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Robert Stanford– Appendix Cancer Patient Story

Image of Robert Stanfod and his granddaughter, standing at an event.

Robert Stanford was living in Florida in February 2021 when he “lost every earthly possession” in a house fire. This prompted a return to the Pittsburgh area, where Robert had previously lived for 35 years

Now closer to family, Robert was working alongside his son-in-law on a home improvement project when he felt a pain in his stomach but didn’t give it much thought.

“I’ve been working in construction for most of my life,” Robert says. “I’m used to some pain, and we were almost done with the work so I kept going and hoped the issue wouldn’t get worse.”

Robert developed a hernia in March, and during surgery to repair it, doctors discovered the cause: a jelly-like substance had filled his abdomen and was pushing down on his organs. 

The Path to UPMC

Robert was advised to visit with M. Haroon Choudry, MD and Shannon Altpeter, PA-C from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Dr. Choudry told Robert he had pseudomyxoma peritonei, a stage IV condition from a rare cancer of the appendix. It could likely be removed as part of a specialized treatment involving surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion (HIPEC), which delivers high doses of heated chemo directly into a patient’s abdomen.

“Dr. Choudry impressed me with his professionalism,” Robert recalls. “He thoroughly explained what I could expect to experience, speaking so comfortably and reassuringly. I decided to put my life in his hands.”

Robert underwent treatment in April 2021, which included the removal of his appendix, gallbladder, and spleen, as well as portions of his intestines and colon before the HIPEC procedure. He remembers that it “felt like a dream” when he woke up, free of the issue that had been making him sick. 

“A Huge Blessing in Disguise”

Robert says he doesn’t like to impose on others or receive a lot of attention, preferring to be as independent as possible. But he really appreciated the welcome he received when he came home from the hospital.

“My grandkids and dog ran up to greet me at the door. They were so happy to see me.”

Robert’s grandfather and mother both died of cancer during decades when doctors didn’t have as many treatment options. Now 77 years old, Robert believes he’s blessed to live at a time when modern-day advancements are available, especially at places like UPMC.

“The house fire in Florida was devastating when it happened, but it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise because I may have ignored my symptoms if I still lived down there,” Robert explains. “People come into Pittsburgh from all over the world for the surgery I received, and I was thankful to be so close to such a well-equipped care team. Everyone I interacted with was outstanding.” 

Robert’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.