A mum who was given a terminal cancer diagnosis is looking forward to having a special sixth Christmas with her daughter this year.
Charlotte Ward, 36 years old, feared she would never see her daughter’s first Christmas, let alone the sixth, until surgeons at Manchester’s specialist cancer centre, The Christie offered her lifesaving surgery.
The staff nurse from Halifax was pregnant with her first child when a scan showed a worrying abdominal mass. Doctors thought it was cancerous and operated on Charlotte 22 weeks into the pregnancy to remove her right ovary and fallopian tube. Despite the odds, miracle baby Isabella was born, but Charlotte’s real battle with cancer was only just beginning.
Six weeks after the birth a CT scan showed the cancer had spread to Charlotte’s liver and stomach and a full hysterectomy was arranged. The surgeon noticed that Charlotte’s appendix looked abnormal so removed it. This was then that the incredibly rare cancer, Pseudomyxoma Peritonei was discovered, a disease affecting just one in 1.7m people.
“The name of it alone was hard enough to pronounce, without trying to get my head around what the disease actually was and what the consequence of it would be for the future, said Charlotte.
At the time of the diagnosis, only two NHS hospitals in the country could offer Charlotte treatment, and The Christie was one of them.
She was referred to Christie colorectal, peritoneal and pelvic oncology surgeon Malcolm Wilson in May 2000 for cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, commonly known as HIPEC.
This pioneering complex surgery involves a team of surgeons working to remove all visible tumours in the abdominal cavity for up to 14 hours, before a heated chemotherapy treatment is pumped directly into the abdomen.
In her battle with cancer, Charlotte has had five operations in the last seven years, including three of the lifesaving HIPEC procedures at The Christie.
“When I was told about this devastating, debilitating and life threatening cancer, I feared I would never make it to Isabella's first birthday or Christmas, buy her first pair of shoes or get to see her first day at school,” says Charlotte. “But, thanks to the experts at The Christie who gave me the life saving surgery I needed to fight this horrible disease, I have been able to do all those things and so much more.”
Charlotte and six-year-old daughter Isabella (Izzy) took part in the annual Santa Run at Old Trafford on 4th December, to thank The Christie for making it possible. Together, they took on the 5k run and raised more than £1,450 for The Christie. Charlotte is now planning a charity ball in September 2017.
“Each surgery to treat the disease costs a minimum of £50,000, so I’m making a small effort to show my appreciation and to start to repay them for saving my life and for all they have done, not just for me, but for all their patients and their families,” says Charlotte.
“The Christie is a truly amazing place and I feel blessed to be in their care, as they continue to strive for fantastic patient outcomes, invest in research and provide unbeatable support for patients and families enduring such challenging journeys. I want to thank the colorectal and peritoneal tumour team, particularly, Mr Malcolm Wilson and clinical nurse specialist, Rebecca Halstead for their ongoing support. They are a truly expert team.
“Doing the Santa Run with Izzy, just before Christmas, was hugely special for me. I want to spend as much time as I can enjoying life with my precious girl.”
Elizabeth Williams, sporting events and stewardship development manager at The Christie charity, said: “Thank you so much to Charlotte and Izzy for taking part in this year’s Santa Run. We were incredibly moved to hear Charlotte’s story and are thrilled that they could complete the run together.”
Charlotte’s consultant at The Christie, Mr Malcom Wilson, explains how the surgery works. “First of all we carry out a procedure to remove as much of the tumour as possible,” he said. “We also remove some of the abdominal sites that the cancer can latch onto, this is called cytoreduction.
“Then we administer heated chemotherapy directly into the abdomen. This involves pumping fluid containing the chemotherapy at 41.5 degrees Celsius for up to 90 minutes.
“The combination of the drug, the heat and the physical circulation and filtration of the fluid aims to kill off any remaining unseen cancerous cells.
“We’ve been developing this technique at The Christie for 14 years.”
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust has been ranked ‘Outstanding’ by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission which referred to it as ‘exceptional’ and ‘a leader in its field.’ It commended the Trust not only for its effectiveness and care, but highlighted its work in shaping the future of cancer care and noted the reach and influence of its clinical research projects.
You can watch a video of Charlotte and Izzy on the day they completed the Santa Run here - https://wdrv.it/ba83b683c