services for business and industry
  • a nationally renowned Biomedical Research Institute

Western Connecticut Health Network has centers of excellence in women's health, cardiovascular and cancer services; minimally invasive joint and spine surgery; digestive disorders, weight-loss (bariatric) surgery, and radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for neonatology with a Level IIIb neonatal intensive care unit and accredited sleep disorder centers. Both hospitals also maintain active clinical research programs, offering clinical trials for patients with cancer and other health concerns. Danbury Hospital was named a Top 100 Hospital by US News and World reports in 2012; a and a Top 100 for Value by Cleverly and Associates. New Milford Hospital is well known as a Planetree hospital and for its Plow to Plate, farm to table food program.

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