‘Thank you for giving me my life back’
Mary Clancey, 71, of St. Clair, Schuylkill County, couldn’t speak two words without having trouble breathing. She was having trouble walking with blood clots in her legs combined with carrying 365 pounds on her 5 foot 1 1/2 inch frame.
“Things started getting harder to do – harder to walk, harder to stand – and then one day in November 2016 I couldn’t get out of bed,” Clancey said. Her son, Ed, called an ambulance and had her taken to her local hospital, where they performed a CAT scan and determined a cyst in one of Clancey’s ovaries had grown into a 140-pound, stage one cancer tumor, equal to almost half her weight. She was immediately transferred to Lehigh Valley Health Network -Cedar Crest where she met Richard Boulay, M.D., LVHN’s chief of gynecologic oncology.
“The results of Mary’s CAT scan are permanently ingrained in my mind,” Boulay said. “The mass was so big, it didn’t even fit in the picture of the scanner. I had never seen anything like it.”
Clancey said when she first noticed she was “getting a little plump” she said she just thought she was going to be “a short, fat, round little old lady like (her) Aunt Mary.”
The surgery was carefully orchestrated by Boulay and his team to handle the logistics of removing a mass that large. The largest mass Boulay removed in the past was 53 pounds. He was assisted by Dr. Randolph Wojcik, LVHN’s chief of plastic surgery.
Two tables were bolted together and Mary was on her side for the 5-hour surgery. A total of 10 doctors and nurses and two surgical teams assisted with the surgery.
Clancey was in LVHN for 26 days to recover from surgery, where they removed the 140-pound mass and 40 pounds of skin.
“I didn’t want to rupture it; I needed to get it out safely,” Boulay said.
“The mass was slow growing,” Wojcik said. “It stretched out the abdominal wall and skin. I was a tailor and reconstructed the wall.”
“We have trained for this,” Boulay said. “The mass needed its own blood supply so we needed to take care of the blood vessels before detaching it.”
Boulay likened the mass to a rubber dodge ball. He said the mass contained cancer cells and was 95 percent liquid. Because the mass was cutting the blood supply to her legs and had pushed her bowels, if left untreated there would have been a different outcome.
Clancey said she was surprised to learn of the diagnosis. “I felt good in their hands,” Clancey said.
Referring to her doctors, Clancey said, “They are just wonderful. I had no pain or discomfort afterward. I feel wonderful.”
To the doctors, Clancey said, “Thank you for giving me my life back.”
“This is why we went into surgery – to help people like Mary,” Wojcik said.
“I feel blessed. It could have been a tragedy,” Clancey said.
Clancey is a more petite 147 pounds today.
Wojcik quipped Clancey might be ready for a two-piece bathing suit this summer, to which Mary replied, “No” adding, “I might just turn into a voluptuous babe now.”