Being told that without surgery she would only have two or three months left to live gave Tayside woman Bethan Murie the courage she needed to go ahead with the operation.
The 20-year-old from Perth told the Tele that until that point she had been terrified of going under the surgeon’s knife, having been diagnosed with colon cancer.
Now she wants to thank the “incredible” staff at Ninewells Hospital for persuading her to go ahead and for supporting her before, during and after the life-saving 15-hour operation.
She said: “Without them and without the surgery I wouldn’t be here today.
“I’m now living every day to the full and looking forward to the future, although I’m still receiving chemotherapy and treatment.”
Bethan was diagnosed with colon cancer last August.
She discovered she had the disease after she went to hospital with severe stomach pains and bloating.
Bethan, who was previously employed as a community carer, said: “I was in severe pain and my stomach was so bloated I looked about eight months pregnant.”
After tests, Bethan was told she had colon cancer and would require major surgery.
She said: “The bloating was caused by cysts on my ovaries and it was only because of them that the cancer was discovered.
“It turns out the cancer had been there for three years, since I was 17, but because I had no symptoms it was never found.”
However, Bethan was so scared of having surgery that — just hours before she was due in theatre on October 31 — she called it off.
Bethan said: “I was so scared of having the life-saving surgery that I actually ended up refusing it on the first occasion.
“It was at that point that I was told that without the surgery I would have only two or three months left to live.
“I had the surgery three days later and I’m now so grateful I did.
“Without the surgery and without the amazing doctors and nurses I definitely wouldn’t be here today to tell my story.”
The operation was carried out at Ninewells by consultant surgeon Francesco Maria Polignano.
Bethan said she was told he was the only person in Scotland who could perform the surgery that saved her life.
During the radical operation, Bethan’s colon, spleen, peritoneum and left side of her diaphragm were removed and she had a full hysterectomy.
She was also given an ileostomy — where the small bowel is diverted through an opening in the tummy.
Bethan was then placed in an induced coma and transferred to intensive care. She spent two days in ITU and five days in the high dependency unit before finally being transferred to the main ward.
Bethan said: “When I was told I needed such radical surgery, I freaked out.
“I was just so scared and having to have a full hysterectomy was awful.
“However, everyone who looked after me was amazing — all the nurses and my surgeon, Mr Polignano, were fantastic.”
She added: “All staff went the extra mile for me and I can’t find enough words to express how grateful I am to them.
“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today.
“The staff treated me like a person and not just another patient.”