Couple’s Journey to Health Guided by Abington Hospital
For the past 64 years, Joanne and Herb Howald have been on a wonderful journey together. The couple has shared life, love, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren together. They’ve traveled and gardened together. And when the couple hit a few unexpected health bumps in the road, they sought care together at the place they trusted most—Abington – Jefferson Health.
This month, the Howalds are celebrating National Cancer Survivor Month together—in honor of Joanne’s victory over breast and lung cancer.
Both Joanne, 82, and Herb, 85, have faced serious health challenges over the last two decades, but never lost faith in each other or the doctors at Abington.
“Because of the wonderful medical care, because of the compassion and support, Herb and I are living a wonderful life,” Joanne says.
Joanne, who grew up in Jenkintown, remembers when Abington Hospital consisted of one building. She is thrilled that she’s lived long enough to see it transform into a major medical center. “Our community is truly blessed that it is right here in our own neighborhood.”
She felt particularly blessed to have such outstanding clinical care close to home when, in 2013, a routine mammogram revealed she had breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy, and remains breast cancer free. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018, she once again turned to the trusted physicians at Abington. The cancer is currently under control.
Because of the wonderful medical care, because of the compassion and support, Herb and I are living a wonderful life.
“I’m thriving! I almost feel like I don’t even have cancer,” she says, adding that the new Asplundh Cancer Pavilion helped her on her way to healing.
“When I first walked into the Asplundh Cancer Center, it almost took my breath away,” she says. Being a cancer patient can be a struggle, she admits. But the Asplundh Cancer Pavilion offers tranquility. “Patients here are able to come into a peaceful, calming environment.”
Joanne isn’t just a patient at Abington Hospital, she is part of the overall Jefferson family. She worked there as a secretary from 1981 until her retirement in 2001. Those years, she remembers, were filled with “so many wonderful, dedicated, and caring people.”
Because of her connection with the hospital and its physicians, she and Herb have long received their primary care there with Joseph A. Rigotti, DO, chief of the internal medicine department. Throughout the years, the couple would have their children at Abington, and see some of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren born there.
Herb’s medical journey at Abington Hospital began during a routine check-up in 2000. The visit became anything but routine when Rigotti found Herb had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. A “triple A aneurysm” is a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and stomach. The life-threatening condition was corrected through surgery, and he made a complete recovery.
“It was truly a frightening experience for both of us,” Joanne says. “We knew that this was really big, but we’ve been so fortunate that we had such good care and that Herb was able to come through this.”
The following years would bring additional health complications, and additional operations and treatments for Herb. Surgery for carotid arteries; shoulder replacement; mesenteric stents; iliac repairs; a triple bypass; hernia surgery; and a loop recorder implant for the heart. Herb rattles off the list of ailments that have been tended to at Abington.
Throughout both of their long health journeys “Dr. Rigotti has been a guide and a comfort,” Herb says. He also credits the surgeons, nurses, nurse navigator, and staff for bringing them through some very difficult and frightening times.
Today, Herb and Joanne remain active, albeit at a bit of a slower pace. They enjoy traveling, gardening, exercising, and being with their family.