A Rare Case of Appendix Cancer – Laura’s Story

By Matt Martin

Laura Squires joined UC Health in 2019 as a performance improvement manager. She enjoys her job and her ability to have a positive impact on the organization.

“I love it here. I believe this is where I belong,” Laura said.

But her journey coming to UC Health wouldn’t be possible if she didn’t overcome a rare form of cancer.

In June 2018, three years after having her daughter Kathryn, Laura was diagnosed with stage IV of a rare appendix cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei. She had laparoscopic surgery to remove her appendix. However, by this point, the cancer had spread to her internal organs, including her liver, diaphragm, uterus, bladder and ovaries.

Laura and her family were unable to understand how she got such a rare form of cancer.

After thorough research and multiple physician interviews, Laura decided to seek care at UC Health’s Barrett Cancer Center through the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center. She was seen by Jeffrey Sussman, MD, interim chair of the Department of Surgery, Christian R. Holmes professor of surgery and program director of general surgery at the UC College of Medicine.

“The UC Surgical Oncology Division was created 24 years ago with patients like Laura in mind—to be able to provide world-class, expert cancer care without having to travel halfway across the country,” Dr. Sussman said.

Dr. Sussman and his team got to know Laura on a personal level, making her feel more than just another patient. She was also seen by Amanda Jackson, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UC College of Medicine and division director at the UC Cancer Center.

“I was impressed with Laura’s positive attitude from her first visit. Even though she had a long and hard recovery, she maintained her amazing smile and optimistic outlook,” Dr. Jackson said.

Laura would have another surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Her care team walked her through what the surgery would entail. She knew she wouldn’t be entirely cancer free but understood this was her best treatment option.

“Everyone was confident, which put me at ease,” Laura said. “Everyone dealt with me with a lot of compassion by being upfront and honest with treatments and the surgery.”

On Aug. 13, 2018, Laura would undergo the mother of all surgeries, including hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)—heated chemotherapy delivered directly into the abdomen.

Advanced Care at UC Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Center

The UC Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Center offers patients access to advanced surgical and medical techniques unavailable at other facilities in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton regions.

Thanks to the expertise at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center, Laura’s surgery was successful. Although her cancer could return, she showed no evidence of the disease more than a year after surgery.

Her husband, Steven, and three children—Peyton, Kaiden and Kathryn, and her mother were her greatest support through this difficult journey. She is also appreciative of her care team at UC Health for their tireless dedication to treating her cancer.

“I had the best care imaginable here. I was a regular at the Barrett Cancer Center, but I was more than a patient—I was a person,” Laura said.

After her treatment, Laura decided to return to UC Health to accept a position that would give her the opportunity to give back to the healthcare system that saved her life.

“Your whole outlook changes after having cancer. When I saw this opportunity at UC Health, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. This is my way of giving back,” Laura said.

Since joining UC Health, Laura has gone back to the Barrett Cancer Center to thank the physicians and nurses who made a big difference in her cancer journey. She even went back to the surgical intensive care unit to see the room she stayed in after her surgery.

Moving forward, Laura hopes to have a major impact on patients, just like others had on her.

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