KATRINA URGES YOU TO SUPPORT OUR CHARITY
For most of my life I can only recall being fit and well with no medical issues. However in 2011 at the age of 51 I had a little discomfort in my side. I saw a specialist who ran some tests and it was thought initially to be a kidney stone. Following a scan it was considered most likely to be a haemangioma (a usually harmless cluster of blood vessels). Three months later further examination and scans gave cause for concern and I was urgently referred to Mr Mo Abu Hilal at Southampton.
By this time my tummy had swollen and Mr Hilal strongly suggested I call all my family to the hospital as he realised there was something a lot more serious going on. Seeing my husband, son, daughter, sister & elderly mum around my bed was heartbreaking.
Our imminent holiday to America had to be cancelled and many further tests were carried out to try and determine what was wrong. None of the usual tests for cancer were positive and a needle biopsy became necessary.
The results confirmed a large malignant tumour in my liver. I was told it was a rare tumour of the liver called a Leiomyosarcoma. Like so many other people our world seem to fall apart. By this time my tummy had enlarged considerably, it made me look full term pregnant and the tumour measured around 20cm. This type of cancer is extremely rare and I had a very uncertain future. Mr Hilal however, gave me hope as he was prepared to operate on me.
It was important to get the size of the tumour reduced to give me the best possible outcome. I was referred to an excellent oncologist Dr Simmonds, who has specialist knowledge on soft tissue sarcoma. A chemotherapy regime was arranged which involved a five day stay in hospital followed by three weeks rest at home. This treatment started in July 2012 & continued through to October. I had chemotherapy on my birthday & I remember thinking if this regime works it will be the best birthday present I could ever wish for. Fortunately the tumour shrunk sufficiently for an operation to take place in November.
The outcome of the operation was never certain and we put all our faith in Mr Hilal and his team. It took many staff, many hours and the job was done and the tumour was removed. I cannot explain my elation when I was told the tumour was successfully removed with clear margins. The scar although eighteen inches long is very neat and of course it didn't matter to me as I'm passed my bikini days!
I was lucky to have a very supportive family around me. My husband, children, & sister all did what they could for me. Most touching was the support I received from my 88 year old mother who was amazing, strong and a great help - despite her own needs. Mum saw me recover but she sadly passed away in 2013.
I've unfortunately had two small local re-occurrences in 2014 both removed successfully by Mr Hilal. We now live our lives around the scans that I currently have every three months.
I get a great deal of value from my support network including on-line forums. I do see positives in everything and know that, despite my concerns for myself and my family, there is always someone else I can offer support to.
After my experience, I was determined to help other patients suffering from liver and pancreatic disease. I learned how much help is needed and how much we can do. Since then I have been actively involved with the Liver & Pancreatic R&D charity. This is a charity founded by a group of good hearted patients who have been through the devastating cancer experience and are determined to give something back to others and their families who are in this situation. Pancreatic and liver cancer are the most serious tumours that somebody can develop. Unfortunately there is little awareness and significant improved levels of funding are required to improve their diagnosis and cure. I am glad to have the opportunity to give something back and increase the awareness about the importance or improving treatment and the value of early diagnosis needed to improve the lives of all patients. I encourage everyone please to support our charity.