Katie works as an ICU nurse from Plymouth, Devon. She was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP) aged 30 in November 2021, just a few days after her son’s first birthday.
After finding out she had appendix cancer during the fertility surgery to conceive her son, a follow-up scan which confirmed that Katie had developed PMP. Katie said her world came crashing down and that the disease was so rare, she had never even heard of it during her 10-year long nursing career. Katie said she buried her head in her hands and feared for her and her son’s future.
Katie was referred to Professor Omer Aziz at the Colorectal and Peritoneal Oncology Centre (CPOC) at The Christie. CPOC has an international reputation for treating advanced and early colorectal cancer, appendix tumours, peritoneal tumours, anal cancer and tumours within the pelvis.
Speaking to Professor Aziz gave Katie renewed hope, as he proposed heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) and cytoreductive surgery at The Christie. Via videocall, Katie said Professor Aziz answered her questions honestly and compassionately, and she was supported throughout the process by her clinical nurse specialist Amanda Coop.
After undergoing embryo freezing for fertility preservation, Katie travelled to Manchester for her surgery in October 2022. As she worked as an ICU nurse, she said that being a patient in ICU was an incredibly surreal experience.
“Not many people wake up from an op in a similar setting to their place of work, and the boundaries between being a nurse and a patient felt hazy and blurred. From the other side of the bed, I knew the general process that my recovery would take, the medical equipment used and which drugs I was receiving.
“Yet, never before had I known what it would feel like to have a tube up my nose, to be restricted by my own body and to feel so helpless. And so, I completely surrendered myself to the situation and placed my faith in those around me.”
Katie said that the ICU staff were incredible. They made every effort to manage her symptoms, to keep her comfortable and lift her spirits. She said that the best advice she got was to pretend every day that she felt better than she actually did and use that to motivate her to sit out in the chair, march on the spot and then take her first steps.
In Katie’s lowest points, she reminded herself that every hour brought her closer to being home with her husband and little boy.
After being discharged to the ward, Katie said her first taste of food was heaven. With every removed wire and attachment, and with every slow walk down the corridor, her strength grew. Finally, on day 12, Katie could go home.