A fter learning the extreme abdominal pain she was having was a result of appendiceal carcinoma, her appendix and surrounding The many weeks that Schepisi and her husband ken spent in Baltimore away from their business took its toll in many ways including emotionally and physically. After coming home to New Jersey, Schepisi was soon hospitalized for dehydration and couldn’t eat or drink for nearly a week but was eventually released. The events had a financial impact on the family as well. For years their plumbing business was successful, but around the time of the surgery, the economy started to decline. They sold their dream house in monroe Township and downsized to another home in the same town. “every day ken would ask me how i felt, and i would simply go through the motions and just tell him i was ‘okay.’ But one day after about three months, tissue were removed and she began chemotherapy under the care of local oncologist James Salwitz, mD. A routine cT scan during a follow-up visit in 2009 showed a pelvic mass. She was referred to Rutgers cancer institute, where she had a full hysterectomy, temporary colostomy and partial colon removal and was set on another course of chemotherapy. While she resumed normal activity like going back to work as a weight loss coach and helping with the family business, she suffered the loss of her mother shortly after. “Throughout this whole experience, people have said that i’m so strong. it’s really a type of survival instinct i have. But given everything that was happening, 2009 was a difficult time for me,” shares Schepisi, who had to draw upon that survival instinct again and again over the next few years. in 2010, Schepisi was met with another suspect cT scan, which revealed masses consistent with the presence of cancer in a thin layer of tissue in the abdominal cavity known as the peritoneal lining. Returning to Rutgers cancer institute, surgeons deemed Schepisi would benefit from a unique combination procedure known as cytoreductive surgery (cRS) and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy — or HiPec — but it wasn’t being offered at the facility at that time. in fact, the procedure was only available at a few northeast locations. After learning someone in her family circle had undergone this specialized surgery at a Baltimore hospital, that is where she decided to go. HIPEC 101 A round for about two decades, cRS – HiPec treats cancers of the abdominal cavity and abdominal lining including appendix, colon, and stomach cancers, as well as some cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The procedure, which can take anywhere from six to 15 hours, involves removing all or most of the tumor and even affected organs if they are not critically needed. chemotherapy heated to 107 degrees Fahrenheit is then administered directly into the abdominal cavity, bathing the area for an average of 90 minutes before it is drained and the area stitched closed. While the surgery itself is very involved, so is post-surgery recovery, with an average hospital stay of seven to 14 days. Schepisi awoke to multiple tubes inserted in her body for breathing, nutrition, draining of fluids, medication and waste excretion. She stayed in the hospital for 10 days, then another 10 days in a nearby hotel so she could be close to the Baltimore care team for immediate follow-up visits. P HOTO By : N i c k R O m A N e N kO “Those with slow growing cancers and disease that is responding to chemotherapy are good candidates for HIPEC. Patients who are also young and healthy like Lisa tend to have better outcomes,” notes Lisa Schepisi’s surgeon Timothy Kennedy, MD. i really did feel ‘okay’ and started to rebuild our life,” she says. This included workouts at the gym and going out with friends. Schepisi also took stock in everyday activities such as curling up on the couch with ken and their dog Juicy, as well as spending time in her recently P HOTO By: DeB B i e VOGeL Autumn 2016 I Cancer Connection I 17