My diagnosis came as a complete surprise even though once discovered, my condition had progressed to a remarkably extensive degree. Never felt ill, never felt run down, never felt any pain, and never felt off kilter from the usual everyday self. Being an outdoor and hiking enthusiast I did, however, feel a need to lose some weight, especially from what I consider to be your basic aging paunch. Thinking back, another (missed) clue was that a couple of friends had asked me how I was feeling. My reply was that I was “perfectly fine.” The thought was then dropped. Apparently, my friends had noticed something off in my skin tone. I personally had not recognized this.
How I came to discover my situation was almost by accident. While traveling in Turkey, I developed a small and annoying groin hernia. Per the local doctor I was good to continue my trip “as is.” So the plan was to get the hernia fixed once I got back home. Several weeks later and safely in San Francisco, I had a “routine” hernia operation. All went well. Nothing unusual was noticed. A week or so later, I began to notice a pain down my left thigh. I sought the advice of a back-spine specialist. Physical therapy was recommended, and the PT guy had difficulty determining what was causing the pain. I offered that perhaps it was related to my stomach paunch and the weight I wanted to lose. At that, he felt my abdomen and rather causally suggested that I get it checked out as it seemed “too firm.” I nearly dismissed his subtle remark, but eventually decided to see a gastroenterologist. His first thought was this might be ascites. Subsequently, a following blood test showed a very high CEA count. Apparently, 60 (20 times the norm) is not necessarily a medical given for cancer, so a biopsy was recommended. The biopsy doctor had difficulty extracting a sample from my abdomen, so a minor operation was recommended and performed. A large amount of mucin was found that tested positive for cancer. My surgeon removed some 10+ pints of “gunk.” Given a following CT scan, my oncologist confirmed my diagnosis as Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP) and recommended that I work directly with a specialist. Given that I lived on the West Coast, I was referred to Dr. Lowy at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California San Diego. I was eventually provided an interview with Dr. Lowy to determine if Cytoreductive (CRS) surgery with HIPEC was right for me. Given his analysis and our discussion, I was accepted for an operation. Hooray!
We decided to give my body a few more months to heal because of the recent biopsy operation. So, I simply returned to a normal life with the usual activities including a nice vacation in Mexico. Throughout the discovery process, I frequently searched the internet for information. Mostly, I just found historical studies and/or lots of medical terminology. Applicable suitable information was difficult to find, and equally difficult to understand in order to digest how it might apply to me, unlike the PMP website. Fortunately, and much to my relief, Dr. Lowy’s assistants provided the link to the information friendly PMP Pals website. Twice Hooray!
On February 27, 2014, a twelve+ hour CRS- HIPEC operation was performed and was considered a success. Unfortunately, I exceeded the anticipated two week hospital stay by an additional couple of weeks because my chest/abdomen was slow to drain. After a month though, I was finally ready and by personal choice, rented a beach-side apartment. I spent another 3-4 weeks in San Diego rebuilding my strength before returning home. My recovery consisted of mostly walking, proper eating, and minor in-home physical therapy. The outstanding weather and the beautiful coastal trails further contributed to my returning health. Ultimately, it was my brother and girlfriend with their saintly patience, caring, and support that made my month-long hospital stay and four week recovery so much easier and happier.
Over the next six months, walking the San Francisco waterfront and eventually the seven hills really got me back up to speed. Recently, I’ve been hiking and traveling with my girlfriend – Appalachian Trail in Vermont & Smoky Mountains (7 months after CRS), skiing Colorado (11 months after), visiting Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival (13 months after) and in June (15 months after) a hiking vacation to the South West and Rocky Mountains. Last and definitely not the least to wrap up the year is my upcoming trip to Malaysia-Japan (Kuching to Kyoto). Thrice Hooray!
Going forward, I take a blood test & CT scan every 6 months and have yet to determine my decision on fixing a recent abdominal/ventral hernia. It’s not painful nor worrisome, just something I have the option to fix or not.
Overall, slightly more than a year after my operation, at 69 years young and happy, I am very fit, active, healthy, and definitely wishing everyone else the good fortunate and speedy recovery that I have had.