Adriana’s Story

“After my treatment at Stony Brook, I had a CT scan that showed no sign of cancer.”

Ms. Adriana P is a 70-year-old Long Island woman who had cancer of the appendix that spread throughout her abdomen. She didn’t have any symptoms that she thought were due to the cancer. She was working and life was normal.

She started the year 2016 not feeling well and went to a local urgent care clinic where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. After one week, she still felt that something was wrong, and so she returned to the urgent care clinic. They informed her that the pneumonia was gone, but on physical examination the doctor found a very painful spot on the right side of her abdomen.

Ms. P had this pain for years and her family doctor had attributed this pain to diverticulosis, an inflammatory condition of the colon for which she was taking medicine.

The urgent care doctor believed the pain could be appendicitis and sent her for radiologic studies. A CT scan showed spread of cancer throughout the entire abdominal cavity but did not identify an origin for its spread. She said, “The scans showed cancer cells were swimming in my belly.”

Based upon these results, Ms. P was asked to see a cancer specialist. She saw multiple physicians and even had a colonoscopy which was reported to be normal. With her ever worsening physical condition and the unknown origin of her cancer, a local oncology doctor referred Ms. P to Stony Brook where she met Dr. Joseph Kim. Even though she had a normal colonoscopy, Dr. Kim used his experience to diagnose her with cancer of the appendix.

Dr. Kim recommended surgery to treat her disease. She sought another opinion in New York City, but was disappointed with the treatment options. She chose to undergo surgery at Stony Brook. The operation took 15 hours and Dr. Kim removed all the sites of disease including multiple organs. She was in the hospital for three weeks, including 12 days in the intensive care unit. She didn’t have any complications, but it took a while for her to fully recover from the surgery.

Q: What would you say to someone considering HIPEC?

A: I would say to just go and do it. I looked for a second opinion at Sloan Kettering, but at Sloan, the computer chooses the kind of treatment and operation for you. I didn’t like that, so I continued with Dr. Kim.

After my treatment at Stony Brook, I had a CT scan that showed no sign of cancer. I remain cancer free, and will have regular follow-ups with an oncologist to make sure the cancer cells don’t come back.

Q: What is your current level of activity? Is it back to baseline or close to getting there?

A: Once I recovered from my operation and the “normal” chemo I had after it, I now have the same quality of life I had before all the treatment. The only thing is that I feel a little more tired sometimes, but I am working on getting my energy back up to where it was. I walk every day for six blocks.

I love to garden flowers in my yard. Every year, I plant around 200 flowers. Last year, I was only able to plant seven myself. But this year, I feel stronger and can get back to my garden.

Q: What would you say to Dr. Kim?

A: I would tell him I love him. He saved my life. Sometimes I would go to his office and cry. And he would say strong words to me, but I think that’s part of being a doctor. He said everything so clear to me, even sometimes when I didn’t want to hear it, but I know it’s his responsibility to tell me the truth.

My whole family respects Dr. Kim and both of my children know him well. Last year on Thanksgiving, my son sent him a message to thank him for saving my life.

I want to share my story, in hopes of helping someone else. When my family and I were researching our options and who should perform an operation, I found that Dr. Kim was really the only person I would trust in the area.

Originally posted on Stony Brook Cancer Center, Cytoreductive Surgery and HIPEC Patient Testimonials reposted with permission.

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