Five months after Hallmark star Brennan Elliott rejoiced on social media over wife Camilla Row’s clear pathology results following surgery for gastric cancer, Row was back in the operating room for another complicated procedure.
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 gastric 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.
After filming a new Hallmark movie with Erica Durance earlier this summer, Elliott has been able to spend the last few weeks at home with Row and their kids — Luna, 8, and Liam, 10 — due to the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike. He’s been focused on making memories with his family, joining the picket lines, and supporting Row through this latest hurdle in her cancer journey.
Camilla Row ‘Hoping & Praying’ to Receive ‘All Clear’ After Latest Surgery
Row was faced with the difficult choice of undergoing another complicated HIPEC operation or waiting to see if the cells flagged as being suspicious would cause cancer to spread.
In her post about her decision to move ahead with surgery, Row wrote, “I am not the kind of person who makes big risks without guaranteed benefit, but through this journey I have had to change my mindset – and give myself permission to make the best choices possible but also permission to get it wrong.”
“I had been mulling over what to do about the atypical cells,” she continued, “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 Cancer Center, where Row is a patient, “Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in glands that line the insides of the organs.” When it spreads to other parts of the body, it’s called metastatic adenocarcinoma.
The surgery Row’s undergoing for the fifth time, HIPEC, stands for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy surgery, designed to treat “certain cancers in the abdomen,” according to Dr. Fabian Johnston, chief of the Division of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Johns Hopkins.
After any visible evidence of cancer is removed, according to Dr. Johnston, the HIPEC procedure entails inserting a catheter to pump chemotherapy drugs into the abdominal cavity. The drugs are then heated by a perfusion machine that “flows them through your abdomen for one to two hours.” Tissue samples are also taken for biopsies to determine whether any cancerous cells remain.
In her recent post about the surgery, Row wrote, “I will take chances in hopes of derailing this cancer train before it comes crashing back into my life again. I am hoping and praying that I can get myself back to an ALL CLEAR and I am optimistic that can be accomplished.”
Brennan Elliott Has Called Wife’s Cancer Battle an ‘Impossible Journey’
After Row’s fourth HIPEC surgery in March, after which she received a clear pathology report, Elliott posted a video of her taking some of her first steps in the hospital and celebrated the good news with fans, saying he was on “cloud nine.”
“It’s been such an impossible journey but today is a day to rejoice in Gods mercy and grace,” he wrote at the time.
The following month, Row wrote an essay for the nonprofit Hope for Stomach Cancer, detailing her difficult journey, which included the removal of her “entire stomach and 47 lymph nodes” after her initial diagnosis in 2018. She then underwent three months of chemo in an attempt to “mop up any rogue cancer cells,” she wrote.
Row was closely monitored by her oncology team, but by 2021 there were signs of cancer potentially developing elsewhere in her body. She underwent a preventive bilateral mastectomy that May, but in February 2022, doctors discovered that her cancer had recurred and spread to her ovaries. She then underwent a salpingo-oophorectomy, which the National Cancer Institute describes as “the surgical removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries,” and began a new chemotherapy regimen.
Row also receives immunotherapy infusions every other week, she recently shared privately on Instagram, admitting how “exhausting” her new reality can be.
She wrote, “Did I ever mention having an incurable, chronic, potentially terminal disease like cancer is like having 2 full time jobs? Managing the surgical with the oncological/hematologic needs, definitely need a primary care and of course gastroenterologist. Also got myself clinical dietician and an endocrinologist for reactive hypoglycemias that can accompany us stomachless folk. It’s can be pretty exhausting.”
Nevertheless, both Row and Elliott remain upbeat and hopeful, relying on each other and their faith to tackle each new step. On Instagram in mid-July, Row admitted how upsetting it initially was to have to another surgery, but that she decided she needed to focus on the positive and move forward with hope.
“When I first heard the news, a darkness instantly came over me,” she wrote. “The thought of having to constantly be poked and prodded, cut into, isn’t appealing and I know each surgery gets harder and harder. But then I got sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself.”
“I want to be clear that I am thankful,” she wrote. “I thank God for allowing us to ‘catch’ this early so I have options for intervention.”
After attending an event with other gastric cancer patients and their families before an Los Angeles Angels baseball game, Elliott posted a photo with his kids, sharing that they when life is stressful, they always help him remember what’s truly important.
“Stay in the moment and enjoy the present,” he wrote, “that’s why it’s a gift!”