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Cancer patient gets new lease of life

  Saturday, 21 l 05 l 2011  Source: The Straits Times   
By: Fiona Low

She was told back in Russia that she had two years to live

cancer-patient-new-lease-of-lifeRUSSIAN seafood seller Alexander Grishin, 33, was prepared to lose his girlfriend of nearly 10 years after she was diagnosed with third-stage ovarian cancer, and doctors said there was no chance of survival. But thanks to a leap of faith, the couple will be getting married later this year. A successful operation in Singapore has given 29-year-old Ms Inna Yunker a new lease of life.

The cook at a kindergarten was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer 11/2 years ago. When it was discovered, the cancer was already in its final stages and had spread to the upper abdominal cavity, affecting the kidney and ureter as well. Doctors in Vladivostok told Ms Yunker she had about two years to live. This was partly because the type of ovarian cancer she had was a less common type, in which the tumour can grow to be very large. This form of ovarian cancer affects about 10 per cent of all ovarian cancer patients. “The sheer size of the tumour in both her ovaries made it technically very hard to remove,” said her Singapore doctor, Dr Tay Eng-Hseon, who is the medical director at the Thomson Women Cancer Centre. To make things worse, the right tumour was pressing on Ms Yunker’s kidney and ureter, increasing the risk of injuring the other organs during the operation.

After two unsuccessful operations and 14 rounds of chemotherapy in Russia, Ms Yunker said she had all but given up and was “just waiting to die”. Then she decided to come to Singapore, after getting feedback from friends who had travelled here for medical procedures. She borrowed one million roubles (S$44,000) from friends and relatives. Her expenses here ended up amounting to about $24,000.

“I was very scared when I came to Singapore, but I was hopeful at the same time. It was my last hope,” said Ms Yunker, who had previously never been outside the former Soviet Union. In a three-hour operation performed early this month, her doctors removed two large tumours – the bigger one measuring 18cm in diameter – as well as her uterus, appendix, and a layer of fatty tissue in front of the intestines, known as the omentum. Dr Tay said: “I am confident that all the tumour has been removed and that Ms Yunker will be able to lead a normal life once she heals from the operation in about three months.” He added she has an 80 to 90 per cent chance of being free of the same disease for the rest of her life. Aside from regular check-ups, there is no need for her to be on medication.

Should there be a relapse, she can go for another operation if necessary. In an interview yesterday, a visibly relieved Ms Yunker chatted about her future plans: “I am shocked to realize that I am going to be okay. I am very happy of course, because I thought that I had only two years to live.” She plans to marry her boyfriend this year in Russky Island, off Vladivostok, where they have lived together for the last eight years. She also plans to go back to work – she stopped last year after her diagnosis. “I also want to change my life. I would like to help people, but I don’t know how yet. Time will tell.”

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