By: Tamron Little
I like to think back 14 years ago that if someone would have told me that I was going to have cancer, I would have probably been so baffled with disbelief. But it happened, and the someone who told me was a doctor!
When I tell people that I was misdiagnosed with a fibroid tumor during my first pregnancy at the age of 21 they are surprised. In 2007 just five months after giving birth to my son, I was told I had peritoneal mesothelioma. I’m sure you’re wondering what is that? To be honest I didn’t know what it was either and it took me a lot of digging and research to find out what it was.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a specific type of malignant cancer that is caused by ingesting of asbestos fibers. Asbestos is known as a conglomerate of six naturally occurring minerals that are composed of soft and flexible fibers. These fibers are heat resistant which are still used in hundreds of U.S. consumer made products. Exposure to these asbestos fibers have been known to cause diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. The malignant cancer then develops in the peritoneum (lining of your stomach). It can spread to other organs as well which means progression into the later stages. Some symptoms can include weight loss, abdominal pain, constipation, and even nausea.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. I guess you can say I was on both sides of the coin being a young woman and having this disease. Studies shows that the typical mesothelioma patient is a man older than 65 that either had blue-collar or military background. Most patients that are diagnosed with mesothelioma are 65 years of age or older. With that said young people with mesothelioma account for less than 5% of cases. Talk about rare!
It’s Surgery For Me
With the options for treatment I received I chose to undergo surgery. This was a major and breakthrough surgery that was only performed by a handful of doctors during the time. I was scared but I just knew I was in the right hands and that this surgery was going to save my life and give me a better chance to thrive. The surgery I had was called HIPEC, which stands for heated or hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
During the process after the surgeon removes any tumors, a heated chemotherapy solution is delivered into the abdomen to kill any remaining cancer cells. It was about a 9 hour surgery, but to make a long story short I got through it, pushed through the recovery process, and I am glad I did it.
Thriving and Living
Now, 14 years later, I am happy to report that I am cancer free. It’s very rare for a peritoneal mesothelioma patient to live this long. Therefore, getting to cancer remission for me was a major goal that I was well intending to reach. And I did!
Even now I continue to monitor my health. I see my primary care doctor on a regular basis and have developed a wonderful relationship with her. I also have regular visits with the hematologist/oncologist to get routine blood work as well as ultrasounds and CT scans. This is to keep watch of my blood levels and to make sure the cancer is still gone.
Also, as a mesothelioma survivor I make my mental health a top priority. I’m not embarrassed to mention that I see a therapist and that I converse with my doctor on a regular basis about my feelings and mental health.
I’m thankful for my oldest son because if I didn’t have him I’m not sure when I would have found out that I had cancer. I’m also grateful for my three other children as I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have anymore due to the HIPEC surgery.
I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that I went through and battled peritoneal mesothelioma for a reason. So now I can share my story and give current patients hope, inspire them, while spreading the awareness of this rare disease called peritoneal mesothelioma.
I get unspeakable joy knowing that I can inspire others with my story. It makes my heart smile when I speak to current patients and share the story of hope and encourage them to keep pushing!