Woman, 31, who was given a year to live due to rare form of cancer that had spread to her lungs, liver and bones, reveals she was able to marry her boyfriend after ‘miracle operation’ added 10 years to her life
- Jessica Horton, 31, from Surrey, was diagnosed with rare form of cancer in 2019
- She was given one year to live after it spread to lungs, stomach, liver and bones
- Miracle operation in January this year added 10 years to her life expectancy
- Was able to marry her boyfriend Rob in September in socially distance ceremony
A travel agent who was given a year to live after being diagnosed with cancer of the stomach has revealed how an miracle operation gave her a new chance at life, and allowed her to marry her boyfriend.
Jessica Horton, 31, from Guilford, Surrey, was told she had only a year to live after being diagnosed with neuroendoctrine cancer in October 2019.
After first noticing a lump in 2017, she was ‘left reeling’ when her diagnosis revealed the illness had been growing in her abdomen for years and had spread from her adrenal glands to her lungs, liver and bones.
She was told an operation would be impossible and to prepare for the worse until a doctor took it upon himself to perform a ‘miracle’ operation in January which added ten years to her life.
This allowed her to marry her boyfriend Rob on 27th September, in a socially-distanced ceremony of 30 guests.
Jessica Horton, 31, from Guilford, Surrey, was told she had only a year to live after being diagnosed with neuroendoctrine cancer in October 2019 (pictured now, showing her surgery scar)
Thanks to the risky operation, Jessica, who was told in October 2019 that she only had a year left to live, was able to marry her boyfriend Rob, pictured, on September 27
Speaking of falling ill, Jessica said: ‘I was constipated with occasional sharp stabbing pains in my tummy. My doctor prescribed laxatives but they didn’t help, so I changed my diet and started exercising more.’
‘I used to be a size 14. But even after I lost a stone, the constipation persisted, and my tummy was now so tender that I had to continue wearing my old clothes that were a bit too big, or else it felt really uncomfortable.
A neuroendocrine tumour is a rare tumour that can develop in many different organs of the body.
It affects the cells that release hormones into the bloodstream.
Its symptoms depends on where in the body the tumour is located.
There is no understood cause for neuroendocrine tumours.
Treatment would depend on the location of the tumour as well as how long the cancer it has been growing.
Surgery can help remove the tumour or limit symptoms of it.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are also used to fight the disease.
‘One day I noticed that I could feel a lump in my tummy – about the size of a grapefruit. I had like frequent sharp pains like someone was poking me in the tummy, which left me low and tired.
Jessica went back to her GP, where she was referred to a bowel specialist, who confirmed a ‘slow transit’ of food through her digestive system and prescribed medication. However, it did not help with the symptoms.
‘Meanwhile I was working hard at my job in the travel industry and frequently going out running – I always had a lot of anxious energy I couldn’t get rid of,’ she said.
‘Eventually I returned to my family doctor surgery and saw a different GP who felt my tummy and referred to to the Royal Surrey Hospital for ultrasound tests.
She recalled hearing the diagnosis that changed her life and left her ‘reeling.’
‘The day after those tests, I got a call from my GP, asking me to come in.
‘At the surgery, I was told that the investigation had found a mass in my abdomen which was believed to be cancer, with more small growths in other organs, too.
‘But as yet nobody could tell me what sort of cancer it was,’ she said.
‘It was an awful shock, it left me reeling. Thank goodness Rob came with me that day,’ she said.
Jessica was then referred to an oncologist for more tests, including a biopsy, PET scan, and 24-hour urine test.
She was finally diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, which is a rare condition that affects the cells that release hormones into the bloodstream
A scan shows the tumours that had spread throughout Jessica’s abdomen, lungs, livers and bones
Jessica in hospital. She explained that her primary tumour was next to her adrenal glands, which are located below the diaphragm and caused her body to pumping too much adrenaline, leaving her anxious and ‘buzzing’ all the time
The illness had already spread from a primary tumour on her adrenal glands to her lungs, liver and bones.
