Danyell Weisinger’s care team describes her as a walking miracle.
Initially, she was experiencing bad stomach pains that wouldn’t go away. She visited her family doctor and X-rays indicated that she had a fatty liver as well as a bad gall bladder.
“That’s fixable,” Danyell says she thought.
Her next visit was with a surgeon. As he removed Danyell’s gall bladder, he discovered something troubling in the process.
“He said, ‘your body is covered in black spots,’” Danyell recalls.
One week later, the sample her surgeon had sent off for identification came back as peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive and deadly cancer that affects the tissue in the abdomen. While there are treatments available, there’s no cure and the prognosis for patients is poor.
Danyell’s cancer was at stage three and her oncologist, Prasad R. Kudalkar, MD, with Oncology Hematology Care (OHC), wasn’t sure the tools at his disposal would be of any benefit.
“He said would start me on chemo but that I had it so bad, he didn’t know if it would help,” Danyell states.
Dr. Kudalkar placed a call to his friend, Shyam Allamaneni, MD (pictured above, right), a Mercy Health physician and surgical oncologist, to see if there was anything he could do.
“Dr. Kudalkar told him I was a young lady with a will to live. Dr. Allamaneni then invited me to come to The Jewish Hospital to talk with him. My husband and I met with him and after 20 minutes, he said, ‘I would like to go ahead and try this surgery.’”
By the time Danyell met with Dr. Allamaneni, her stomach was distended over eight inches, hard to the touch and filling with fluid. He operated on her for 18 hours over two days – March 11 to 12, 2020.
“He opened my stomach, and everything was covered in cancerous tumors and spots. The biggest tumor weighed 25 pounds. He meticulously removed as many visible spots as possible and scraped out everything else,” Danyell shares.
Dr. Allamaneni removed Danyell’s fat inside her abdomen, spleen, appendix, colon and the inside lining of her abdomen.
“The organs that he took, he knew that it might be tough but that I could live without them,” Danyell shares. “What he left was part of my small bowel. It had some cancer on it, but he left it because I’m young and he didn’t want me to have to live the rest of my life on a feeding tube.”
After completing surgery, Dr. Allamaneni bathed Danyell’s belly contents with a hot chemo wash in a procedure called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Doctors use it to treat certain cancers in the abdomen. The HIPEC would hopefully address the cancer left on Danyell’s small bowel.
Danyell spent a month recovering in the hospital and another month at a rehabilitation center relearning how to walk, talk and use a temporary feeding tube. Adding to the challenges she faced was the start of COVID-19 pandemic, which limited in-person visiting at the hospital and rehab center.
Once she finished rehab, Danyell started chemotherapy, completing five rounds of treatment. A scan three months after surgery showed no cancer in her body. Danyell continues to take a chemo pill four times a day and she has scans every three months.
“My last one was Dec. 15, 2021 and now I’m in full remission,” Danyell says, who celebrated her 45th birthday that same month. “I was given a prognosis of six months at the most and heard from four doctors that they would have given me a week or less. In February 2022, I’ll be going on two years and there’s no sign of the cancer at all.”
She adds, “Dr. Allamaneni said I’m a rare 1 to 6 percent and I feel like I’m going to be around a long time. If anyone is God’s assistant, it would be Dr. Allamaneni. I owe him my life and a world of thanks. If I had not gone to him, I would not have made it. I will always love him.”
Danyell faces one more surgery – to reverse her ileostomy, should Dr. Allamaneni determine she’s a good candidate for reversal.
“I’m excited about that,” she says. “It’s one of the biggest struggles I’ve dealt with. But otherwise, I feel great! I use no assistive device. I’ve lost 110 pounds. I get a little out of breath, but I feel better than I ever have. I’ve been given complete second chance at life. With God and prayer, I’m still here and I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
Danyell hopes her story will help others facing tough diagnoses.
“I know so many people that hear the word ‘cancer’ and want to give up. I want to say ‘don’t give up.’ With God, everything is possible. With the right people and the right doctors, especially Dr. Allamaneni, there’s hope. There can be more success stories and I want everyone to know that.”
Learn more about the cancer care and oncology services we offer at Mercy Health.