Patient StoriesMarch 5 2024

Patient Story - Betty Collins

When Betty Collins was treated for cancer 30 years ago, there was a time she feared she wouldn’t be able to maintain the active lifestyle that she and her husband enjoyed. Now married for 48 years, they love playing pickleball, fishing and traveling together, and Betty credits Dr. John L. Bell and UT Medical Center with her long-standing cancer survivor story.


Betty first learned that something was wrong when, after undergoing a hysterectomy, the surgeons told her that they’d found a jelly-like substance all over her abdomen. “It was such a confusing, busy time,” she said. “We didn’t even know what type of cancer it was or what the treatment would be. It was stressful not knowing.”


Once the pathology reports from her surgery were assessed, the cancer was diagnosed as mucinous cyst adenocarcinoma of the appendix with pseudomyxoma peritonei. She consulted with Dr. Bell at UT Medical Center and asked him to review the results. He concluded that Betty had Stage 3 appendiceal cancer, and together, they discussed a treatment plan.


After she participated in a clinical drug trial that did not stop the cancer from growing, Dr. Bell told Betty that surgery would be necessary. He recommended that they follow a new protocol published by Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, considered one of the world’s leading peritoneal mesothelioma and peritoneal cancer experts. They discussed the possibility of Betty being treated directly by Dr. Sugarbaker, but his office was in Washington, DC. That would’ve meant staying in DC for four months – without her husband – and then traveling back every month for follow-up treatments.


“Dr. Bell felt they could handle my case at UT Medical Center,” Betty said, “and I believed they could do what they said they could do. He shared everything with me, explained what we could expect and how everything was going to go. It was great to be here with my friends and family.”


The surgery successfully removed the cancer, and Betty received chemotherapy treatment for four months afterward. “It was hard - I had nausea and just a general feeling of being not well,” she said. “But I gutted it out. I had to do it. We had to follow the protocol.”


It was a long road to recovery, just trying to get her strength back. “I didn’t really feel great until about nine months after,” she said. “It took a long time before I quit thinking about it. I kept thinking the cancer might come back after five years. Now, days and weeks go by that I don’t even think about it.”


Betty thanks Dr. Bell and all of the nurses who treated her so kindly during her cancer journey and notes that she had a lot of support from family and friends as well. “I think that I found some inner strength that you find when you need it,” she said. “But now I can say that I feel blessed to be a 30-year cancer survivor.”