Man survives tentacled “Alien” tumor
Yoiks. He seems like such a nice guy, too.
Chico Father Survives ‘Alien’ Tumor
By Kelli SAAMÂ |Â www.krcrtv.comÂ |Â February 16, 2011
CHICO, Calif. — A Chico man survived what some are calling an alien tumor. A cantaloupe-sized tumor sprouted tentacles inside Josh Abken’s chest and attached to his backbone and ribs.
Now Abken’s surgery and successful recovery are the subject of a medical case study. His case was profiled earlier this month at a medical conference at Mercy Cancer Institute in Sacramento to explain his rare and risky procedure.
Abken, 37, said the medical scare gave him and his family a new lease on life. His children, 4-year-old Isabella and 2-year-old Sydney, are too young to know that their dad is a medical miracle. He said after first hearing his diagnosis in February 2010, he didn’t want them to grow up without a father.
“I was confused at first,” said Abken. “I couldn’t believe it because there was nothing else wrong with me.”
His only symptom, back pains that grew worse until a chest x-ray in early 2010 revealed the mammoth tumor growing between his heart and lungs.
Doctors say the tumor grew undetected for between 10 and 20 years, filling much of his rib cage. Alien-like tentacles from the cancerous growth had attached to his backbone and three ribs, the bulk of it pushing his heart forward, his lung backward and his stomach downward. If left unchecked, new tentacles would begin squeezing the lung and heart to the point that Abken would have a hard time breathing.
“The doctors weren’t sure they could take it out without killing me,” said Abken. “When they did more studies it wasn’t the type that could be killed with radiation or chemo, to give me a chance to live they would have to take it out.”
When Abken took time off from his job as a vice principal at Brittan Elementary School in Sutter County, students and colleagues wrote letters of support. To lighten the mood, he nicknamed his tumor Gill. “A kid at the school asked me ‘Mr. Abken, are you going to kill Gill?’ A teacher I worked with played off that the ‘Kill Bill’ theme and make a shirt that said ‘Kill Gill’”
“It became something I could refer to in a light hearted sense, so it wasn’t so demoralizing or scary.” The surgery in April 2010 removed the tumor and three ribs.
Now the Abken girls have their Daddy back home, and Josh’s wife Emily says he’s already resumed almost all his activities. “I’m so thankful to have my husband still here, that we were able to make it through,” said Emily. “God must have a reason for him to be here.”
“I’m thankful to have lived through it, I learned to be a better and happier person. I don’t take anything for granted, it was a blessing.”
Now nearly a year after his surgery, Abken is still cancer-free.
Abken was referred to Mercy Cancer Institute thoracic surgeon Costanzo Di Perna, who had never performed this exact surgery. He was diagnosed the tumor as a chrondo sarcoma. CT scans have shown no return of the tumor. He will continue to be scanned every six months.