How having a stroke saved this woman’s life

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When a 60-year-old Montreal woman showed up in a hospital emergency department three years ago unable to control the left side of her face, she was treated for a stroke. It took a second ER visit and multiple tests before doctors realized that what had been causing her symptoms was, in fact, a rare form of ovarian cancer that doctors have dubbed "the empress of subterfuge."

Susan Caluori says a stroke saved her life.

The 60-year-old Montreal woman had just run a half marathon in December 2015 when her husband noticed the left side of her face was drooping. She wanted to keep watching TV, but he insisted they go to the hospital.

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The doctors there treated her for a stroke, the facial droop, and she was discharged a week later.

A couple of weeks passed, and she returned to the emergency department after becoming confused and disoriented and experiencing speech difficulties. It was then that doctors performed a series of tests that led them to identify a blood clot in one of her heart valves. With the help of a biopsy, they found the cause of the clot was a dangerous form of ovarian cancer.

“The empress of subterfuge,” her doctors called the cancer masquerading as a stroke.

It turns out that it was the malignancy in her Fallopian tubes that was the source behind her drooping face and the mixed-up words that her kids had been teasing her about for two months prior to her emergency room visit.

 

“The stroke saved my life. Yes, I have repercussions because of the strokes, but you know what, I’m alive because of them. If not [for them], they would have never have found the cancer,” Caluori said.

 

 

Caluori’s presentation was so rare that her medical team wrote up the case report in a medical journal last year.

“What alerted us to her having ovarian cancer is nothing in her abdomen or pelvis,” said Dr. Ziggy Zeng, a gynecological oncologist at the McGill University Health Centre. “The disease is so cunning it presented itself with a clot.”

The ovarian cancer caused Caluori’s blood to produce a clot that triggered the strokes, Zeng said.

Once properly diagnosed, Calouri’s cancer was treated with chemotherapy and surgery, and she’s now in remission.

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