Kathryn Berecic: What are the symptoms of appendix cancer?

Fit and healthy young teacher, 31, is diagnosed with rare stage four cancer during a routine surgery: ‘I had all my hopes and dreams ripped away’

  • Kathryn Berecic was diagnosed with stage four appendix cancer at 31 last year 
  • A routine appendix removal led to the deadly diagnosis 
  • Since then the young teacher has been taken on an emotional roller coaster 
  • A GoFundMe has launched to raise funds for the ongoing treatment needed 

Kathryn Berecic’s world was turned upside down after being diagnosed with a ‘rare and aggressive’ form of stage four appendix cancer last year at just 31.

The young teacher, from Melbourne, received the devastating news last year after having routine appendix removal surgery. She’s now fighting for life as the cancer has spread throughout her body. 

‘This diagnosis came as a huge shock as I’ve been health conscious and active my whole life,’ she wrote on GoFundMe where she’s crowd-funding for last-chance treatment.

‘I had all my hopes and dreams ripped away from me, which is a hard pill to swallow as a 31-year-old.’  

Melbourne teacher Kathryn Berecic (pictured) was diagnosed with appendix cancer at the age of 31. The news came as a complete shock as she was always 'fit and healthy'

Melbourne teacher Kathryn Berecic (pictured) was diagnosed with appendix cancer at the age of 31. The news came as a complete shock as she was always ‘fit and healthy’

She received the devastating diagnosis last year and since then she's travelled to Sydney for 'the mother of all surgeries'

She received the devastating diagnosis last year and since then she’s travelled to Sydney for ‘the mother of all surgeries’ 

Appendix cancer is incredibly rare and difficult to treat, impacting just one or two people in every one million. Because of this few surgeons specialise in it. 

‘Initially we met with a few different surgeons, all of which knew nothing about treating my type of cancer,’ Kat wrote.

‘There’s only about 10 surgeons in the world who are experts in this field, one of them being in Sydney.’ 

On March 2, 2021, Kat travelled from Melbourne to Sydney to meet with a surgeon and medical team for what was meant to be a three-day trip that was extended. 

‘My doctor deemed it too unsafe to travel back home prior to surgery because of some suspected developments with the cancer,’ she said. 

On March 16 she had the ‘mother of all surgeries’ which involved being under the knife for 12 hours to remove ‘a number of infected organs’ then had heated chemotherapy ‘poured directly into her abdomen’ in attempt to kill any cancerous remains. 

This left Kat with huge scars down her stomach. 

On March 16 she had the 'mother of all surgeries' which involved being under the knife for 12 hours (pictured)

On March 16 she had the ‘mother of all surgeries’ which involved being under the knife for 12 hours (pictured)

‘Recovery was not easy. I had heard time and time again that this was one of the most difficult surgeries that anyone could endure, but nothing could prepare me for this,’ she wrote. 

‘I had a longer than expected stay in ICU due to extreme pain and nausea, but things began to look up when I was transferred to the ward. 

‘The surgery took months to recover from and, to this day, have a significant impact on my day-to-day life.’ 

Her time in Sydney was repeatedly extended but she finally returned home to Melbourne in May 2021, then started chemotherapy in November.

What are the symptoms of appendix cancer?

Appendix cancer may not cause symptoms in its early stages. However, some people may experience symptoms such as: 

  • appendicitis (lower right abdominal pain)
  • gradual increase in waist size
  • build-up of fluid in the abdomen
  • bloating
  • changes in bowel habits
  • hernia
  • ovarian mass or lump

Source: cancer.org.au

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Flash forward to early 2022, Kat had routine scans which displayed no signs of cancer, but that was later found not to be the case.

She then flew to Sydney again to have the cancer removed in her stomach, liver, spleen and peritoneum. 

In her latest health update shared on November 6, Kat said she’s had three major surgeries, two doses of HIPEC and 20 rounds of chemotherapy, though this hasn’t worked as well as hoped. 

She and her family have decided to opt for Adoptive Cell Therapy – a form of personalised immunotherapy made with your own blood. 

On November 6, Kat said she's had three major surgeries, two doses of HIPEC and 20 rounds of chemotherapy, though this hasn't worked as well as hoped. She and her family have decided to opt for Adoptive Cell Therapy - a form of personalised immunotherapy that's expensive. So far $89,533 has been raised of the $200,000 GoFundMe page goal

On November 6, Kat said she’s had three major surgeries, two doses of HIPEC and 20 rounds of chemotherapy, though this hasn’t worked as well as hoped. She and her family have decided to opt for Adoptive Cell Therapy – a form of personalised immunotherapy that’s expensive. So far $89,533 has been raised of the $200,000 GoFundMe page goal

However, this treatment isn’t available in Australia and Kat has need to travel to Japan twice for her first round of therapy, and return a few times a year for ongoing treatment. 

Kat said the treatment ‘involves directly isolating her immune and natural killer cells, activating them and vastly expanding their numbers’. 

‘These cells are then reintroduced into my body through a series of injections and infusions to significantly boost my body’s capacity to fight against the cancer,’ she said. 

But the treatment is incredibly expensive, with the first round of injections costing roughly $50,000 and ongoing treatments is expected to cost hundreds of thousands.  

Kat and her family hope funds from the GoFundMe page will assist with the ongoing huge costs of treatment. 

‘Being the selfless person Kat is, I know she wouldn’t want people fussing over her but I feel this is finally an opportunity to give back to such an amazing woman that has given so much to others,’ her friend, Danni, wrote.

‘Kat and her husband have moved in with her parents so she can receive the daily care and support she needs and have added help navigating frequent specialist appointments.’

So far $89,653 has been raised of the $200,000 goal, which can be viewed here.

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