Mesothelioma Survivor Shares Cancer Diagnoses, Surgeries

Stories from Survivors

Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor Shaun Bigbie is no stranger to cancer.

Doctors diagnosed 53-year-old Shaun with peritoneal mesothelioma in July 2023. Several years earlier, in 2017, doctors told him he had cancer in both kidneys. Before that diagnosis, he’s dealt with multiple cases of skin cancer.

Following a doctor visit last year, Shaun learned he’s genetically predisposed to cancer.

“When I went to see Dr. Dan Blazer at Duke Cancer Center, they took a [biopsy] from my kidney surgery, and they did a test on it. Come to find out that I possess a rare protein called BAP1, and what that means is I’m more prone to certain cancers,” Shaun told The Mesothelioma Center at

The inherited disorder can lead to a higher risk of developing cancerous and benign tumors at an early age. Tumors can grow almost anywhere, including the chest, abdomen and other internal organs.

In May 2023, after overcoming several cancer diagnoses, Shaun’s yearly CAT scan revealed strands of nodules in his stomach area. Two months later, Shaun learned he had mesothelioma

“When I found that out, I went home, and I’m not a big computer person, but I dove online and found The Mesothelioma Center,” said Shaun. He connected with Patient Advocate and Registered Nurse Karen Selby.

She found the help he needed. With Karen’s help, Shaun selected three doctors from around the country and visited all of them. He eventually selected Dr. James F. Pingpank Jr. at Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh for his cancer care.

Tests and HIPEC Surgery

Shaun says, for the most part, he didn’t really have any mesothelioma symptoms leading up to his diagnosis. 

“I was having a little bit of fullness when I ate, that wasn’t a concern as far as I was thinking. The doctors thought it was a mild case of diverticulitis. But that was the least of my concerns. It wasn’t enough to concern me with thinking something was wrong,” Shaun revealed. 

Once he was in Pittsburgh, Pingpank started a series of tests on Shaun.

“We drove to Pittsburgh; they did testing including CAT scans, and they did a biopsy just to make sure. During the biopsy, they found that it was peritoneal mesothelioma in my stomach, and there was a spot on my lung which had been there before from my kidney surgeries. They thought it was scar tissue. They said there was something in my chest as well. A couple of days later, they performed HIPEC surgery on my stomach.”

Doctors scheduled Shaun’s surgery in September 2023; the procedure was intense.

“They took out my gallbladder; they took out a portion of my large intestine; they took out the visible cancer, part of my stomach lining, and they did the chemotherapy through my stomach for a couple of hours,” Shaun recalled. “After that, I was in the hospital for 10 days.”

Shaun’s Second Surgery

Following that major abdominal surgery, Shaun’s road to recovery was cut short when doctors said he needed another operation. This time it was in his chest.

“They found out that there was something in my chest, and they had to do surgery on that, and that [procedure] was HITHOC. So I went in December 2023, still not fully healed from the first procedure, but well enough to perform this surgery.”

The procedure involved removal of a malignant tumor from his lung, removal of a portion of his diaphragm, and the removal of a section of the peritoneum wall. Once again, surgeons removed all visible tumors. After Shaun’s second major surgery, he stayed seven more days in the hospital.

Now Shaun has a CAT scan done every three months to ensure the cancer hasn’t recurred or spread. “My last scan was about a month ago; and they said the two areas of concern, the one in my stomach and one in my chest, had shrunk in size, and that anything visible that showed up on imaging is believed to be scar tissue,” Shaun said. 

“I feel pretty good. The second surgery was probably the toughest on me because whatever they did in my chest, the front of it is still numb,” Shaun said. “As is the section where they cut me on my back, depending on how I move it, can be painful.”Shaun hasn’t received any treatments for his mesothelioma since the two surgeries. His doctor mentioned immunotherapy to him, but since everything is looking good, there is no need for that right now. But it may be something Shaun will need to consider in the future.

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