As a farm worker in the San Joaquin Valley, Albert Sysavath is used to a few aches and pains. But when his stomach hurt so badly he could barely stand, he knew something was wrong.
After three days of tests at a local hospital, his doctor told him the bad news: Albert had severe stomach cancer and needed surgery right away. Without it, he could be dead within six months.
|Two years after a devastating diagnosis, Albert Sysavath is enjoying his return to a normal life.|
Albert contacted a leading hospital in the Bay Area. He was shocked to be told the soonest possible appointment was two months away.
"I didn't have time to wait," Albert says. "My doctor said if my cancer spread, all I could do was sit and wait to die."
Albert's son began researching alternatives. His search for the very best stomach cancer experts soon led to Dr. Joseph Kim, assistant professor in City of Hope's department of surgery and one of the nation's leading stomach cancer researchers.
Albert called Dr. Kim directly and explained the situation. Dr. Kim urged him to come to City of Hope right away.
We soon determined Albert would need to have most, or even all, of his cancerous stomach removed. Using a pioneering laparoscopic surgery technique, Dr. Kim could do this using only small incisions instead of major surgery. That meant far fewer side effects and much faster recovery.
By the end of the eight-hour surgery, Dr. Kim had removed not only Albert's stomach, but half his pancreas and several inches of intestine as well. Although he stayed at City of Hope for 21 days, Albert reports, "after a week, I was feeling better and better."
Several months of chemotherapy followed, but today -- despite the massive changes in his body -- Albert is optimistic about the future.
"My surgery was two years ago," he says. "July 7, 2007. I drive my car, my hair is coming back, I know how to eat just a little at a time. I am doing very well.
"With this kind of cancer, it is really hard to tell what will happen," he continues. "Everyone says I am very lucky. I know I am lucky."