Liver Cancer Survivor
Sandy Wolff, a fitness trainer who has dedicated her career to keeping herself and her clients healthy, was shocked when at age 42 she learned of a cancerous tumor near her liver. "I noticed that my skin and eyes had a yellow tint, so I went to my internal medicine doctor thinking I would get a prescription to correct it," she explains. "Instead, he determined I had a tumor near my liver and referred me to Dr. Osorio at California Pacific Medical Center because of his liver surgery skills. I flew to San Francisco from Las Vegas to meet with him and the liver team, where they ran some tests and determined that I needed major surgery to resect my liver."
Within a week after her evaluation at California Pacific, Sandy returned with her family for surgery. By that time, the liver team had put her in touch with a triathlete who had a similar surgery and Sandy had contacted him to compare notes. "There was a fear of the unknown, and having this other patient to connect with was and continues to be a huge comfort," she says.
During the eight and a half hour operation, the surgical team discovered the extent of Sandy's tumor and had to remove a portion of her liver that contained cancerous tissue. The surgeons also "did a little artwork" as Sandy describes on her bile duct, reconstructing a new one out of intestinal tissue.
While she was undergoing surgery, Sandy's two daughters, age 18 and 21, waited nearby to learn about the outcome. "I was so impressed that after almost nine hours in the operating room, the first thing Dr. Osorio did was to find my daughters and spend an hour with them explaining the situation. He was so patient and optimistic -- the whole liver team really makes you feel like you're their only patient," says Sandy.
She also appreciates the fact that the surgical team took her active lifestyle into account when they noticed a layer of atypical cells on her pancreas during surgery. "They could have just removed part of my pancreas to correct the problem, but the doctors knew that this would prohibit me from the activity I'm used to, so instead they corrected everything necessary and left safe margins," she says. Sandy has the cells closely monitored in case further growth occurs, but in the meantime has continued her physical activity.
In all, Sandy was hospitalized for 10 days following her surgery. "The nursing staff at California Pacific was unbelievable during my stay," she says. "Everyone -- from nursing to the liver team -- is on top of their game. They are so thorough in all their explanations and the care they provided. When I was discharged, they had the foresight to give me a copy of my medical file and encouraged me to keep it updated with information from my doctors in Nevada. It's an incredibly efficient system."
Through California Pacific's Las Vegas outreach clinic, Sandy sees her hepatologist once a month. "When someone saves your life, you have a strong bond with them and want to maintain that relationship," she explains. "The outreach program is great because I didn't have to have my medical care handed off to someone new. Instead, I can continue to see my doctor locally in Las Vegas."
Although she's undergoing chemotherapy and doesn't always feel 100%, Sandy says her "belief in cardiovascular exercise has made her get out of bed and move." The day after she was discharged, Sandy attended her daughter's high school graduation and a few days later, biked twenty miles. Now, Sandy's training for the Las Vegas Half-Marathon in February and next April, nearly one year following her cancer diagnosis and surgery, she plans to compete in the Boston Marathon-a goal that will no doubt be reached through her determination and optimism.