A 34-year-old mother of two is now officially cancer-free after her growing fetus saved her life when her pregnancy caused doctors to spot a cancerous tumour.
“It was because of being pregnant that it triggered the issue with my appendix meaning I needed surgery — without the surgery, my tumour wouldn’t have been accidentally found,” Rachel Avon, of Wales, revealed to Caters News.
Five years ago, Avon was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), a rare type of cancer that typically begins in the appendix, though the tumor can also be in the bowel, bladder, or ovaries. According to WebMD, only about 1 in a million people get it. Some patients won’t experience symptoms, while others may develop abdominal or pelvic pain, trouble getting pregnant, abdominal swelling and bloating, changes in bowel habits, hernia, loss of appetite or feeling of fullness.
The cancerous cells produce mucus, which then collects in the abdomen as a jelly-like fluid. This fluid can "crush" organs, lead to major complications and even death.
Avon's pseudomyxoma peritonei was confirmed, as is normally the case, through abdominal surgery. When she was six months pregnant with her daughter, her doctor scheduled her for an appendectomy, only to discover a tumour. Caters News reports that Avon’s team were successful in removing the tumor and she continued with her pregnancy, giving birth at 41 weeks gestation.
Avon says that that her medical team chose not to tell her about the tumour until after she had given birth.
“When I discovered that doctors hadn’t told me about my cancer I was so shocked — in the short term it didn’t feel like the right decision but five years on, I know it was the right decision they made for us," she said. "Doctor’s reasoning for not telling me until Cari was born was due to the fact I wouldn’t have been able to have an MRI to see if the cancer had spread until after the baby was born.”
Avon now has annual scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. Since that life-defining experience, Avon has run the London Marathon to raise money for cancer research, and she says that she has never felt better.