Georgina Johns, 48, was told she had just 12-18 months to live after being diagnosed with stomach cancer when she couldn’t eat a supermarket sandwich
A woman who was given just over a year to live after struggling to eat a sandwich has bravely shared her story after going into remission thanks to a revolutionary treatment.
Georgina Johns, 48, was told she had just 12-18 months to live after being diagnosed with stomach cancer when she couldn’t eat a supermarket sandwich.
“I thought, ‘Ooh, it’s just stuck that’s weird and I feel a bit sick,”’ she told BristolLive.
Georgia’s doctor sent her for an endoscopy, where medical staff made a worrying discovery.
“I could hear the nurses talking, saying, ‘We’ve got to get the cancer nurse down’ and I thought, ‘Well, I’m the only person here on this ward,’ so I thought, ‘it must be for me,”’ said Georgina.
She was told that her husband had been called to the hospital and Georgina waited to hear the outcome of her endoscopy.
Georgina – who said she’s never smoked and only drinks socially – was given the life-changing news that she had a rare stomach cancer, which is particularly uncommon in women as young as her.
Georgina was sent to Plymouth Hospital to have the cancer removed, but a further scan showed it was more severe than first thought.
The cancer had spread to Georgina’s aortic valve which controls the flow of blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It had also spread to one of her lymph nodes – and so Georgina was dealt a further devastating blow.
She said: “They actually phoned me while I was shopping and said, ‘Go home, we’ve got some bad news for you and they said, ‘Sorry, you’ve got 12-18 months to live.’
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s ridiculous. I’m forty-eight, I’ve got three children – my youngest was fifteen at the time, she’s just turned sixteen – and I’ve got two older children as well and grandchildren.
“I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to die from this – it’s just an illness same as anything else. There must be things that I can do.’
Georgina said she began her own research into cancer, looking for anything which could potentially help her to deal with the illness.
“So, I read some books. I found out all the vitamins and things I could take that could help me,” she said.
“And then they said I could have palliative chemotherapy. I said, ‘I don’t want palliative chemotherapy, I want it to cure me.’”
“I went onto the Macmillan site and found a lady whose dad had the same [cancer] and he was alive three years later, and he’d had an operation to have his stomach removed.”
Georgina found the name of the surgeon who’d carried out the operation and got in touch with him.
“He’s called Professor Hanna and he’s based in the Imperial College in London,” she said.
“He trained in Japan – Japan has a brilliant rate of survival for stomach cancer.
“So I had a private consultation with him and he said he was willing to do the operation on the NHS for me,” said Georgina.
“I went off to London, met him and he said, ‘You’re so fit and well, it’s ridiculous.’
“There was a 1 per cent chance of dying during the operation and the operation was horrific.
“I had the operation in August, had my stomach removed, most of my oesophagus, my spleen and he also removed 123 lymph nodes – which was amazing.
“And he got rid of all the cancer – every bit of it.
“So I’m in remission now and I’ve got to go back in January for more bloods and they’ll obviously check on me for the next five years, but yeah, it’s pretty good news,” Georgina said.
“I feel amazing. Obviously, I’m still recovering – it takes a whole year to get over the operation, but obviously, he’s an amazing surgeon – and he hand-stitched everything.
“I was home within two weeks after the operation, even though I has sepsis, I had a lung collapse. It was pretty traumatic.
“I was supposed to have more chemotherapy after the operation but I had one more round but I couldn’t tolerate it because without a stomach it’s very hard to tolerate anything. I still didn’t feel like I was recovered enough either.
“I don’t know whether I’m going to have any more treatment or not,” she said.
As she no longer has a stomach, Georgina has changed the way that she eats every day, but sees this as being a worthwhile sacrifice to still be alive.
She said: “I can eat most things, somethings I can’t tolerate – like bread or beef. So anything that you can chew in your mouth and make it to a pulp, that will work.
“So my oesophagus now joins to my small intestine, so it [food] just goes straight through. So I have to take enzymes to help process the food every time I eat, but I can eat most things. Two table spoons of food at a time and I eat six times a day.
“It’s a huge adjustment but I’m alive so I don’t mind. I think it’s worth doing that and it will be for the rest of my life and who knows how long we have to live – same as everybody, you know?”