NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A diagnosis of stage four ovarian cancer can be devastating, but imagine being told it’s a death sentence.
It happened to one local woman, but an experimental procedure not only gave her hope — it saved her life.
Isabel Navas now has countless holidays to look forward to, but just over a year ago she was told to get her affairs in order after an ominous diagnosis.
“Your world comes crashing down within a second,” she told CBS2’s Kristine Johnson.
It was devastating news not just for the 77-year-old, but also her tight-knit Colombian family.
“Abuela really helped raise all of them,” Marcos Navas said.
It all started, Isabel said, with a bloated stomach.
“I never think it was cancer because I never have pain,” she said.
Isabel had a full hysterectomy and started chemotherapy, but just two weeks later doctors told her the cancer had spread and they were out of options.
Unwilling to accept the fate, Isabel turned to the gynecological oncology team at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey. Dr. Steve Kwon and Dr. Sharyn Lewin decided to try an experimental treatment known as “chemo bath.”
“It involves two components,” Dr. Kwon said. “One is surgery where you have to remove all the visible cancer. The second part is the installation of a high temperature chemotherapy into the abdominal wall cavity.”
Essentially, her abdomen was filled with hot chemotherapy liquid. Studies show cancerous cells can’t withstand the heat, and pouring chemotherapy on top of the tumors can be more effective than delivering it through the bloodstream.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Dr. Lewin said.
The procedure has been successful in treating a range of cancers that have spread to the abdomen, such as colon, appendix, and stomach cancer. Isabel is just one of the patients to enjoy the success.
“All of these patients are now cancer free, which is so wonderful,” Dr. Lewin said.
Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure, which is intense and can last up to 12 hours.
Isabel’s speedy recovery earned her a special nickname; the miracle lady. It’s something she’s thankful for each and every day.
Doctors also credit Isabel’s positive outlook and the overwhelming support of her family to her quick recovery. One month prior to the procedure, she saw a physical therapist and nutritionist in preparation. Afterwards, patients don’t necessarily experience the nausea associated with traditional chemotherapy treatments.