A Somerset teacher and mother of two has undergone a ten-hour procedure, which saw nine of her organs removed, in a bid to fight cancer.
Lucy Payne had to have the operation after being diagnosed with a rare cancer of the appendix, less than a year after giving birth to her second baby daughter.
The procedure is one of the rarest and most invasive operations to be performed in the UK.
The 37-year-old had been experiencing pains in her stomach and chest for a while, but doctors initially believed it was due to her being pregnant, before diagnosing it as endometriosis - a condition which has similar symptoms.
But Lucy, who runs a theatre school from the Ralph Allen School in Bath, always felt that it was something else. She said: "I had a lot of pain in my chest and tummy."I was always breathless and suffered from extreme fatigue through my pregnancy. I also experienced a lot of reduced movement from the baby, which I now know was due to the cancer growing inside of me.“After my pregnancy, I had a bloated tummy, heavy periods and constipation along with a pain in my lower right chest, which did not disappear after my daughter was born.
Six months after having her second daughter, Eadie, Lucy's GP sent her for an ultrasound. It revealed she had kidney stones and a cyst on her ovary, and a polyp in her uterus. She was then referred to a gynaecologist and urologist for more tests.
'I felt the ground fall from underneath me'She added: “All of these symptoms I had never experienced with my first pregnancy and I just knew something wasn’t right.“It wasn’t until I had a second CT scan and removal of my kidney stones, two months after my first scan that doctors found the true extent of the problem.”
On 11 November 2020, doctors finally discovered that Lucy was suffering from cancer of the appendix.
Lucy said upon hearing the news, she though "well they can just take out my appendix and it will be ok.""But then the doctor said it had advanced and had spread throughout my abdomen and into my chest," she said.
“I had the most horrendous panic attack and I just felt the ground fall from underneath me and I was sick.”
Tests revealed that the cancer was pseudomyxoma peritonei, which is very rare and doesn’t act like most cancers. Instead of spreading through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, it spreads inside the abdomen.In Lucy’s case, the cells had spread and had grown onto the peritoneum and it is believed the cancer could have been present for four years as symptoms only presented when it got to an advanced stage.
Lucy had to wait three months to find out what treatment she might have or if she could be treated at all, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With just two specialist units in the UK for this type of cancer, the mum of two from Wells then had to travel to Basingstoke for treatment.Just six months ago Lucy underwent a gruelling operation to remove nine of her organs, including her spleen, appendix, some of her diaphragm, gallbladder and peritoneum, ovaries, uterus as well most of her stomach lining.She then spent four days in intensive care and two weeks in hospital.
The operation, called hyperthermic intraperioneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), saw heated chemotherapy sluiced inside the abdomen to wash away the cancer cells in the harder to reach areas.
'I am what they call 'watch and wait'Lucy said: “I now try to live every day the best I can, to get strongand recover from my operation and hopefully one day, I will be cancer-free.“I still have cancer, I am what they call 'watch and wait' and through regular scans, doctors can keep an eye on me as 90 per cent of the cancer was removed, but they couldn’t quite get to the bit in my chest. I still have cancer on my pleura.
“I do get tired and I am now going through the menopause. My mental health has been up and down, and I have suffered anxiety attacks, but it is important to make people aware that I am still here, thanks to research.”
Stand Up To CancerWith the support of her family, Lucy is standing strong and is now sharing her story to show her support for the Stand Up To Cancer campaign.Stand Up To Cancer is the joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.In the South West, around 35,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Stand Up To Cancer helps to fund breakthroughs from the lab and transform them into cutting-edge treatments that could help save people's lives.The campaign, now in its ninth year, has raised more than £84 million, funding 59 clinical trials and projects involving over 19,000 cancer patients across the country.These include the development of new treatments that use viruses to fight cancer, clinical trials testing potentially more effective ways to deliver radiotherapy and improved surgical techniques for bowel cancer.Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South West,said: “We are very grateful to Lucy for helping us to continue ourmission.
The group holds regular fundraising initiatives and recently held asked as many people to stand up to raise money on Friday 15 October.
More information about how to help or hold your own fundraising initiative alongside SU2C can be found on their website, here.