On December 20, 2010, James went to the emergency room after a 10 hour bout with lower abdominal pain. He was 39 years old at the time. After a CT scan, for what we thought was appendicitis, we were told that his scan “lit up like a Christmas Tree”! The ER physician referred us to a larger hospital for admission with anticipation that James had stomach cancer. As we drove the 10 miles to the other hospital, we sat in shock and disbelief. James has been healthy, with no signs of illness, let alone cancer. After four days of deterioration and test after test, they could not provide any answers so they decided to go in for exploratory surgery. Between Christmas an New Year, we were told that he had mucinous adenocarcinoma of the peritoneal cavity, originating at the appendix.
We were blessed to have had a general surgeon who had seen this before and he immediately referred us to Mayo Clinic. James spent the next 7 weeks recovering from his first abdominal surgery and underwent “debulking” on March 8, 2011. This was an unnerving 14 hour surgery, for which all but a small amount of visible tumor was left. Five days later after a scary time in ICU, he received heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy for 4 days and 1 day of radiation. After 18 days, we were back home with our then 8 year old daughter, Carlie, and our then 5 year old son, Luke.
We spent 6 months getting CT scans and blood work, each time optimistic that he had defeated the dragon. However at the 1 year post op visit, growth was noted. We waited and watched with an annual scan. 2 years post op, it had grown more and James was put back on a 6 month cycle of scans. By year 4, the tumors had sped up and then slowed down. Not satisfied with the watch and wait another 6 months, I began to look for other options. Our surgeon at Mayo had retired, so I reached out to another surgeon who immediately referred us to MD Anderson, in Houston.
After testing and a visit with Dr. Fournier, James underwent cytoreduction and HIPEC (Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy). HIPEC is done during surgery and is literally sloshed around for 90 minutes at a beautiful warm temperature of 107 degrees. Dr. Fournier spent 3 hours manuevering through abdominal scar tissue and 2 hours trying to work his way through an abdominal wall tumor that was engulfed with small intestine. After 10 hours, Dr. Fournier was able to report that he was able to remove all tumors, except a small amount on the porta hepatis and the ureter. James spent just about 10 days in the hospital and then we spent 4 weeks in a rented apartment.
At this time, James and I remain hopeful that his surgery and HIPEC will keep his remaining tumors at bay. We are currently waiting for an update from his last scan.
We are very passionate that we bring awareness to this disease so that people can be diagnosed correctly and a cure can be found. ACPMP is the only Cancer Foundation that solely funds research grants to physicians and researchers for Appendix Cancer and PMP. Therefore, your support to this cause means the world to us and our children.