A one-in-a-million patient suffering from a rare form of cancer survived a 13-hour operation in which doctors removed at least nine of the organs she could live without.
Pam Pope, 65, is lucky to be alive. She was originally diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, but she knew deep down that wasn't right. Instead of trusting the first diagnosis, she sought out another. When she went to get a second doctor’s opinion, it was discovered that she had pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), a rare form of cancer that originates in the appendix.
The rare disease quickly spreads through the abdominal cavity and latches on to other organs and tissue through mucus leaked from the appendix. Pope quickly learned that her only chance at survival would be an ambitious surgical procedure that required the removal of all cancerous tissue in her body.
The “mother of all surgeries” took place at The Hampshire Clinic in Basingstoke, England. A team of six leading U.K. surgeons removed Pope’s appendix, gallbladder, spleen, womb, large bowel, most of her small bowel, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix in a grueling 13-hour procedure. They also successfully removed most of her stomach lining and navel.
Pope, who was already stage four when they operated, was brought to tears when the doctors gave her the details of her successful surgery.
“I cried because I could not believe I was still alive,” Pope told MailOnline. “I had thought I might lose one or two organs but not all that. I realized then why it was called the 'mother of all surgeries' — everything that I could live without had gone to give me the best chance of survival.
“It was a shock, but the surgeon was very supportive in offering to arrange counseling.”
Despite the removal of so many organs, Pope was told that five percent of the cancer still remained on her small bowel. Because it was too dangerous to remove her entire small bowel, the team of doctors decided to treat the cavity with a chemotherapy bath to wash away any remaining cancer cells.
Pope spent the majority of the following year in the hospital recovering and receiving more chemotherapy treatment.
The loss of so many organs had doctors feeling doubtful that she would survive. Pope remained optimistic and got in contact with cancer professor Justin Stebbing at the London Clinic of Oncology. Stebbing, who specializes in rare cancers like PMP, found a regime that Pope’s body could handle.
Although Pope still struggles with fatigue, her health has improved enough for her to return to work part time as an insurance executive. “I love my job, so that was a major achievement for me,” she told MailOnline.
Pope hopes that chemotherapy will continue to keep the cancer away and is thankful that the daunting surgery was successful. “This has been a fight, but I need to tell my story to make people aware of this very sneaky cancer,” she continued. “I was told this disease would likely kill me, but I’m still here thanks to the ‘mother of all surgeries,’ which has lifted a death sentence.”
Source: MailOnline / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons