A mother whose fainting fits were put down to her vegetarian diet was shocked to discover they were actually caused by a rare pancreatic cancer.
Briony Maltman began having dizzy spells from the age of 21 and claims she was told by doctors on several occasions she had anaemia caused by her vegetarian diet.
Anaemia is when the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells, of which one cause is an iron deficiency.
Vegetarians can sometimes struggle to get enough iron because they don’t eat red meat – a rich source of iron.
Ms Maltman, now 27, had also developed stomach pains and bleeding when she went to the toilet after the birth of her second child, Archie, in 2017.
Tests in October 2018 revealed Ms Maltman, from Oxfordshire, was one of just three people in the UK with a rare pancreatic cancer. Anaemia can be a sign of the disease.
Ms Maltman and her partner, Jason Ray, 32, had to make the heartbreaking decision to terminate her pregnancy in order to proceed with treatment.
After an eight-hour operation to remove part of her small intestine, stomach and gall bladder in December 2018, Ms Maltman is now cancer free and still a vegetarian.
Briony Maltman, 27, whose fainting fits were put down to her vegetarian diet was told she had a rare pancreatic cancer
Ms Maltman feared her young children, including Summer (pictured), nine, from a previous relationship, would forget who she was if she didn’t survive
Ms Maltman had an eight-hour operation to remove part of her small intestine, stomach and gall bladder in December 2018 to treat the cancer. Pictured, after the operation and her scar
Pancreatic cancer hide for years until symptoms present, normally at a late stage. It is not clear when Ms Maltman’s tumour started growing.
Ms Maltman, who feels ‘lucky to be alive’, is sharing her story during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, to urge others to look out for symptoms.
Ms Maltman said: ’After my diagnosis, my main fear was leaving the kids behind, and Archie not remembering me as he was still so young.
‘When I was going through treatment, it was a case of getting my head down and getting on with it, but now I look back and wonder how I got through it.’
Ms Maltman, who worked as an assistant pub manager before falling sick, was just 21 when she began having dizzy spells.
During a family holiday in May 2014, aged 22, she collapsed outside an amusement arcade.
‘At hospital, the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, so told me to go to my GP when I was back home,’ Ms Maltman said.
Ms Maltman and her partner, Jason Ray, 32, who she has a son with (Archie, pictured) made the heartbreaking decision to terminate their pregnancy in order to proceed with the treatment
Ms Maltman had an eight-hour operation called the Whipple surgery to remove the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, part of the stomach, the gallbladder and duodenum
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THIS CANCER AND DID IT CAUSE ANAEMIA?
The symptoms of a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) will depend on where it is in the digestive tract.
Symptoms may include:
- tummy discomfort or pain
- blood in the stools or vomit
- anaemia (low level of red blood cells)
- a painless lump in the abdomen
- being sick
- a high temperature
- sweating at night
- weight loss.
A blood test found that Ms Maltman’s haemoglobin levels were very low.
Found in the red blood cells, haemoglobin transports oxygen around the body.
As a result of her deficiency, Ms Maltman needed 14 blood and 11 iron transfusions during that four year period.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a low haemoglobin count can also be due to blood loss, which can occur because of bleeding in the digestive tract, such as from ulcers, cancers or haemorrhoids.
Medics explained there was an abscess sitting on top of her tumour, which explained Ms Maltman’s blood loss and need for transfusions.
Soon after returning from holiday, she fainted again, signalling the start of four long years of being bounced around various doctors.
She had a number of tests – including an MRI scan and a CT scan of her head, in case the problem was neurological. But no test identified the cause of her symptoms.
Ms Maltman, also mother to Summer, nine, from a previous relationship, added: ‘I kept fainting, but nobody knew what was wrong.
‘It got so bad that I even had to teach Summer how to use the phone to call for help, in case I passed out while we were alone together.
‘On several occasions, I was told the dizziness was down to my vegetarian diet making me anaemic.’
A blood test later revealed that her haemoglobin levels were very low.
Found in the red blood cells, haemoglobin transports oxygen around the body. It can be sometimes be due to an iron deficiency – which has causes including a vegetarian diet, pregnancy, and cancers of the bowel or stomach.
As a result of her deficiency, Ms Maltman needed 14 blood and 11 iron transfusions during that four-year period.
‘It was getting to the point where nobody knew what else to do with me,’ she said.
Things looked a little brighter when she met her shop owner partner and became pregnant with Archie in 2017.
During her pregnancy, which was closely monitored, she said she felt better than ever but, a few weeks after his birth, she was struck down by crippling stomach pains.
Ms Maltman said: ‘It got to the point where I could literally feel something in my stomach if I sat in a certain way.
After the birth of her second child, Archie, in 2017 (pictured while pregnant), Ms Maltman had agonising stomach pains and bleeding when she went to the toilet
In late 2018, Ms Maltman, pictured with Summer, finally had answers after she had investigations at Churchill Hospital, Oxford - although tragically, the news was bad
‘I also started to notice I was passing blood when I went to the toilet.’
In late 2018, Ms Maltman became pregnant again. Shortly after, she had another fainting episode, which led to investigations at Churchill Hospital, Oxford.
A consultant took her into a special side room and started to explain that he had been sent images from an endoscopy and could see a mass in her digestive tract.
Ms Maltman said: ’The doctors said they wouldn’t tell me what to do, but that their medical advice was to terminate the pregnancy, so that I could have the biopsy and then start treatment right away, if I needed to.
