My name is Paige Martin and I am 28 years old. My story started when I awoke in the middle of the night around 3:00am on Thanksgiving in 2020. I had horrible pain. I tried to call my dad and some other close by friends to see if they could take me to the ER because I was vomiting and in so much pain in my naval area. That pain then moved to my lower right quadrant, so I hadn’t eaten much in two days.
I ended up just driving myself to the ER and I told the doctor that I knew it had to be my appendix. The ER doctor actually doubted me but decided to draw labs and do a CT scan with contrast. After multiple doses of morphine with fentanyl, the ER doctor FINALLY came in, embarrassed, and said to me that I was right and that I needed to be transferred to the main hospital for emergency surgery. At this point they asked if I had anyone to take me and I said no…
I was a Registered Nurse at a prison, and I had to work the next four overnights, so I had to call my boss and call in sick (which I felt badly about doing). The ambulance ended up taking me to the hospital. This was also my very first surgery and I had never been under anesthesia before. Thankfully, everything went well, and I was sent home later that day.
Fast forward two weeks, I had restrictions post-surgery and couldn’t go to work for ten days, but I went to 1-2 days back just fine. I then had my follow up appointment with my surgeon on a Friday afternoon.
During this visit, the appendectomy surgeon sat me down, and got a notepad out. He said that the news that was going to be told to me may seem shocking, and that I wouldn’t remember, so he was going to write everything down for me (I still have this note). He told me that day that I had a neuroendocrine carcinoma T4 tumor in my appendix (that could have ruptured). If I remember right, it was about 4-5cm long. This was all very shocking. I thought I was just going to be told I was off restrictions. He told me they would do an MRI and draw blood to figure out if any other organs had been affected. He said I would need an omentectomy and a right hemicolectomy.
Fast forward to that Monday, when I was feeling really sick, I actually couldn’t breathe. I was coughing and had a lot of stomach pain. I thought something went wrong with my latest surgery. I went to the ER because I didn’t want to take any chances. I was diagnosed with COVID-19, given a O2, and then sent home… I was then told that I couldn’t come do any scans at the hospital for about a month and that I couldn’t go to work for the next two weeks. So, not only did I live alone, but I was put on strict isolation for fourteen days. I could barely eat or sleep. It was probably the worst two weeks of my life, considering I was scared, alone, and very worried about my health and recent diagnosis.
Fast forward to January 4th, 2021. I finally was able to have blood drawn and have an MRI. I was told at this time that my liver looked larger than usual, but that the cancer appeared to have NOT spread to my distant organs! PRAISE JESUS!!!
Surgery for my right hemicolectomy, omentectomy, and hiatal hernia repair was on February 2nd, 2021. The only complication that I had was a bowel obstruction during my hospital stay where I had an NG tube put in.
On March 22nd, 2021, I was told that my scans were clear, and my chromogen A level was only a .45!
Through this whole journey, I had my boyfriend, Austin, by my side. He lives in Alabama but flew to stay with me bedside the whole seven-night hospital stay when I was recovering. Austin then proposed to me in the hospital (without a ring just yet) on February 8th, 2021. He moved to South Dakota in April and we got married on July 10th, 2021 in our apartment with about twenty of our closest friends and family members. After going through a divorce, a boyfriend that abused me, self-esteem and depression issues and now this scary cancer journey, I am thankful to say that I have finally found happiness. I have decided to pursue my master’s degree with the hope to in the future receive my Doctor of Nursing and one day teach nursing students. I am very grateful for my job at the state penitentiary that I have been with for almost four years.
While my appendix cancer journey was short, I thank God every day that I was able to recognize my symptoms and advocate for myself in the ER. Had my appendix ruptured, who knows where the cancer could have spread to. I know that this cancer is very rare, so I hope to be able to donate my body to research when I pass away (hopefully many, many years from now). I’m grateful every day that I am alive. I hope and pray for those that are still battling this cancer, those that have sadly passed, and those that are survivors. You are in my thoughts and prayers always.