- Hannah Humphrey, 25, dropped from a size 18 to size 8 in just 18 months
- Weight loss triggered gallstones – cholesterol build up in the gall bladder
- Surgeons removed her gall bladder and sent it away for routine tests
- These revealed a potentially deadly cancerous tumour had been growing
A woman says having gallstones saved her life after surgery to remove them exposed a deadly tumour
Hannah Humphrey, 25, felt healthier than ever after she dropped from a size 18 to a size eight in just 18 months.
But her sudden weight loss triggered the painful condition, where small stones made of cholesterol develop in the gall bladder.
Surgeons carried out a routine operation to remove her gallbladder in early January.
But three weeks later she got a phone call from staff at the hospital asking her to come in for a chat and was told they had discovered a tumour in the organ.
Hannah Humphrey, 25, looked healthier than ever after she dropped from a size 18 to a size eight in just 18 months
The small, hard balls of cholesterol were in fact hiding a growth, measuring between 1 and 2mm.
Blood tests revealed that the cancer had not spread so no further treatment was needed.
Ms Humphrey, of Shotley, Ipswich, now keeps the gallstones which she credits with saving her life in a jar on her mantelpiece.
‘Never in a million years did I think that anything good could have come from gallstones,’ she said.
‘I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced and I thought that if they were all taken out everything would be better.
‘But when I remember that they saved my life, I realise they weren’t so bad after all.
‘If I hadn’t have had them, I don’t think anyone would have picked up on the cancer. It could have killed me.’
Ms Humphrey, who is engaged to marry engineer Matt Debnam, 27, also has osteoarthritis and connective tissue disorder.
She suffered a childhood of cruel jibes about her weight and comfort ate to help her through.
Ms Humphrey went in for a routine operation to remove her gallbladder (left) after suffering gallstones from her weight loss (right) but it uncovered something far more sinister
She decided to shed the pounds in January last year after seeing her GP who told her the blisters on her feet were being caused by her weight.
‘I saw things in a different light and realised that the portion sizes I thought were acceptable before were huge,’ she said.
‘I lost four and a half stone in 18 months and I felt much better about myself.
‘But the side effect was gallstones.
WHAT ARE GALLSTONES?
Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder.
They are a common condition affecting around one in 10 adults in the UK.
The condition is more common in overweight or obese people, women and the over-40s.
Usually the condition goes unnoticed, but when gallstones become trapped in ducts inside the gallbladder they can cause a sudden and intense pain – or colic – for several hours and may need surgery to remove.
Source: NHS Choices
‘I thought I was having indigestion quite a lot so I would go and get tablets and it would subside. I just thought something I was eating didn’t agree with me.’
She was referred to Ipswich Hospital where medics discovered she was suffering from gallstones.
These can occur after sudden weight loss as the body breaks down fat during prolonged fasting, causing the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile.
The gallstones were blocking a bile duct, causing her sharp, intense pain in her shoulder and ribs and nausea.
She needed surgery to remove her gallbladder and underwent a routine op to remove the pouch-like organ in January.
Three weeks after the surgery her surgeon invited her and her parents in for a chat.
Her gallbladder had been sent to a lab to be analysed and tests showed it contained a potentially deadly neuroendocrine tumour.
‘I was just in tears. If it hadn’t been removed, it could have killed me.
‘Gallstones were the worst thing I’ve ever gone through. I would never wish it on anyone.
She now keeps the gallstones in a jar on her mantelpiece as a reminder to herself
‘It truly was a nightmare – but they saved my life.’
Mr Fahed Youssef, consultant surgeon at Ipswich Hospital, said he has never seen anything like it in 20 years of removing gallbladders .
He said: ‘It is a generally uncommon cancer and normally it is found in other places in the body but in the gallbladder it is very very rare.
‘I was very surprised to find this. She was unlucky to have the cancer but she was extremely lucky to have it removed at that stage.
‘It would have become bigger. No one can say how quickly but it would have been more difficult to remove and it could have spread elsewhere.
‘I was very pleased to be in a position last time I saw her to shake her hand and give her the all clear.’