A man became one of just four people in the world to survive multiple organ transplant surgery in a bid to beat his incurable cancer.
Adam Alderson was told by doctors his rare peritoneal cancer, pseudomyxoma peritonei, meant he was just weeks from death.
But the 37-year-old has defied the odds by surviving 17-hour ground-breaking surgery which required 30 people working shifts to remove the 10kg tumour.
It resulted in the removal of Adam’s stomach, small bowel, large bowel, pancreas, spleen, gall bladder, appendix, abdominal wall and most of his liver, before multiple abdominal organs were transplanted into him.
Adam, from Preston-under-Scar in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, is now looking forward to marrying his fiancée Laura Blanchard following the success of his operation.
His new future is testament to his determination.When Adam was first put onto palliative care he refused to accept his bleak prognosis – and admits his doctors have credited his stubborn temperament as what made him survive.
Adam said: ‘I was dying; my girlfriend could see it, my friends could see it and I was very aware of how little time I had left. This was my last chance.’
He had suffered with bowel problems for many years.
At first, he was misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, and it was only when he and Laura had embarked on a new life to Australia in 2011 that he realised it was something more serious.
Adam said: ‘We were having the time of our lives, making friends, going out and partying, working hard and playing hard.
‘We had been in Australia for around 18 months when I was diagnosed with PMP. The diagnosis came out of nowhere. I just collapsed. It’s the old cliché – it’s never going to happen to me.
‘I was told it was very rare and had to get back home for treatment at the Christie Cancer Hospital in Manchester – a world leader in cancer treatment.
‘It is hard to take in, but right from the moment I was diagnosed I knew I was going home to fight, not to die. We flew home in February 2013 and had my first appointment at the Christie the same month.’
Preparations were made for him to have an operation in the hope that the surgeons could remove as much of the tumour as possible.
The debulking procedure would be coupled with washing the tumour in hot chemotherapy. But when he came round from the operation he was told it had been too dangerous for it to be completed and there was nothing they could do.
Adam said: ‘Just a few months earlier, I was looking forward to a life at the other side of the world, but I was now told that I had as little as two years to live. I was only 35-years-old.’
Adam refused to accept that his life could be cut short and despite being extremely ill and weak, he researched treatments and surgeries around the world.
He finally heard about an operation that former England rugby league player Steve Prescott, also a PMP patient, had undergone.
The operation was complicated and a world first ever to be performed; it required the removal of Steve’s tumours followed by a multi-organ transplant.
Adam learnt that Steve had undergone pioneering surgery at Churchill Hospital in Oxford.
The 32-hour operation was a success, but Steve died as a result of graft-versus-host-disease, a complication that can occur following transplants.
Adam said: ‘I’m not known for my patience, and I have a very fiery temper so to be told that I was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it wasn’t sitting well with me.
‘I decided there and then that this was an opportunity for me. I started researching and came up with the same name over and over again, Brendan Moran.’
Mr Moran, a surgeon from Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and PMP specialist, was working towards more progressive treatments of the disease that would focus on cure as opposed to prolonging life, and he agreed to see Adam.
By this time, Adam’s health was deteriorating. He was fed through a tube by Laura, and had lost so much weight he couldn’t get himself out of the bath.
Despite concern from his doctors, Adam pushed to have the same surgery – and after a long battle, undergoing tests and waiting for a donor, he finally went under the knife in the summer of 2015.
Pseudomyxoma peritonei is a very rare type of cancer that usually begins in your appendix as a small growth, called a polyp.Or, more rarely, it can start in other parts of the bowel, the ovary or bladder.This eventually spreads through the wall of your appendix or wherever else it starts. It then spreads cancerous cells to the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum).These cancerous cells produce mucus, which collects in the abdomen as a jelly like fluid called mucin.Not long afterwards, it was officially announced that the procedure had been a success. Adam is now preparing not only to marry his fianceé Laura, who has faced each of his health battles alongside him, but also to take part in the Mongol Rally.
The Mongol Rally is a car rally that begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, Russia. The car must be farcically small, teams are totally unsupported and they need to raise at least £1000 for charity.Adam said: ‘Now I want to give something back, to raise the profile of PMP and most importantly the belief that you should never give up.
‘I really cannot thank the medical team enough. They believed in me and they took a risk – a big risk – but it has paid off.
‘I also want to thank the donor family. The harsh reality is that someone has lost their life for someone else to live and I will never forget that or take it for granted. I will appreciate that for as long as I live.’