‘I couldn’t even think at first – it was too much to take in.
‘Jason and I had a long talk and agreed that we had to think of Archie and Summer. If I kept our baby I could be leaving them without a mother.’
Ms Maltman decided to terminate her pregnancy so she could have a biopsy. In late October 2018, she received a life-changing phone call.
‘I wanted to hear the second they had the results,’ she said. ‘In the end, I got the call in the middle of the Co-op of all places.
‘The nurse asked if it was a good time, but I didn’t want to wait any longer so I just said yes. Then she explained that I had a rare type of pancreatic cancer.’
After her surgery Ms Maltman was discharged on 19 December and made it home just in time for Christmas. She is pictured days after her surgery with her Mr Ray
Mother to Archie and Summer, nine, from a previous relationship (pictured), Ms Maltman said: ‘After my diagnosis, my main fear was leaving the kids behind, and Archie not remembering me as he was still so young’
Ms Maltman’s official diagnosis was a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) measuring 4cm.
GISTs are rare cancers. Around 900 people in the UK are diagnosed with a GIST each year. Scientists don’t yet know what causes them.
Ms Maltman’s GIST started on her duodenum – a part of the small intestine. It also spread onto her pancreas which is next it.
She is just one of three people in the UK to have this particular form, and in the 0.13 per cent of cases of pancreatic cancer affecting 25-29 year olds, according to the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action.
Medics also explained that there was an abscess sitting on top of her tumour, which explained Ms Maltman’s blood loss and need for transfusions.
A low haemoglobin count, although often a sign of anaemia, can be due to bleeding in the digestive tract due to cancer or ulcers.
Ms Maltman said she had ‘an eight-and-a-half-hour operation to remove the head of my pancreas, part of my bile duct, part of my stomach, my gallbladder and duodenum’.
A follow-up test in January 2019 showed that the operation had been a success, while scans every three months since have confirmed that Ms Maltman remains cancer-free
Ms Maltman said she feels ‘lucky to be alive’. Pictured with Summer
WHAT IS THE WHIPPLE SURGERY?
The Whipple procedure, or pancreaticoduodenectomy, is the most common surgery to remove tumours in the pancreas.
Surgery to remove a tumour offers the best chance for long-term control of all pancreatic cancer types.
The Whipple removes and reconstructs a large part of the gastrointestinal tract and is a difficult and complex operation, taking five to seven hours.
If a tumour is in the head of the pancreas, has not spread to other areas of the body and can be removed surgically, the Whipple procedure may be attempted.
The patient stays in the hospital for eight to ten days after a Whipple procedure. During this time, doctors watch for complications, and the patient slowly begins drinking and eating again.
In the days following surgery, doctors run extensive tests to see if all the cancer was removed and if any cancer cells were in the lymph nodes.
The next available time Ms Maltman could have her surgery was in December 12, after which she was in hospital for a week recovering. Discharged on 19 December, Ms Maltman made it home just in time for Christmas.
She said: ‘It was really overwhelming to be back with the kids. When you have kids, you can’t just sit there – you have to get up and get on with it.
‘On Christmas Day itself, I was just so relieved to be there. I didn’t care that I spent most of it on the sofa, as I couldn’t get up and down the stairs, or that I couldn’t have much of a dinner. We were together, and that’s what mattered.’
A follow-up test in January 2019 showed that the Whipple operation had been a success, while scans every three months since have confirmed that Ms Maltman remains cancer-free.
She is adjusting to having smaller meals because of her surgery, and must take daily tablets to replace the enzymes that her pancreas would have produced.
With the support of Pancreatic Cancer Action, she is hoping to show that pancreatic cancer can affect anyone of any age.
She said: ‘I want to say to everybody out there that you know your own body, so if you think something is wrong, then persist with doctors.
‘Pancreatic cancer is so difficult as the symptoms can be so many other things, but it’s important to be aware of any changes in your body.
‘I am still taking in everything that’s happened over this past year, but I feel so lucky to be alive.’
For information, visit Pancreatic Cancer Action.
- Fighter mom: Cancer survivor will do anything to care for kids
- LA Dodgers draft pick Devin Smeltzer overcame pediatric cancer
- For three years her skin ulcers and pain would flare, then vanish, stumping doctors. Her daughter, a nurse, finally figured it out.
- 2 Cleveland Browns fans, 1 common goal: Beat cancer
- A trip to Iceland, planned in winter, designed to fight cancer
- When You’re Told You’re Too Fat to Get Pregnant
- More African Americans in Delaware opt for plant-based diets
- Vegetarian, vegan lifestyles gain ground in black community
- Skin Cancer Risks Remain High as Earth's Ozone Faces New Threats
- The human toll
- Kids Day: A little boy everyone knows fights an illness no one knew he had
- Medical mystery: ‘Once one symptom went away, another would appear’
- Gambit's 40 Under 40 in New Orleans: See the 2019 class
- Garage sale at VFW helps local families
- Hounding Citibank to help a reader collect his deserved due
- Complete coverage: Remembering ‘Angel girl’
- The Human Toll Part 2
- Minnesota girl to be featured on 'American Ninja Warrior'
- Annadelle Faulkner Alabama girl acute flaccid myelitis
- Opera singer with transplanted lungs dies
Mother who was told by doctors her vegetarian diet was triggering fainting fits is diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer have 2150 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at November 22, 2019. This is cached page on Movie News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.