For Janet Gacheri, 53 yrs old, the last 2 years had been the hardest, “ I have lost count of the number of times I have consulted specialists, got admitted in hospitals and got struck by the itchy needle,” shares Janet who was antagonised with her treatment. She was suffering from persistent pain in her lower abdomen and both her shoulders. “ Preliminary investigations blamed it on arthritis, old age, until one doctor in Kenya after extensive tests diagnosed my condition as – Retroperitoneal Pelvic Sarcoma, a name as confusing as its treatment to me, “ highlights Janet while smiling.
Sarcoma is a rare cancer that develops in the connective tissues: muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels and the fatty and fibrous tissues. Retroperitoneal sarcomas occur in the retroperitoneum. This is an area behind the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal space that covers the abdominal organs. The retroperitoneum is deep in the abdomen and pelvis, behind the abdominal lining, where organs such as the major blood vessels, kidneys, pancreas and bladder are located. The signs and symptoms of this rare type of cancer range from a lump in the abdomen, increase in the girth of the abdomen. It may be associated with anaemia ,weight loss and loss of appetite.
In Kenya, judging the severity of the situation, Janet went through a surgical procedure to ‘debulk’ or remove her cancer. The rare cancer was successfully removed, however a follow up CT Scan post 15 days of the surgery highlighted a residual tumor of 16*14 cms. To treat the same, Janet went through 6 cycles of rigorous, high potency chemotherapy sessions. According to Janet, chemotherapy was one of the most difficult procedures to go through, “I used to feel as if the whole room is spinning. I also used to feel weak and nauseous the whole time. I thought the surgery would cure me, but the extended chemo sessions started to affect my mind. I thought that this is it, may be its time for me now to leave everything and let life take its course,” shares Janet.
Post the chemo sessions, the investigations revealed that there was still a residual tumor of 6*5 cms in the pelvis. Noticing his mother losing hope and patience, Janet’s son, decided to take his mother to India for a second opinion and further treatment.
As they came in touch with Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, they interacted with Dr. RN Mittal, Sr Consulted Surgical Oncology, an eminent surgeon with more than two decades of surgical experience and specialisation in treating breast, colon, gastro-intestinal and stomach cancers. Post consultation and CT investigations , Dr RN Mittal shared that Janet’s bane of contention – the residual cancer can be removed surgically.
According to Dr RN Mittal, “The most important aspect was that Janet was suffering from a kind of cancer that spreadslocally & via blood stream. The residual tumor that had to be operated upon was also attached to the large intestine, urinary bladder and the left external iliac artery and the vein. Since the veins and the arteries were involved the surgery also needed the medical expertise of a vascular surgeon for the repair of major blood vessels.”
Taking all precautions into consideration, Dr RN Mittal and Dr Surinder Khatana, Sr Consultant Vascular Surgery operated Janet, “ The surgery completely removed the tumor which involved major blood vessels like the external iliac and the artery vein. During the surgical procedure they were also successfully repaired, ” shares Dr Mittal.
Post surgery it was medically established that Janet was free of the Sarcoma. Now she just has to go through few radiotherapy sessions in her own country to be sure that the Sarcoma doesn’t relapse.
“When I had lost all hope of surviving and living my life again, it was my son and my doctor – Dr Mittal – who gave me faith that I can overcome. Today I feel angry that this disease – Cancer – has robbed me of 2 years of my precious life. What I have to do now is what Dr Mittal suggests – Live life to the fullest to make up for lost time,” shares Janet.
Dr RN Mittal shares, “ In rare cases such as this it is timely treatment and detection that counts. Moreover there are limited medical experts that have the infrastructure and the expertise to perform such elaborate and extensive procedures. Cancer is a draining disease that not just affects the patient’s body but also the mind. In Janet’s case when we made her feel confident of her results and treatment, half of the battle was won – after all Cancer may affect her body, but could never control her strong wilful mind”