WHEN Sarah Rice had a bloated stomach she thought she had irritable bowel syndrome.
But the 33-year-old actually had a rare form of cancer that had started in her appendix. It affects just one in a million people.
For me it is really important to raise awareness for the condition so people can be aware of the symptoms.Sara Rice
The cancer, called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), spreads in the abdomen and covers the organs in a thick mucus.
It is so rare that Sarah, from Fareham, had to get in touch with an organisation before meeting other people with the condition. Thanks to the group she got to learn more about the cancer and now wants to help raise awareness.
Sarah said: ‘For me it is really important to raise awareness for the condition so people can be aware of the symptoms.
‘I put up with what I thought was IBS for 18 months. It was only because I didn’t feel right in myself that I kept going back to my doctor.
‘Learning about the cancer from the group was helpful to me and it was good being able to speak with other people with PMP.’
To help raise awareness, Sarah was sent a unicorn called Audrey which was created by a supporter of the charity Pseudomyxoma Survivor.
People make a donation to the charity and get sent Audrey, named after Audrey Hepburn who died from PMP.
Sarah added: ‘We each get sent the unicorn for a week or so to post on Facebook and social media.
‘We can use it to raise awareness for the condition and to get the message out.
‘Audrey travels all over the world and it was nice for me to be sent her.’
When Sarah, a mum-of-two, had problems in her abdomen the doctors thought she might have cervical cancer.
She underwent a full hysterectomy last September to have her womb removed and it was only after a biopsy that doctors learned she had PMP.
Sarah then had to undergo a 13-and-a-half hour operation in March to remove the cancer. As part of the procedure, she also had part of her diaphragm, gall bladder, spleen and bladder removed.
She spent 24 hours in intensive care and a further 11 days in hospital.
The surgery was successful and Sarah is now in remission and will have a check-up in a year’s time.
She said: ‘It has been a tough year, especially when I just thought it was IBS.
‘Things happened really quickly from the hysterectomy to the full surgery to get rid of the cancer.
‘But I just have got on with it really. I have two young kids and it is something I have accepted.’
Sarah said she was thankful for the support she has had from family and friends, especially from her husband Dominic.
He is running the Great South Run in October to raise awareness of PMP.
For more information on the charity visit pseudomyxomasurvivor.org/