Type: Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Survival: 9 years
Jill’s dogged determination to overcome mesothelioma has driven her to get the best treatments available and beat the average prognosis by leaps and bounds.
Story of a Fighter
A native of West Virginia, Jill Litton started noticing a decline in her health when she turned 50. Her doctors faced difficulties diagnosing what was wrong, finally pinpointing the culprit—peritoneal mesothelioma. She made a point to demand an experienced doctor and has survived well past the average prognosis for mesothelioma thanks to that wise choice.
Jill is married and has two grown sons. She lives a simple, happy life with her family and has found a new appreciation for life thanks to her stubborn will to fight her illness.
Jill started experiencing abdominal pain and eventually began hemorrhaging. She went to see her gynecologist to evaluate the issue and ultimately had to have a complete hysterectomy (the removal of her uterus and ovaries). During her surgery, the doctors found what they believed to be cancerous cells, but they weren’t sure what to do.
Her doctor took some biopsies of what they found and sent them to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. The only thing her doctors knew was that it was “a microscopic thing” and that Jill should come back immediately if she started experiencing any unusual pain. An oncologist was not consulted at this time.
It was a few more years until things started taking a serious turn. This isn’t unusual for mesothelioma because the symptoms often take decades to develop. In Jill’s case, she started experiencing abdominal swelling. It was then that she scheduled a CT scan with her doctor to find out what was going on.
Jill received confirmation of her diagnosis in November 2011, and decided from the outset that she would fight her disease with everything she had.
Jill's Treatment Plan
Jill was treated with traditional chemotherapy, along with cytoreductive surgery and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). With the guidance of her doctor, Jill made the decision to tackle her cancer with the radical HIPEC procedure. Support for HIPEC is continually growing and it has even become the standard treatment for mesothelioma at some treatment centers.
Jill was supposed to have three rounds of traditional chemotherapy before her surgery. However, she became so sick that the doctors decided to drop it down to only two rounds. Once that was set, Jill went in for her surgery in March 2012.
The surgical procedure Jill had removes the lining of the abdomen, where mesothelioma generally originates, along with any seed-like tumors in the abdomen. Surgeons may also remove nonessential organs during the surgery if cancer has spread to them. Jill had her spleen, appendix, gall bladder and part of her pancreas removed during her surgery.
Post surgery, the HIPEC procedure was administered. The procedure involves applying chemotherapy that has been heated to roughly 107 degrees directly to the abdomen. Cancerous cells are more sensitive to heat, and microscopic cells left over from surgery can be killed with the HIPEC.
Jill’s main advice for anyone planning on having HIPEC is preparation. She says, “If you’re ever diagnosed with this and you choose to go the route that I did with the HIPEC, you need to get your body strong.”