Ky - Pancreatic Cancer Survivor

Ky Hopewell was facing a daunting surgery to remove a potentially malignant cyst from his pancreas. A long-time Federal Way resident, his South Sound physician told him he was a candidate for the Whipple procedure, where the duodenum and sections of the pancreas, stomach, small intestine, gall bladder and common bile ducts would be removed. The remaining section of pancreas and small intestine would then be rerouted to a new opening in the stomach and the remaining bile duct reconnected to the small intestine.

Ky, and his wife, Mary Ann, knew he was in for a long recovery.

Thankfully, before Ky went ahead with the procedure, he followed a neighbor's recommendation that he get a second opinion from Virginia Mason surgeon Scott Helton, MD. Dr. Helton, the director of Virginia Mason's Liver, Pancreas and Biliary Surgical Center of Excellence, and the team of surgeons at Virginia Mason, perform substantially more Whipple procedures than any medical center in Washington state. Studies show that hospitals that perform a high number of the procedures have higher success rates. So Ky already knew he was in good hands.

“I feel great. I’m back at work and able to keep up with the activities I did before I was diagnosed.”

When Dr. Helton began surgery, he performed an intraoperative ultrasound and noted that the cyst, which was 1.3 inches in length, was benign and only a quarter of it was encapsulated by the pancreas. This presented a new option, to enucleate or shell out the tumor. He had executed this procedure on other tumors, but never on this type of cyst. Although there were challenges with this method, such as GI bleeding, this method appealed to Dr. Helton in that, unlike the Whipple, it allowed more preservation of Ky's healthy organs.

Thankfully, Ky didn't experience any pancreatic leakage or GI bleeding. Instead of being in the hospital 14 days, Ky went home after five days. And his predicted two month home recovery dropped to eight days. “I feel great. I'm back at work and able to keep up with the activities I did before I was diagnosed.” These include keeping up with two grandchildren and volunteering for Reach Out Federal Way, a program that benefits homeless men and women.

Ky adds with a smile, “Getting the second opinion from Dr. Helton was the best decision I made.”