My story all began when my husband and I went through different types of fertility treatments for over 2 years to try and conceive a baby. We ended with IVF and we were very lucky enough to have two healthy embryos. The first one unfortunately didn’t stick, we were devastated, so we took a break on the entire baby thing and lived life. We weren’t really sure if we wanted to go through another heartbreak, but both our mothers encouraged us to, since we already had an embryo, so we just needed to transfer it.
Since we took 10 months off, my doctor wanted to relook at blood work, ultrasounds, and the whole nine yards before transferring the baby. My levels were so high, she wanted me to go see an oncologist to get a laparoscopic surgery to see what could be going on. The oncologist really didn’t seem concerned. We did the surgery and what was supposed to be a short 45-minute procedure, turned out to be an all-day surgery that even went into the evening. She took my appendix out since it was very enlarged and had a tumor attached to it. She also took a ton of pictures. I woke up to my family around me. The oncologist then explained to me what she thought was going on, saying that she was for sure it was ovarian cancer, but of course we needed to send it to pathology. About a week later, I found out it was stage 4 low grade appendix cancer.
After receiving this diagnosis, I did a lot of research and went online to seek out another surgeon. I found three ‘specialists’ in my entire state. Since it’s a rare cancer, there aren’t many options for surgical oncologists. However, I’m lucky I live in Chicago where there are great hospitals and a few specialists. I then interviewed the doctors, took many notes, and went with who I felt most comfortable and confident with. The specialist I chose was Dr. Salti at Edwards Hospital in Naperville. I proceeded to have my CRS with HIPEC on October 17, 2017, it was a 12-hour debulking surgery with 90 minutes of heated chemotherapy. I was in the hospital for 10 days; it was a long recovery and I was with a walker until almost January of 2018. I slowly recovered and became myself again or my ‘new self’ and finally was able to start running again. 11 months later on September of 2018, I ran my first full marathon.
I still have to go for scans every 3 months, and when I did, Dr. Salti saw fluid and that my blood levels were creeping up every time. By March of 2019, we knew the cancer was fully back and that I would have to go through another surgery with chemotherapy. Before my second surgery, I ran my first ultra-marathon in April and went on a much-needed vacation in May. On June 4, 2019 I had my second CRS/HIPEC which was another grueling 12-hour surgery. This surgery I had a lot more setbacks and complications and I was in the hospital this time for two full weeks. Yet, I was walking on my own a lot sooner this time around and had no walker within 8 weeks.
After I got the go ahead from my oncologist, I started training for the Chicago marathon and was able to successfully complete the marathon on October 13, 2019. I still have spots on my liver, but my oncologist will continue to watch and monitor me with scans. Dr. Salti says I might need another surgery with HIPEC, but until then, I will keep living life to the fullest. I hope that my story helps other appendix cancer fighters out there.