Pioneering surgery was lifeline for Halifax mum

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A Halifax mum given a terminal cancer diagnosis has a happy new year ahead of her thanks to lifesaving surgery.

Charlotte Ward, 36, feared she would never see her daughter’s first Christmas, let alone the sixth, until surgeons at Manchester’s specialist cancer centre, The Christie offered her pioneering surgery.

The staff nurse was pregnant with her first child when a scan showed a worrying abdominal mass.

Doctors thought it was cancerous and operated on Charlotte 22 weeks into the pregnancy to remove her right ovary and fallopian tube.

Despite the odds, miracle baby Isabella was born, but Charlotte’s real battle with cancer was only just beginning.

Six weeks later, a scan revealed the cancer had spread to Charlotte’s liver and stomach and a full hysterectomy was arranged. The surgeon then noticed that Charlotte’s appendix looked abnormal and removed it, which led to the discovery of an incredibly rare cancer. Pseudomyxoma Peritonei affects just one in 1.7m people.

“The name of it alone was hard enough to pronounce, without trying to get my head around what the disease actually was and what the consequence of it would be for the future,” said Charlotte.

At the time of the diagnosis, only two NHS hospitals in the country could offer Charlotte treatment and The Christie was one of them. In May 2000, Charlotte underwent cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, known as HIPEC.

This pioneering complex surgery involves a team of surgeons working to remove all visible tumours in the abdominal cavity for up to 14 hours, before a heated chemotherapy treatment is pumped directly into the abdomen.

In her battle with cancer, Charlotte has had five operations in the last seven years.

“When I was told about this devastating, debilitating and life threatening cancer, I feared I would never make it to Isabella’s first birthday or Christmas, buy her first pair of shoes or get to see her first day at school,” Charlotte added.

“But, thanks to the experts at The Christie, I have been able to do all those things and so much more.”
Charlotte is now planning a charity ball in September 2017 to raise money for the hospital.

She said: “Each surgery to treat the disease costs a minimum of £50,000, so I’m making a small effort to show my appreciation and to start to repay them for saving my life and for all they have done, not just for me, but for all their patients and their familes.”