Oklahoma woman hoping for cutting-edge cancer surgery to save her life

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. - Amanda Simmons loves spending time with her husband of three years in their Pauls Valley home. They have dreams of turning their land into a farm but, for right now, those plans are on hold.

“Stage 4 B colon cancer,” Simmons said she has.

She was diagnosed with the colon cancer on New Year's Day, a month after her wedding in 2014. Simmons had surgery to remove the tumors and went into remission.

“It had metastasized a year after that surgery, it came back and it's been a real struggle since it came back,” Simmons said.

At only 42 years, Simmons is hoping for a lifesaving cure. After doing research with a friend, she found a cutting-edge treatment at the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa. It’s called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC, a treatment for patients with cancer in the abdomen.

The operation is a two-step process.

“The first part is opening up the abdomen, sucking out all of the contaminated fluid and then removing the tumor to the maximum extent possible,” said Dr. Pragatheeshwar Thirunavukarasu MD, a surgical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

That can mean moving around several organs.

The second part is pouring heated chemotherapy into the abdomen.

"We know that heat has a destructive effect on the cancer cells so, to maximize the chemotherapy effect, we heat the chemotherapy,” Dr. Prag said.

It's a six to 12-hour surgery that minimizes exposure to chemotherapy. Dr. Prag said one study shows a better result with the concentrated type of chemo versus the traditional method of administering it.

"They found that the survival rate in this group was better than the other group."

Simmons is waiting to see if she will be a good candidate for HIPEC and has her first appointment with CTCA on January 16, with hope she'll be able to live her life again cancer free.

“If I am, then I'll have a real chance of actually being cured,” Simmons said. “That would mean everything. It would mean the freedom to go on with my life.”

Dr. Prag said there are several factors to be a candidate, which takes several appointments to determine.

Simmons said, if she is a candidate, Medicare will cover 80 percent of the cost but is expecting it to still cost thousands of dollars out of pocket.

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Simmons’ friends set up a fundraising account to help with medical costs.