Richard Dipzinski was looking forward to summer and all the outdoor activities that were waiting in the northwest suburbs. But Richard was starting to have trouble sleeping at night because of stomach pain. At first, he chalked it up to heartburn and acid indigestion.
As the weeks wore on, Richard knew there might be more to his stomach pains at night. “The pain was excruciating,” Richard recalls. “I wasn’t sleeping at all, so I finally made an appointment with my doctor.”
After several doctor’s appointments throughout the suburbs, Richard was told he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. When one of his doctors recommended Malcolm Bilimoria, MD, at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Richard wasted no time in making an appointment.
Dr. Bilimoria is the director of the Illinois Center for Pancreatic and Hepatobiliary Diseases at NCH and Chief of Pancreas and Hepatobiliary Surgery.
"Dr. Bilimoria was so comforting at such a devastating time in my life,” Richard says. “He explained that my pancreas did not have an enzyme to digest food properly. Then he said 'I have known about this surgery and I have been waiting for a candidate.'"
After meeting Richard, Dr. Bilimoria was planning an extended distal pancreatectomy, splenectomy and en bloc celiac axis resection. Before surgery, interventional radiologists performed a special procedure to safely stop the blood flow to important vessels that supply blood to the upper abdomen, causing the blood to flow in a different route. The high-risk procedure to stop the blood flow was essential to removing the pancreatic tumor.
"The procedure performed on Mr. Dipzinski was a true team effort,” Dr. Bilimoria says. “Dr. Evan Oblonsky from interventional radiology was instrumental in embolizing a portion of an artery that delivers blood to the liver. After Dr. Oblonsky’s embolization, the body developed a new route to deliver blood to the liver. This allowed me to operate a few weeks later and safely remove the portion of artery that was involved with cancer."
Richard says he felt confident after meeting Dr. Bilimoria and knew the unique procedure offered at NCH would help save his life.
"Dr. Bilimoria exudes confidence and that gave me some peace of mind before the procedure,” Richard says. “His entire team is incredibly compassionate and that did a lot for my recovery."
Richard spent 11 days recovering at Northwest Community Hospital after the procedure in July. He watches his diet and makes sure he stays away from fatty foods. Richard continues chemotherapy treatments and is grateful for his life-saving operation.
"I was told that I was going to die,” Richard says. “It’s truly a miracle and I have a lot to live for. I am really excited."
To read other pancreatic cancer patient stories, click here.