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El Camino Hospital and Me

Tom’s Story: Bile Duct Cancer

What if you were told that a tumor was growing in your bile duct and liver, and the chance of surviving five years or more was only 7 percent? Would you give up hope? Tom didn’t, and today, more than four years after his diagnosis, he is back to work, running global operations for a public company. Here’s his story.

In August 2007, Tom was working in Japan when he felt such fatigue he began to think his heart wasn’t working properly (heart disease runs in Tom’s family). He returned to the U.S. and later received a shocking diagnosis: Tom had bile duct cancer.

Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) occurs when a tumor grows in the bile duct. A rare cancer, it affects only about 4,000 Americans each year. Tom’s tumor was a Klatskin tumor, which means it was in the upper part of the bile duct. Successful treatment of a tumor such as Tom’s requires an extremely complex operation involving many internal organs.

“When they first looked at my tumor, the surgeons weren’t sure if they would be able to operate,” recalls Tom, who was treated by general surgeon Augusto Bastidas, MD, and cancer surgeon Shyamali Singhal, MD.

At the time Tom was just 58 years old, father of three, and a grandfather, too. “I wasn’t sure what to tell my family at that point.”

On New Year’s Eve of 2007, Tom went into surgery.

“Dr. Bastidas and Dr. Singhal removed my tumor, plus half of my liver and my entire gallbladder. They also reconstructed my bile duct,” says Tom. Although the surgery was a success, the nurses kept a close eye on him for 10 days while he recovered. “My liver was in such poor condition, they weren’t sure if I would make it.”

Fortunately, Tom recovered, and went on to have radiation and chemotherapy treatment during the first nine months of 2008. By 2010, Tom was feeling so good he went back to work full time in a job that continues to take him all around the world. (Tom also resides on two coasts, with homes in Campbell, California, and Boston, Massachusetts.).

Although Boston has plenty of world-class doctors, the majority of Tom’s care in the past four years has been handled by the doctors at the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center.

“And what I appreciate most is that all my doctors know each other,” says Tom, who credits Dr. Bastidas and Dr. Singhal for their seamless coordination of care with his other doctors (medical oncologist Shane Dormady and radiation oncologist Robert Sinha). All four doctors are part of the El Camino Hospital medical staff and communicate regularly with one another.

When he looks back on his experience, Tom concludes: “Cancer sucks. But I can’t imagine any better treatment than the treatment I received at El Camino Hospital.”

Tom says he is happy to share his story with other cancer patients and hopes his experience will help encourage them to keep up their fight against cancer, no matter what the odds.