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Pensioner with watermelon-sized stomach tumour makes miraculous recovery after life-saving operation

A retiree with a watermelon-sized tumor in his stomach has miraculously recovered from life-saving surgery.

Derek Cornelius, 71, of West Parley, Dorset, was given months to live after doctors first found the 22-pound tumor at Royal Bournemouth Hospital in October.

His stomach started to get so big that he looked pregnant in early 2021, but blood tests by his doctor did not show the cancer.

A CT scan at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital revealed the sarcoma tumor and doctors told him there was nothing they could do.

The retired social worker was told the growth was useless and would continue to spread to his vital organs, eventually crushing them.

However, a second doctor told him surgery was possible – although the procedure itself could kill him.

Doctors completely removed Cornelius’ tumor last December and he survived, despite losing a kidney.

He is now back to jive dancing with his 44-year-old wife Pam, despite having permanent numbness in his right thigh.

Cornelius is now back to jive dancing with his 44-year-old wife Pam after life-or-death surgery

Derek Cornelius, 71, of West Parley, Dorset, was given months to live after doctors first found the 22-pound tumor at Royal Bournemouth Hospital in October

Derek Cornelius, 71, of West Parley, Dorset, was given months to live after doctors first found the 22-pound tumor at Royal Bournemouth Hospital in October

WHAT IS SARCOM?

Sarcomas are rare cancers that can grow anywhere in the body – on muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels and fat tissue.

Bone sarcomas are rare, affecting about 670 people a year, but there are other types of bone cancer as well.

There are about 100 different types of sarcomas and about 5,300 people are diagnosed each year in the UK.

Sarcomas can be treated well if people catch them early, but many people aren’t diagnosed until their tumors are about the size of a can of beans.

Only slightly more than half of people with sarcomas (55 percent) survive five years or more after their diagnosis.

Symptoms of sarcomas may include bone pain, swelling or lumps, and limited movement if it grows near a joint.

Treatment may include typical cancer therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.

Source: Sarcoma UK

Cornelius said, “I look at my life differently now because I feel like I’ve had a near-death experience.

“When I first got my diagnosis, it seemed like there was no hope at all. Absolutely none and that I only had a few months to live.

“Now I count my blessings every morning and think how lucky I am.

“I just hope that when people read my story, they try to get a second opinion, because that could save more lives.”

He first noticed he gained weight during a period of inactivity after a running injury early last year.

It wasn’t until October, when he got his flu shot, that he had a talk with his GP about the sudden and rapid weight gain.

He was admitted for tests at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, where a CT scan confirmed the devastating news that he had sarcoma cancer.

He said: ‘I was told that the tumor had taken up 90 percent of my stomach space and was threatening to spread to my vital organs.

“When a woman has a baby, they usually weigh seven pounds. I was carrying the equivalent of triplets.

“I was told it was terminal and nothing could be done about it.

“Of course my wife Pam was upset, but I tried to keep the mood light, I wasn’t too worried. We couldn’t do anything.’

There are about 100 different types of sarcomas and about 5,300 people are diagnosed each year in the UK.

Only slightly more than half of people with sarcomas (55 percent) survive five years or more after their diagnosis.

But dr. Anthony Skene, a consultant at the hospital, saw his case and sought a second opinion from Dirk Strauss, a consultant surgical oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

After meeting Dr. Strauss told Cornelius that it could be removed, but the surgery could be fatal.

He said he felt “elated” when he was later told about the second opinion.

Mr Cornelius said: ‘Suddenly there was hope. When I went to London and met Mr. Strauss, he asked me what I would like to do with the tumor.

“I told him he could cut it out or blow it up with dynamite, as long as he got it out of me.”

The three-hour surgery took place in December, he said, and although he has numbness in his leg, it won’t affect walking, running or dancing.

He also had 70 stitches from his groin to his chest.

Professor David Nicol, chief of surgery at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Sarcomas are among the rarest cancers and are often very difficult to treat.

This is because they can affect any part of the body, sometimes grow very large and vary greatly in symptoms and behavior.

‘As a specialist cancer centre, The Royal Marsden sees many patients, including those with a sarcoma diagnosis, referred from across the UK, often for highly complex surgical procedures.

‘It is always wonderful to see how patients, who may have no other options, recover after a major operation.’

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