Pennsylvania Woman Undergoes Extensive Surgery with Heated Chemotherapy to Treat Rare Abdominal Cancer
Cancer survivor Linda S. with husband, Bob
Linda S. had suffered from colitis for years and had a history of gallstones,
so the 57-year old was not too alarmed when she felt pain in her side while
at work one afternoon. When the pain in her side got more severe, however, she
asked her husband to take her to the ER in Altoona, 20 miles from their home
in central Pennsylvania, where doctors first thought she might be having an
attack of appendicitis.
A CT scan showed something much more serious. “I was told that I had
ovarian cancer, and I was in total shock,” she recalls. In a blur of activity
over the next few days, she was transferred to a hospital in Danville for surgery,
where her surgeon found not instead of an ovarian tumor, she had a rare type
of cancer known as primary peritoneal malignancy. It was only the second time
doctors there had seen the condition, and they recommended she see a specialist
who treats complicated cases of gastrointestinal cancer.
“The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center
(UMGCC) was one of the places on the list, so we called and spoke to Beverly
Warren (administrative assistant in the Division of Surgical Oncology). “Beverly
put us right at ease and arranged for us to come down and see Dr.
Nader Hanna (professor of Surgery and head of Surgical
Oncology), a specialist in gastrointestinal cancer.”
That first meeting with Dr. Hanna gave Linda a tremendous sense of reassurance.
“I brought my two sisters along with me to take notes,” says Linda,
who was still somewhat overwhelmed with her diagnosis. “He talked to me
for an hour, explaining that the type of cancer I had (“peritoneal surface
malignancy”) was quite rare, and that it had spread extensively throughout
my abdomen, including a lot of my organs. He told me about all the risks involved
in the operation. As frightening as it all was, I just got a good feeling from
him and knew that this was the doctor I wanted to take care of me.”
The surgery involved first taking out all the old scar tissue, then removing
the abdominal lining, spleen, gallbladder, and all the visible tumor tissue
in a process known as “tumor cytoreduction.” While still in surgery,
Dr. Hanna then introduced a heated solution of anti-cancer drugs into Linda’s
abdominal cavity for two hours to kill any remaining hidden cancer cells. This
technique is called Hyperthermic Interperitoneal Chemotherapy or HIPEC.
“My surgery lasted over 14 hours, and I have an incision that goes from
my breast bone all the way down to my pelvis,” she notes. A very active
person who typically walked two miles a day before her surgery, Linda was released
from the hospital in just nine days, far sooner than the estimated three weeks
she was told to anticipate.
“Dr. Hanna calls me ‘a miracle lady.’ But, I think there
were a whole lot of miracles involved here,” says Linda. “God put
us in the right place at the right time with the right doctor.” She is
immensely thankful for the care she received at UMGCC, from Dr. Hanna’s
compassionate care and expertise (“I love Dr. Hanna; he is a heck of a
nice guy”), to Beverly in Dr. Hanna’s office –(“my new
friend”), to Micky Hryzan, R.N., the nurse on 10 West who Linda credits
with “going out of her way to take care of me.”
Linda is gradually regaining her strength and gaining back some of the weight
she lost. She says that her cancer experience has been “reality check”
for her and her husband of 22 years. “I’m so blessed to have a loyal
husband, a close, supportive family, good friends and a strong faith.”
Asked how her life changed since her cancer surgery, she becomes thoughtful:
“We don’t work as much on weekends anymore. We appreciate things
more. We’ve learned to slow down and just really enjoy our life together.”
For more information on the Gastrointestinal
Oncology Program, HIPEC, and other advanced cancer treatments available at
UMGCC, please call 1-800-888-8823.