A 25-year-old woman’s life was saved when she lost five stone and ended up with painful gallstones – which turned out to be hiding a rare cancerous TUMOUR.
Hannah Humphrey dropped from a size 18 to a size eight in 18 months after years of fat jibes by playground bullies.
Formerly 17-and-a-half stone, she was over the moon with her new slender frame.
But shedding the pounds so quickly left her in excruciating pain – which turned out to be caused by hundreds of GALLSTONES.
Surgeons carried out a routine op to remove her gallbladder in early January and told Hannah that everything would be OK.
But three weeks later she got a phone call from staff at the hospital asking her to come in for a chat – and was given shocking news.
A surgeon sat Hannah down and told her that the small, hard balls of cholesterol that had been causing her so much pain were in fact hiding a rare, cancerous TUMOUR.
The 1mm to 2mm-wide tumour was growing and could have killed her if left untreated.
Fortunately, blood tests revealed that the deadly cancer had not spread.
And now Hannah, of Shotley, Ipswich, keeps the gallstones that ended up saving her life in a jar on her mantelpiece.
Hannah, who is engaged to marry engineer Matt Debnam, 27, said: “Never in a million years did I think that anything good could have come from gallstones.
“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.”
Hannah, who has osteoarthritis and connective tissue disorder, suffered a childhood of cruel jibes about her weight and comfort ate to help her through.
She decided to shed the pounds in January 2015 after seeing her GP with blisters on her feet and being told that losing weight would solve all her problems.
At first, she tried meal replacement shakes in search of a quick fix, but later ditched them in favour of eating a healthy, balanced diet.
“I saw things in a different light and realised that the portion sizes I thought were acceptable before were huge,” Hannah said.
“I lost four and a half stone in 18 months and I felt much better about myself.
“But the side effect was gallstones.
“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.”
After visiting her GP in December 2015, Hannah was referred to Ipswich Hospital where medics discovered she was suffering from gallstones.
Though usually harmless, Hannah’s ones were blocking a bile duct, causing her sharp, intense pain in her shoulder and ribs and nausea.
She needed surgery to remove her gallbladder but because it was just before Christmas, it was booked it in for early January.
While she waited, she was banned from eating fatty foods as they can make the pain worse – so was forced to have a festive lunch of plain veg, boiled potatoes and grilled chicken.
Hannah said: “It was my first Christmas with my fiancé and his family were all eating this amazing-looking roast. Then there was me with my veg.
“The worst thing was that when you smell food you produce bile, so if I smelled really nice food I would be basically be punished.
“All I could eat was toast and vegetables and I lived and died with my heating pad because the pain was so horrific.
“It was like a nightmare. I’ve never been through labour but I imagine that could come quite close.”
On January 21, Hannah underwent a routine op to remove the pouch-like organ and was released from hospital the next day.
She found herself in agony days later but the pain subsided after a follow-up appointment, so medics sent her home again.
But in the middle of February, three weeks after the surgery Hannah’s surgeon, Mr Fahed Youssef, invited her and her parents in for a chat out of the blue.
It was there that the consultant delivered the shocking news.
Hannah’s gallbladder had been sent to a lab to be analysed and tests showed that it contained a potentially deadly neuroendocrine tumour.
Luckily, the cancer, which was in the early stages, hadn’t spread.
Hannah said: “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.
“It truly was a nightmare – but they saved my life.”
She added: “I can never repay the hospital staff enough and I’m so grateful to Matt and my family for helping me through.”
Dr Fahed Youssef, consultant surgeon at Ipswich Hospital, said he has never seen anything like it in 20 years of removing gallbladders – and probably won’t ever again.
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.”
He added: “I was very pleased to be in a position last time I saw her to shake her hand and give her the all clear.”