Meet the first Four Diamonds patient: Denise Voloshin

February 13, 2018

Just days before this year’s Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) Weekend Feb.16-18 at University Park, cancer survivor Denise Voloshin marvels at the accomplishments of the world’s largest student-run philanthropy and of its sole beneficiary, Four Diamonds. Since the days when Voloshin was a patient at Penn State Children’s Hospital, THON has raised nearly $150 million for the work of Four Diamonds.

Like it has since 1977, Four Diamonds will use the millions raised during this year’s THON to provide financial support to pediatric cancer patients and their families at Penn State Children’s Hospital and to fund innovative cancer research.

“The incredible ways THON and Four Diamonds help young cancer patients and their families is nothing short of amazing,” Voloshin said.

She should know. She was the first “Four Diamond” patient. See photos of Voloshin as a young girl and today on the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Flickr page.

In December 1974, Denise, her sister Brenda, and her parents were experiencing life in Vienna, Austria. Their father, Elizabethtown College history professor J. Kenneth Kreider, had taken a sabbatical to continue his research with Hungarian refugees living in Vienna. All was going well, and Denise and Brenda were fully immersed in their German-speaking school. That is, until, a mysterious stomach pain rewrote the plan.

At first, Denise and her family thought she had strained a muscle doing gymnastics, but when her pain intensified on Sunday, their concern deepened. Could she have appendicitis? In Vienna at that time, offices and stores closed by midday Saturday, not to reopen until Monday morning. Finding a doctor who was willing to make a house call on a weekend was not easy. Frantically searching for help on Monday morning, Denise’s father spotted a doctor entering his office and persuaded him to come. Upon examining Denise’s stomach area, the doctor shouted, “Mensch!” (German for “Oh my”) and called an ambulance to take Denise to the Emperor Franz Joseph Children’s Hospital in Vienna.

“What an awful ride that was,” Denise remembered, “driving over the cobblestone streets.” Every bump worsened her pain. She was immediately taken to the operating room, where the surgeon made an eight-inch incision down the center of her abdomen to discover a “more than double fist-sized” mass encapsulating her right ovary. She did not have an appendicitis, though they removed her appendix as well as the mass. Denise had cancer, a type of germ cell tumor called dysgerminoma.

Read more of Denise’s story – including how her journey brought her to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center – in this Penn State Medicine article.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 13, 2018