Innovative Chemotherapy Procedure (HIPEC) helps new mom beat rare cancer
Balancing the needs of mom and baby
When Gevony’s appendix ruptured, cancer cells spilled out into the thin sheet of nearby tissue (the peritoneum). Additional treatments would be needed to make sure the cancer didn’t spread. But Gevony’s care team, which included a surgeon, obstetrician, and cancer experts, were up for the challenge.
Gevony’s treatment would eventually include an innovative procedure called hyperthermic intraoperative peritoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC. During HIPEC, the surgeon removes all visible signs of cancer and bathes the peritoneum in a liquid solution of cancer-fighting drugs (chemotherapy). AHN was among the first in the country to offer HIPEC.
But Gevony was still pregnant. So her care team needed to carefully balance her medical needs with the needs of her unborn baby. Early conversations about her care focused on her baby’s development. And they paid off. She delivered a healthy boy, Dax, by Cesarean section eight weeks ahead of his original due date.
Because he was born so early, Dax required around-the-clock monitoring and care at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at West Penn Hospital. Having her baby in the NICU was hard for Gevony, but she took comfort knowing he was in expert hands.
Fighting cancer with HIPEC
After spending two weeks recovering and bonding with Dax at AHN West Penn Hospital, Gevony was transferred to Allegheny General Hospital to start cancer treatment. Gevony had faith in her care team, which included Suzanne Schiffman, MD, a board-certified surgical oncologist specializing in abdominal cancers.
“HIPEC can bring hope to patients desperately in need of options, and we are happy to offer it to patients at Allegheny Health Network,” said Dr. Schiffman.
HIPEC is different from traditional chemotherapy treatments, where chemotherapy first must travel through the bloodstream. With HIPEC, doctors can safely deliver a strong dose of chemotherapy directly where it’s needed, treating cancer cells that are too small to see. By keeping chemotherapy out of the bloodstream, HIPEC also leads to fewer unpleasant side effects.
Helping hands reunite mom and baby
Throughout her time at Allegheny General, Gevony’s care team shared a commitment to caring for her family. Nurses helped Gevony maintain her breast milk supply by helping her pump every three hours during recovery. They also gave her the support and encouragement she needed to get well enough to be transferred back to West Penn. There, she could be with Dax, who was still in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“Those nurses were honest to God, angels on Earth,” said Gevony.
Today, Gevony is cancer-free and enjoying every moment she has with her husband Chris and Dax, who turns 1 in July. Gevony lives her life, “with more gratitude and blessings now than I had before.”