As Camilla Row, wife of Hallmark star Brennan Elliott, recovers from her most recent surgery for gastric cancer, she’s received a mixed bag of news that has the couple grateful she trusted her gut and went ahead with the operation. Row has been dealing with ongoing treatments and surgeries since her initial cancer diagnosis in 2018.
Row underwent her fifth HIPEC surgery on August 23, 2023, after tests revealed atypical cells that were “suspicious for metastatic adenocarcinoma,” according to a post on her private Instagram account. Initially diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2018, a recurrence discovered in early 2022 led to a stage 4 diagnosis, requiring ongoing treatment and interventions to keep the cancer at bay.
When Row posted a photo of her all-liquid diet the day after surgery, sharing that she was recovering in the hospital and awaiting pathology results, Elliott — who’s appeared in nearly two dozen Hallmark movies — responded, “So proud of my warrior queen!”
On August 29, Row provided a lengthy update, revealing that she and Elliott had received word that small pelvic lesions found and removed during surgery were cancerous, meaning that her current treatment regimen has not worked in keeping cancer from recurring. However, she celebrated multiple silver linings, said she has some “big decisions” to make, and reiterated that she is determined to try whatever’s necessary to keep thriving.
“I love my life and I am not willing to give up anytime soon,” she wrote.
Camilla Row Says Cancer Would Not Have Been Found Without Latest Surgery
When recent tests revealed suspicious cells in her pelvis, Row had to make the difficult decision on whether to have another complicated HIPEC operation, or just wait and see if the cells flagged as being suspicious would cause cancer to spread.
“I had been mulling over what to do about the atypical cells,” she wrote in a post before surgery, “but when I saw the words ‘suspicious for metastatic adenocarcinoma…’ it gave me reassurance that my decision to undergo another #hipec was the right one.”
According to City of Hope in Los Angeles, where Row is a patient, the lining of the abdomen, or the peritoneum, can present “challenges when cancer strikes.” The hospital’s peritoneal surface malignancies team offers patients an “alternative to traditionally administered chemotherapy” with HIPEC — which stands for hyperthermic (or heated) intraperitoneal chemotherapy. City of Hope describes it as an “aggressive surgery for cancer followed by immediate delivery of chemotherapy to the peritoneum in a single procedure.”
Now, she knows for sure it was the right decision, since her team discovered that the cells had already become cancer.
She wrote, “During my laparascopic hipec, my surgeon removed a few small flat lesions on my peritoneal lining down in my pelvis – well those tiny 2mm suckers where cancer, confirmed by my surgeon. We are both scratching out heads because those pelvic spots were not there in my June laparascopy. So these are new and grew to be 2mm in the past 8 weeks. Scary to think how fast growing this cancer can be.”
“But the GREAT news,” Row continued, “is that my surgeon was able to easily remove that area and then apply the heated chemo solution directly to the area in question. So with that theoretically being my only visible cancer – I am back to having no measurable disease.”
In the comment section of her post, someone asked Row whether they could have detected the cancer in any other way.
She replied, “If I relied only on scans, this would have been missed completely. Sadly the only accurate way to inspect/evaluate the peritoneal cavity is thru an invasive procedure ie. Laparoscopy”
Brennan Elliott’s Wife, Camilla Row, Says They’ll Continue to Look for Innovative Ways to Keep Cancer Away
In addition to getting to her latest cancer recurrence early, Row said in her post that she also considers the surgery to be successful because they gained “a lot of information out of this experience.”
She explained, “We learned that my disease is (1) contained in the peritoneum, (2) it can grow back in the absences of hipec treatment (3) my maintenance regimen of Capecitabine and Opdivo is not effective in preventing recurrences for me.”
“So as I m learning and evolving,,” Row continued, “so may the cancer. “They’re smart and they can mutate to become treatment resistant. But we ready!”
Row then shared that another positive — “a little more frosting on the cake,” she wrote — is that her “previous atypical peritoneal fluid is now negative! All the thickening and areas of sheeting near the bottom of my ribs/diaphragm is all scar/fibrosis and no cancer!”
Row and Elliott are still waiting on results of a Signatera test, she said, which City of Hope calls a “liquid biopsy” that detects cancer circulating in the DNA. They’ll also work with her surgeon to create a new treatment plan, which may include a new type of chemo.
Row concluded her post by writing, “So much to think about and some big decisions to be made. I am of course disappointed that I didn’t get the ALL CLEAR, but I know that progress is not always linear. Sometimes we take 2 steps forward and one step back – so I will continue on this journey. It’s taking longer than expected, but I love my life and I am not willing to give up anytime soon. Here we go again!”
When someone asked whether there’s a limit to how many HIPEC surgeries can have, Row replied that “its more about how many my body will allow” and added that “at this point we will have to probably shock those little buggers by introducing a brand new chemo regimen.”
Last November, in an essay for the advocacy organization Hope for Stomach Cancer, Row shared that in 2018, she was initially diagnosed with stomach cancer at age 39 after two-and-a-half years of struggling with “frequent and persistent heartburn” that was continually misdiagnosed until she had an endoscopy.
Row, who spent eight years as a clinical psychologist, shares her story and experience with various therapies in hopes that it not only inspires others to recognize the signs but also motivates researchers to develop new treatments.
In her essay, she wrote, “I’ve always been a fact-driven person, so I’m motivated to research stomach cancer even though I might not always like what I find. I feel hopeful that with advancements in technology and awareness, new treatments are right around the corner for this aggressive type of cancer.”
In June, Elliott posted a touching tribute to his wife on Instagram in honor of National Cancer Survivor’s Day.
He wrote, “To say I am PROUD of this warrior queen is an understatement!!! She is an absolutely incredible woman and fighter. I don’t wish what we as a family have gone through on anyone,and wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through or experience a second not only what my wife has gone through but ALL of those men and women who have been effected by this horrible disease.”