Stomach cancer survivor back on her feet after heated chemotherapy clinical trial

Faye Hood was training for a half-marathon in 2017, when the active then-70-year-old received a stomach cancer diagnosis.

While she put her half-marathon goals on hold for stomach cancer treatment, she knew it was exercise that helped her stay otherwise healthy and made her a strong candidate for an aggressive clinical trial involving heated chemotherapy — also called hyperthermic intraperitoneal perfusion with chemotherapy (HIPEC).

“I know my doctor wouldn’t have recommended me for the study if I wasn’t strong enough for it,” she says.

Coming to MD Anderson for stomach cancer treatment

Faye had been shocked to learn that she had stage IV stomach cancer. She thought the symptoms she’d experienced – bloating and other bowel troubles – were just part of aging.

She quickly decided to seek treatment at MD Anderson. She had learned of the hospital’s reputation through family and friends, and it was only about four hours from her home in Pineville, Louisiana.

Faye doesn’t remember the details of her first visit to MD Anderson in September 2017, but she does remember the way MD Anderson made her feel.

“We walked in the door, and there was just such a welcoming atmosphere,” she says.

While at MD Anderson, Faye met with oncologist Mariela Blum Murphy, M.D. They discussed her health history and scheduled an endoscopy to ensure she had an accurate diagnosis. Following the endoscopy, she made plans to undergo nine cycles of chemotherapy and have a surgical consultation.

Choosing a HIPEC clinical trial to treat stomach cancer

Faye met with Brian Badgwell, M.D., a stomach cancer surgeon, to discuss the next phase of her treatment. Badgwell asked Faye if she wanted to enroll in a clinical trial. Participation in the trial would require an aggressive and unique surgery, he explained.

First, Badgwell and his team would remove the tumors and the part of the stomach that had been impacted by cancer. In her case, that would be 85% of the stomach. Then, Badgwell and his team would administer HIPEC. Once the chemotherapy drugs were applied to Faye’s abdomen, Badgwell and his team would shake her to make sure the treatment was evenly distributed.

The surgery would be long and have an even longer recovery, but Badgwell’s reassurance gave Faye the confidence she needed to try HIPEC.

“I was willing to do it, and I never looked back,” Faye says of enrolling in the clinical trial. “I just felt good about it. I had faith in Dr. Badgwell and his team.”

Moving forward after surgery and HIPEC

On April 18, 2018, Faye underwent the surgery and HIPEC. After a week in the hospital, she stayed in Houston for seven weeks to recover.

She had to use a feeding tube after surgery and lost 27 pounds. But by June, with guidance from an MD Anderson dietitian, she was gradually able to start eating her favorite foods again.

Faye still has to eat small meals, but she can enjoy almost all of the same foods she did before cancer.

Faye returned to exercising right away. She started walking while she was still in the hospital. A year later, she signed up for the same half-marathon she’d put on hold for cancer treatment. This time, she was able to complete it. Since then, she’s participated in many other races and is even considering participating in some with her MD Anderson care team.

“I’m finally able to be the gym rat I never had time to be when I was younger,” she says.   

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