This week I lost someone very special to me. Actually, Dawn was very special to lots of people. She’s left a huge hole in the World. Since my friend, Elizabeth, broke the news to me I have been feeling really empty but at the same time I’ve regained my passion for what we do as volunteers. Since the change in my living situation almost two years ago, I’ve taken a step back from a lot of the voluntary work I do so I could get used to my new surroundings etc….. However, since finding out about Dawn, I have been reminded of how much I love raising awareness and being a volunteer. She’s managed to inspire me all over again.
I’ve been wracking my brains to work out how best to show how much Dawn meant to me. I’ve decided the best way to do this is to carry on the great work she has done for all these years. To raise awareness of the cancer she was diagnosed with and raised awareness of until she passed away. So today I’m going to write about this incredibly rare cancer. Not much is known about it so it won’t be a very long post but I hope it will raise some awareness in honour of my amazing friend.
In 2008 Dawn was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). Pseudomyxoma Peritonei is a very rare type of cancer that usually begins in your appendix as a small growth, called a polyp. Or, more rarely, it can start in other parts of the bowel, the ovary or bladder. This polyp eventually spreads through the wall of your appendix and spreads cancerous cells to the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of the disease. These cancerous cells produce mucus, which collects in the abdomen as a jelly like fluid called mucin. This then creates symptoms such as “jelly belly”. It affects around two people per million each year. All ages can be affected and both men and women.
It takes a while for symptoms to appear, and they can be symptoms of other conditions. But PMP cannot be ruled out if you are suffering from the below symptoms:
*Abdominal swelling or an increase in abdominal girth
*Changes in Bowel Habit
*Loss of Appetite
*Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
However PMP symptoms vary from patient to patient so there could be other symptoms as well. If you are not feeling yourself then please visit a doctor. PMP is very rare but if you have any concerns, please get yourself checked out.
Treatment for PMP is dependent on the grading of the tumour but usually involves the following:
*Cytoreductive Surgery (Debulking) can be used to remove the mucin and tumour in the abdominal cavity. This is usually a very long procedure (around 14 hours). They remove as many tumours as possible from the abdominal cavity.
This is then usually followed by Intraoperative Hyperthermic Peritoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) where liquid chemotherapy is poured directly into the abdominal cavity to kill off any cancer cells that have been left behind. The chemo is usually heated to 42C as heated chemo is thought to be more effective at killing the cells. It is swished around to reach as many areas as possible for around 90 m inutes before being drained off and you are then closed up.
*Early Postoperative Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (EPIC) can then be used for several days after your operation through a port in your abdominal cavity. During this time liquid chemotherapy is poured in and then drained out again.
Dawn was given just three months to live and the cancer was so rare that her doctors didn’t know much about it at all. Whilst fighting the disease Dawn noticed a distinct lack of emotional support for people fighting this form of cancer. Dawn decided to set up a charity to help others in her situation. Pseudomyxoma Survivor aims to provide emotional support for anyone dealing with this type of cancer and to prevent anyone feeling alone or isolated during their fight against the disease.
The charity fundraises and raises the profile of PMP whilst also funding research into the disease. Dawn was incredible patient advocate for all survivors, and this results in increased awareness and higher survival rates worldwide.
A cancer diagnosis is terrifying, especially when it’s a very rare cancer such as this one. More needs to be done to understand these rarer types of the disease so cures can be found and people can be saved. Dawn left the charity just before her death to concentrate on her own health but I really hope the charity continues to help the thousands of PMP sufferers around the World, just like Dawn did. She did so much to raise awareness of this incredibly rare cancer. She went around the world helping people. Somehow, despite being given three months to live all those years ago, she managed to keep going for so long. Sometimes she was in huge amounts of discomfort, and must have been seriously scared a lot of the time, but she managed to do so much to raise the profile of this cancer type. I will never be able to understand where she found her courage, strength, compassion and selflessness. Dawn Green really was one in a million xxx
If you have any more questions, worries, or would like to donate, please visit http://www.pseudomyxomasurvivor.org/