RIVERVIEW, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It’s hard enough hearing that you have a tumor, but can you imagine being told it’s the size of a second-grade child?
That is what happened to a New Jersey woman, who barely survived the surgery to remove it.
It was late April when “Evelyn,” who didn’t want her last name used, noticed something strange happening.
“My belly started getting bigger and bigger, but the thing was, I didn’t have any coverage to cover an operation or anything,” she told CBS 2’s Don Dahler exclusively on Monday.
So Evelyn and her husband, William, waited six weeks to see a doctor until her 65th birthday, when Medicare kicked in.
She finally went to Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, N.J., in early June. She said she wasn’t in any pain, but was just curious about why her normally slim body was getting very round.
“We were kidding about it, of course. But we didn’t know it that it was something really, really serious,” Evelyn said.
But surgeon Dr. David Dupree said he did notice something serious the minute he felt her stomach.
“The size was something I’d never seen,” Dupree said.
The tumor completely encompassed Evelyn’s entire abdomen and abdominal cavity. What a CAT scan cross-section of her body showed was an enormous, fast growing tumor called a sarcoma that weighed 51 pounds, the doctor said.
“Oh my goodness! I said, ‘Holy smoke! for real?’ He says ‘Yeah.’ And he showed me pictures on his phone and I said, ‘Whew, that thing is huge!'” Evelyn said.
The tumor was crushing not only many of Evelyn’s organs, but the main vein leading to her heart. The Union Beach resident was dying. So Dr. Dupree immediately rushed her into surgery. It took five delicate hours to separate the tumor from the surrounding organs.
“We were going millimeter by millimeter,” Dr. Dupree said.
Once it was cut free, it took two surgeons to remove it.
“We both literally had to hold our hands together to lift this 51-pound tumor out,” Dr. Dupree said.
It was difficult and exhausting and touch-and-go at times, but Evelyn survived.
“It was probably one of the greatest moments of my life,” Dr. Dupree said.
Dr. Dupree said his patient is recovering nicely and will be able to go home in a few days — with a story to tell, and a life-long bond with the man who saved her.
“I love him to pieces,” Evelyn said.
Sarcomas like Evelyn’s make up 1 percent of all adult cancers, but there are few accounts of any as big as hers. Just this week, doctors removed a 33-pound tumor from a 2-year-old in Mexico.
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