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One Patient's Story

Whipple story

Image courtesy of MarathonFOTO

Seasoned marathon runner Charles Stickney was used to his endurance being tested. A fit 57-year-old who worked on his feet all day as a pharmacist, Stickney was not initially concerned when he experienced intermittent stomach pain at night. But during an advanced endoscopic procedure, BIDMC gastroenterologist and Chief of Endoscopy Ram Chuttani, MD, diagnosed a cancerous mass low in Stickney's common bile duct. Chuttani sent Stickney to colleague and renowned pancreatic surgeon, Mark P. Callery, MD, chief of general surgery at BIDMC, who told Stickney that a Whipple procedure - one of the most complicated operations patients can undergo - was his only option.

BIDMC is one of America 's highest volume pancreatic surgery and endoscopy centers. Of the 160 major pancreatic operations BIDMC performs annually, more than 100 are Whipple procedures (with an operative mortality of 1.6 percent).

The six-hour operation to remove the mass and surrounding organs took Stickney out of the running for the 2003 Boston Marathon, for which he had qualified.

"Dr. Callery told me that he could return me to the quality of life that I was accustomed to," says Stickney, "and I promised him that a year after my surgery, I would run the Marathon."

Indeed, Stickney took that positive attitude into the operating room and beyond, making a stunning recovery that included competing in two marathons - the first just six months after surgery - before fulfilling his promise to sprint across the Boston finish line in 2004. He also ran the Boston Marathon last year and is training now for the 2006 race.

Stickney credits Callery with giving him a second chance at life and the sport he dearly loves, and he can't say enough about the doctors, nurses and care he received at BIDMC. Callery successfully reattached the remaining portion of Stickney's pancreas, bile duct and stomach to the small bowel and remarkably, extensive biopsies of surrounding tissues were cancer free, eliminating the need for chemotherapy and radiation.

"I have no restrictions," says Stickney who was two months out of work before he laced up his sneakers and never looked back. "You have to approach life with a positive attitude," he adds. "It's part of the healing process."