by Caroline Rykard, OU Medicine
When a Bartlesville man’s everyday activities became hampered by a 65-pound weight gain he couldn’t explain, he received a lifesaving solution from an OU Medicine surgical team.
In 2014, Larry Barham thought he was just gaining some extra pounds around his waist. But over time, the weight became hardened and began affecting his daily life to the point where he lost his appetite, he couldn’t drive and even had trouble walking.
“I couldn’t walk 20 feet without having to stop to breathe,” Barham said.
It got to the point where his wife, Donna, had to assist her husband most everywhere he went.
“He always hunted, fished and took the grandkids out, but he just got to where he couldn’t walk or breathe anymore,” Donna said.
When Barham visited his physician for a simple prescription refill, his wife decided she was going to get to the bottom of the mystery. His doctor was concerned about his protruding stomach and referred Barham for a biopsy. The results were anything but optimistic.
The test showed that a mass was growing in his abdomen below the diaphragm, taking up nearly the entire space. The mass pushed out his abdominal wall, and his bowels, which typically take up most of the abdomen, were forced into a small space normally occupied by the liver. This prevented his diaphragm from functioning normally, which disrupted his breathing.
Because Barham’s local hospital didn’t have the expertise to treat the massive tumor, he was sent to OU Medicine in Oklahoma City, where he met with Ajay Jain, M.D., chief of surgical oncology.
On Feb. 14, Barham was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a rare type of cancer that begins in the fat cells. The cancer develops slowly at first, but can become more aggressive if not addressed. Soon after making the diagnosis, Jain told Barham that he would need surgery to remove the mass.
“These types of cancerous tumors are not responsive to radiation or chemotherapy,” Jain said. “The mainstay of treatment is surgery.”
Exactly one month later, on March 14, Barham was sent to the operating room at OU Medical Center, where Jain removed the 65-pound tumor during a six-hour surgery.
Unfortunately, Barham’s left kidney had to be removed as well because it was surrounded by the tumor. This required urology surgeons Michael Cookson, M.D., and Mohammad Ramadan, M.D., to join in on the procedure. However, despite the size of the tumor, his prognosis is positive.
“I think he will do very well,” Jain said. “He is 65 pounds lighter so walking will definitely be easier for him, although he may need some surgery down the road to get rid of excess tissue from his stretched abdomen.”
For now, Barham is taking things slowly and learning how to move around in his new body. Most of all, he can’t wait to get back to hunting and fishing with his grandkids.