The stress on her adrenal glands had been flooding her body with adrenaline, which was why she’d constantly buzzed with nervous energy.
It was likely to have been growing in her body for up to ten years before it was discovered.
Jessica was originally told that the location of the primary tumour made it impossible to operate.
But miraculously, in January 2020, a surgeon at Kings College Hospital, became aware of her case and offered to operate.
Jessica, pictured in hospital, said that before her operation, her cancer was developing aggressively, but it has now stabilised
Due to Jessica’s cancer, the couple cannot have children, they are pictured on their wedding day
The travel agent is pictured in hospital during lockdown. She had an operation which has added 10 years to her life
Jessica is now raising funds that will go into neuroendocrine cancer research. She took part in a 10 miles race this year to raise money, pictured
‘The operation had a lot of risk attached, including a high possibility of a stroke or heart attack, and a 10 per cent chance of dying on the operating table,’ Jessica said.
In spite of this, she decided to go for the operation after discussing it with her mother and her boyfriend.
‘My surgery was so complex, I was the only patient scheduled for the operating theatre that day, and I was warned I might be on the operating table for 15 hours,’ she said.
‘But in fact the entire primary tumour was removed in 7.5 hours.
After her operation, pictured, Jessica had resumed her physical activity and has taken to raising funds for neuroendocrine cancer research. She was able to go on walks (left) and run (right)
Jessica explained she was lucky to be operated when she was because the surgeon who worked on her has been stuck in Australia
Jessica is pictured during a fundraising run, with other volunteers taking part. She said she wanted to spend the time she had left enjoying herself
Jessica, pictured now, admitted that chemotherapy and radiotherapy to fight her cancer had sent her into a premature menopause
‘When the surgeon came to tell me the good news, after I woke up the following day, I cried for 15 minutes while he sat holding my hand. But since then I haven’t looked back and my recovery has been simply amazing.
After the operation, Jessica was able to return to the daily activities she had to forgo due to her illness.
‘I have been able to go to work, exercise, and even return to doing ten mile runs.
‘I may be living with terminal cancer but I actually have a normal life again, instead of just an existence,’ she said.
The newlywed, pictured now, is determined to enjoy the time she has left with her husband and loved ones
Jessica celebrating her hen night in Chinatown in London before her September wedding, wearing a mask
‘I was incredibly lucky because the surgeon who offered to operate was a visiting professor who spends most of his time in Australia.
‘After he became aware of my case and operated, he returned to Australia and hasn’t been able to return to this country since, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I was so fortunate that he became aware of my case and offered to help, when he did,’ she added.
Jessica is now having radioactive iodine MIBG therapy to inhibit tumour growth, and has been now told she should have a likely life span of ten years.
Jessica, pictured before her illness. Neuroendrocrine cancer is a rare form of cancer which is hard to detect, due to its non-specific symptoms
Her wedding to Rob went ahead as planned on September 27, 2020, with 30 family and friends attending – although the couple had to bring forward their ceremony by a few days, in order to avoid tighter lockdown rules.
She said: ‘I am glass half full person and am thinking positive. Before my surgery, my cancer was progressing aggressively, now it’s stable and not getting any bigger because the MIBG treatment is killing off the new cancer cells.
‘But of course my diagnosis will have ongoing consequences for me. Not least because the treatment I am having, has affected my ovaries, and catapulted me into an overnight menopause, with night sweats and mood swings.
‘But Rob and I had already agreed at the beginning of our relationship that we didn’t intend to have children, so I’ve been able to cope with that.
‘I want to spend the time that I do have enjoying life and – as soon as the pandemic is over – going back to travelling and having amazing holidays.’
Jessica is now raising funds to help the charity Neuroendocrine Cancer UK.
She has raised a remarkable £14,700 thanks to a 10-mile charity run she completed after her diagnosis.
The money is enough to fund the charity’s entire counselling service for a year.
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