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After Lobectomy Removes Lung Cancer, Another Marathon in

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After Lobectomy Removes Lung Cancer, Another Marathon in Sight


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Rod Simonds, 64, ran his first marathon in 1999. He ran his fourth in December 2005, a week before discovering he had a small tumor growing in his left lung. Now, with the upper lobe of the lung removed in a minimally invasive procedure a year ago at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he is training for his fifth 26-mile run, the New York City Marathon.

Newswise — Rod Simonds, 64, ran his first marathon in 1999. He ran his fourth in December 2005 – a week before discovering he had a small tumor growing in his left lung. Now, with the upper lobe of the lung removed in a minimally invasive procedure performed a year ago at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he is training for his fifth 26-mile run, which he hopes will be the ING New York City Marathon scheduled for Nov. 4.

Simonds runs with the encouragement of Robert McKenna Jr., M.D., the thoracic surgery specialist who performed his lobectomy. Surgical director of the Center for Chest Diseases and chief of Thoracic Surgery and Trauma at Cedars-Sinai, McKenna is a pioneer in video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and has researched and written extensively about the procedures and technologies that make it possible to perform major chest operations through small incisions, reducing hospital stays, pain, recovery times and complication rates.

“He told me I could still run marathons, just don’t do them as fast,” says Simonds, of Westlake Village, who has lived in California for about 28 years after spending his first 36 years in New York City.

The lung cancer diagnosis came as a complete surprise. As part of a routine physical exam, Simonds underwent a chest X-ray in November 2005. He ran the Las Vegas Marathon a couple of weeks later, completing the course without even having to walk part of the way. Although he felt fine, he received a call from the doctor’s office about a week later saying he needed to have more diagnostic tests performed because something suspicious had appeared on the X-ray.

A CT scan and PET scan confirmed the existence of a very small tumor – less than 2 centimeters – and Simonds was referred to McKenna, who scheduled the operation to remove the lobe as well as lymph node samples for biopsy. Lab tests later showed that the cancer – an adenocarcinoma (non-small cell carcinoma) – had not spread beyond the lobe. McKenna says Simonds’ prognosis is excellent and no further treatment is needed, although he does return about every six months for follow-up X-rays and CT scans.

Thanks to the minimally invasive procedure, Simonds’ down time was very short.

“I woke up in the recovery room right after noon on the 23rd of January (2006) after the hour-and-a-half procedure. I was home by noon the following day and went for a two-mile walk with my wife,” says Simonds. Within two weeks of the operation, he participated in the Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K (6.2 miles), walking about two thirds and running the balance.

“I think my quick recovery is indicative of my health or condition going into this and Dr. McKenna’s skill. If you looked at me today you would not be able to tell I had surgery one year ago,” says the self-employed certified public accountant, adding that his scars are barely visible. “It doesn’t even look like a cat scratch.”

Most surgeons performing a lobectomy make a large incision, four to 10 inches in length, cutting the muscles between the ribs and spreading the ribs to get into the chest. McKenna makes only a few small incisions, inserts a TV camera lens and specialized instruments into the chest and performs the same operation.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is employed in 90 percent of the lobectomies performed at Cedars-Sinai, according to McKenna, who is believed to have the largest experience in the world with the procedure and whose thoracic surgery practice may be the most active in the western United States. In contrast, VATS is used in only about five percent of the 40,000 lobectomies performed each year in the country.

The procedure can be technically challenging for surgeons who are not accustomed to performing videoscopic procedures and those who do not specialize in chest and lung surgery. Surgeons now come from around the world to receive training at Cedars-Sinai. An article in the February 2006 issue of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, authored by McKenna and his colleagues, is the largest published study of the VATS procedure, reporting on results of 1,100 operations performed at Cedars-Sinai between February 1992 and December 2004.

Although Simonds has been exercise-, diet- and fitness-conscious throughout his life, his interest in distance running was sparked when his wife of 28 years, Dolores, walked the Los Angeles Marathon in 1998. He has now run a marathon every year since 1999. He’s hoping to get into the New York City Marathon in part because the couple still has family and friends in the area and their son is in graduate school there – taking advantage of the apartment they still keep in the city.

With nine months to go before the race, Simonds is planning his training strategy. He usually starts with four- and five-mile runs, building up to a couple of 18-mile runs several weeks before a marathon.

“As far as my current routine, I do some running every week, mostly indoors, but my intent is to start getting outside, probably this weekend, and do a four-mile run, and then just build up gradually,” he says. “I don’t have the lung capacity that I did but I think that as I train a little harder it will come back. I’m expecting it to.”

One of 10 hospitals in California whose nurses have been honored with the prestigious Magnet designation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is one of the largest nonprofit academic medical centers in the Western United States. For 19 consecutive years, it has been named Los Angeles’ most preferred hospital for all health needs in an independent survey of area residents. Cedars-Sinai is internationally renowned for its diagnostic and treatment capabilities and its broad spectrum of programs and services, as well as breakthroughs in biomedical research and superlative medical education. It ranks among the top 10 non-university hospitals in the nation for its research activities and is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP). Additional information is available at www.cedars-sinai.edu.

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First of all, Rich, thank you for doing such a wonderful job of finding the most pertinent as well as up to date, scientific articles out there for us! I'm one of your biggest fans!!! I always scan down to see whether you've posted anything newsworthy...thanks for all of your effort.

In terms of running a marathon after a lobectomy, I just can't grasp how it can be done...26 miles even at any speed is a lot. This man is amazing...Does anyone know what each lobe does? Someone once told me that the left lower lobe removes carbon dioxide but I really don't know.

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