Woman needed life-saving surgery after removing tumour diagnosed as ‘pulled muscle’

Catherine Kilgallen, from Rotherham, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in June 2021, which left her with a two-stone mass in her tummy

Catherine Kilgallen
Catherine Kilgallen was left needing a stoma

A woman was left needing a life-saving procedure after surgery to remove a cancerous tumour – first diagnosed as a ‘pulled muscle’ – went wrong.

Catherine Kilgallen, from Rotherham, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in June 2021, which left her with a two-stone mass in her tummy, Yorkshire Live reports.

The cancer, retroperitoneal retro sarcoma – a rare cancerous tumour that grows in the abdomen – had originally been misdiagnosed by Catherine’s GP as a pulled muscle.

But after treating the “bump”, which had left Catherine looking “obese” and noticing that it was not getting any better, Catherine, 64, insisted that her doctor send her for tests.

She said: “One day I did have a very big tummy and was told I’d need to lose weight, but I’d gone on every diet I could go on and lost weight but never from my tummy area.

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“But that didn’t ring alarm bells with any of the medics, they said I was obese and needed to lose weight; but I didn’t have fat arms or fat legs, just a fat tummy.

“One day I felt I’d pulled a muscle in my side, this was during Covid, so I rung my doctor and he agreed it sounded like a pulled muscle but over the weeks it got worse and more painful.”

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Luckily, Catherine was sent for hospital scans which revealed the extent of the mass growing inside her – a huge tumour weighing two stone.

Catherine had to undergo a gruelling surgery, which lasted for hours, to have the tumour removed and, during the surgery, she also had to have a kidney, an ovary, part of her stomach wall and part of her liver removed.

But, shortly after Catherine had come out of surgery and was recovering in the hospital ward, she had to be rushed back into theatre because she was haemorrhaging.

“They had to rush me back into theatre to find the bleed and they realised that they’d caught the bowel on the way out”, Catherine said.

This meant that – just hours after having her tumour removed – Catherine was once again undergoing a life-saving procedure; this time to fit a stoma, as her bowel could no longer work normally.

A stoma is an opening in the body which allows the removal of waste, often performed when the bowel or intestine is damaged.

But for Catherine, she was not given any time to prepare for this life-changing procedure – as there had not been anything wrong with her bowel when she went into hospital.

“I wasn’t expecting a stoma”, she said, “it was a shock to be told that I had one, but I’m grateful that it saved my life.”

Despite the mistake, Catherine said that she was not angry or upset to find out that the surgeon had caught her bowel, as she said that it had been a “massive operation”.

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She added: “The surgeon was an absolute angel, he was such a gentleman and a kind man, so I wasn’t angry or cross and wasn’t thinking that people had been negligent.

“It was a massive operation and they had to take a lot of stuff, including muscle, to get clear margins and I’m waiting for further scans to see if it’s been successful.

“But, with it being a sarcoma, it is an unusual cancer and I’ve been told that there is a 30 to 70 per cent chance it could return, so I’ve got to get my head around that more than having the stoma – the stoma isn’t going to kill me, the cancer could do.”

Catherine, who had never needed to have any procedures in hospital before her surgery, said that she was just “quite grateful to wake up at all.”

And, though it has not been smooth sailing with getting used to the stoma, she is now part of a group of other women who are raising awareness about the importance of these lifesaving procedures.

She said: “The bottom line is that procedure saved my life because if it hadn’t occurred I’d have bled to death.

“I joined a social media support group and one of the girls in that support group was very new to the stoma, she’d only had it a couple of weeks, and she said that she thinks it is important to raise awareness.

“Even for me, I didn’t know going into hospital that I’d be coming out with a stoma, it can happen to anybody and at any time.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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