The Tumor Was Eating Before He Was

The prospect of removing a cancerous 25-pound tumor from John Frick’s liver was daunting enough, but Dr. Sherry Wren got some stunning news the night before his surgery.

Wren, the chief of general surgery at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital, had always thought she would be able to deprive the tumor’s arteries of their blood supply during surgery. But tests showed that such a strategy would make the surgery even riskier and make the 63-year-old Berkeley man’s chances of survival far lower than the 50 percent she had expected.

“His tumor had arteries in it that were bigger than his liver’s artery,” Wren said. “It looked like a 20-pound turkey sitting in there.”

Although Frick’s weight of about 180 pounds was fairly normal for a man 6 feet tall, Wren said he was malnourished. And instead of having the normal 6 pints of blood, his body had less than 4.

“The tumor was eating before he was,” she said. “It was a giant parasite…”

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