David Mason

Written by David Mason - December, 2011

My name is David and I am a Pseudomyxoma Peritonei survivor living in the UK. I was first diagnosed with PMP after my appendix burst in May 2009.

I was out shopping with my wife and two daughters when I was taken ill and was rushed to the local hospital. Initially the burst appendix was not diagnosed and I was sent home! Two days later and still in a lot of pain and very unwell I was sent back to the hospital where they correctly diagnosed me with peritonitis.

Up to this point I had been very well. I don't smoke, drink very little alcohol and have kept myself very fit. I accepted that people have these problems from time to time and that I faced surgery to remove my appendix. Little did I know what was to come....

The surgery went well and I recovered pretty quickly. The surgeon did say at the time that it was one of the worst that he had seen but had persevered and managed to complete the surgery laparoscopically but there was no indication at that time that he felt that there was more going on and he did not imply that was the case.

However I received an appointment later in June to go and see my colorectal consultant at the local hospital. I had recovered well and was back at work and considering starting to get back into my running. I assumed that the appointment was for a general check up after the surgery to remove the appendix and I would be given a pat on the back and told to get on with things.

The appointment was far from what I expected. I was on my own, in a very hot waiting room in the hospital when I was finally called through. The mood was sombre the moment I walked in. It was then that I was told that the pathology of the appendix had shown that I had a very rare cancer called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei and it affected one in every million people per annum. At this point the fog came down. I didn’t hear much of the rest of the conversation......I had cancer.

I came away from the meeting shocked, upset and not fully understanding my situation. I had to go home and break the news to my family. How would I tell them?

My wife Tracey and I went back for a second meeting. It was our lowest point when the truth really hit home just what a predicament I was in. Because the condition was so rare, I was referred to one of only two specialist hospitals in the UK who could offer treatment - Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, some two hours away. Tracey was devastated and in tears the whole way home. It was a very dark chapter in the story.

Things finally turned a corner when we met the team at Basingstoke. We had seemed to wait for ages for the appointment to come through and like many newly diagnosed PMP patients did not understand that the condition is very slow growing and that the team did have time to come up with a care plan for me.

They talked through my CT images and explained more about this strange condition. Finally there seemed to be some hope that they could help although it would mean a huge operation known in the PMP world as the MOAS (Mother of all Surgeries) due to its huge nature.

In the weeks that followed more CT scans and tests were done and finally it was confirmed that I would have the MOAS on the 2nd of February, 2010.

We enjoyed Christmas the best we could - all of us with the knowledge of what was looming ahead of us in the New Year. A big black cloud hanging over us and blocking our vision of the future....

The big day finally came. I spent 12 hours in surgery. I lost my spleen, gall bladder, omentum, umbilicous, had a right hemicolectomy, liver capsulectomy, anterior resection to name but a few! I also had a temporary stoma to allow the bowl time to recover from such a huge operation. I was also given heated chemotherapy during the operation to help kill the microscopic disease which was continued for four days after the surgery.

Luckily for me the surgical team had managed to remove all of the mucous from my abdomen.

From there I spent a week in the Intensive care unit with various drips, drains, pipes and tubes attached. All of which were slowly removed as I recovered. From here I was moved to the Hospital specialist high dependency ward (C2) where the team did a great job of looking after me.

I finally went home 13 days after the surgery, battered, bruised, sore, two stone lighter and minus a belly button (amongst other things!)

Three months later I was back at Basingstoke Hospital to have a stoma reversal operation. The surgery went well and was a lot easier than the MOAS. I was soon back on the ward and feeling well. However the following few days things did not go so well and I had quite a rough ride before things finally got working and I was allowed to go home.

In the weeks that followed I gradually got stronger and eventually returned to work. Three months after my last surgery and six months after the MOAS I climbed Mt. Snowdon (Wales highest peak) in order to raise money for Basingstoke Hospital’s Psuedomyxoma and colorectal cancer trust fund. The team managed to raise over £5,000 in total.

I have continued to try and raise the profile of this rare cancer in a number of ways. Throughout my journey I have been writing an honest and detailed blog where I discuss my various thoughts, feelings and experiences in the hope that it may help other sufferers and carers of PMP patients.

I am active on The Christies PMP forum, Cancer research website and work with MacMillan to try and raise awareness.

You can find my story at:
http://cavecrawlerstory.blogspot.com/