As a relatively fit and healthy 46-year old, to be confronted with a diagnosis of Pseudomyxoma Peritonei was extremely daunting, to say the least. When my doctor told me what he had discovered during surgery for a suspected ovarian tumour, I could barely pronounce the words let alone understand what it might mean for me.
During that first operation, I had a debulking and I was told that I could be facing further surgery. Eleven months later, I was.
After my second operation, I knew there had to be a better answer, so my family, friends and I began the research. This was when we found the PMP Pals’ Network which led me to my fantastic surgeon Professor David Morris at the St. George Hospital in Sydney.
When Prof Morris looked at my scans and considered whether he could successfully treat me, he confidently said the words, “I think this is possible”, which was certainly music to my ears.
I had one month to prepare for surgery by walking daily, swimming occasionally and generally being as fit as I could be.
In January 2004, I made the one and a half hour flight from my home in Melbourne to Sydney, was admitted to the St. George Hospital and underwent a seventeen-hour peritonectomy with HIPEC.
I spent one month in hospital, five days of that time in ICU. I then left the hospital to spend the rest of the year at my sister’s home to begin my recovery. It took many months before I was physically back to full strength. The regular encouragement of family and friends, as well as the support from Pals far and wide, assisted emotionally when times were a little tough.
The following year I returned to part-time work as a teacher, teaching art/craft and mathematics to young children. Although at times it was tiring, I was extremely grateful for the fact that I was back doing ‘normal’ things.
In 2007, I underwent another operation. My time in hospital was not as long and I recovered much more quickly.
It is now seven years since my last operation and my monitoring schedule has been reduced to annual tests with no evidence of disease.
Since that time, I have been able to return to my Primary School to continue part-time work. I have branched out with working as a tour guide at one of the beautiful Melbourne museums, where I meet many amazing local people and visitors from around the world. I have continued with my love of travelling and have visited several countries both in Asia and Europe. This coming May I will be touring Southern Spain and Portugal.
My continued connection with other patients has become an integral part of my life now. Having experienced the support through the friendships developed, it is now important to me to give back that same support. It has also been an honour and a pleasure to mentor other newly diagnosed patients.