Glenshaw woman credits food poisoning with helping doctors discover rare cancer diagnosis



PITTSBURGH - A Glenshaw woman credits food poisoning with possibly saving her life from a rare form of cancer.

“Although no one ever wants to get food poisoning, for me it was actually a lucky thing,” said Susan Killmeyer.

The food poisoning lead to a test that discovered a leiomyosarcoma in her vena cava, a vessel that feeds the heart and liver.

“Had it not been discovered, I may not have had any options,” Killmeyer said.

Leiomyosarcoma affects only 5 in a million and is often detected too late.

The cancer does not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation. 

“She’s very lucky she caught it at a relatively early stage,” said Dr. David Bartlett, a surgeon at UPMC CancerCenter.

Bartlett knew Killmeyer would need all that luck and the skills of many to survive the difficult surgery.

“It’s a complicated surgery itself, where we had multiple surgeons, very skilled anesthetics and anesthesiologists that were able to keep her alive during the surgery was quite remarkable,” he said.

After the surgery, there were major setbacks including renal failure and paralysis, yet Killmeyer considers herself a lucky lady.

“I truly believe and I know that I would not be here today if I did not have the team who cared for me,” she told Channel 11’s Peggy Finnegan.

Fifteen months later, Killmeyer, a nurse at UPMC Shadyside, was back to work and in October, she walked her daughter down the aisle.

“I looked over at her and we both just smiled and thought, what a happy day,” she said.

Killmeyer gets a CAT scan every three months, but feels very confident she will be walking her second daughter down the aisle in April.