It seemed that every pound goes straight to his gut.
Hector Hernandez said that he was always a “big guy,” so he didn’t notice a problem until a couple of years ago, when his arms and legs began to shrink and his stomach grew larger.
A 47-year-old from Downey, Calif., Said he also began to struggle with heartburn and constipation and noticed that at times it was difficult for him to catch his breath.
At 300 pounds, he said, strangers began to look, and friends joked about his beer belly, although he said he rarely drank things.
When he first mentioned the problem to the doctor, he said that the doctor dismissed it, saying that some people just carry the weight differently than others.
"I just thought I was fat," Hernandez said in a telephone interview on Tuesday with The Washington Post.
But Hernandez said that his stomach is increasingly felt "heavy" and "heavy", so he got a second opinion.
Ultimately, he says, he was diagnosed with retroperitoneal liposarcoma, a rare but cancerous tumor that forms in fat cells, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Doctors do not know when the tumor began to grow.
According to his surgeon, he weighed 77 pounds.
Hernandez said he doesn’t know how to treat a tumor or an operation necessary to remove it.
At first he said that he was “shocked” and “confused,” but he also felt relieved that he finally understood what had happened.
“I had great support and prayers from family and friends,” he said, noting that they raised funds to help him recover. "I finally left him in the hands of God."
Hernandez surgeon William Zeng, an oncologist and assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, said that liposarcomas have developed over the years and can grow to large sizes, although they are not prone to spread or cause serious problems. Zeng, who specializes in sarcomas, said that throughout his career he surgically removed dozens of them, which usually ranged from 20 to 30 pounds.
“This is probably the biggest one I’ve deleted,” he told The Post, referring to Hernandez’s tumor.
During the many hours of operation during the summer, Zeng removed the tumor, which, he said, spared Hernandez’s large blood vessels and most organs, although he had to cut out a kidney that had been damaged. Zeng said that bleeding is the greatest risk associated with surgery, and that patients may die on the operating table, but there were no complications in the Hernandez case.
The surgeon said that Hernandez would not need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy, but since liposarcomas often return, Hernandez should periodically scan to monitor the situation.
“I was really lucky,” said Hernandez.
Now Hernandez said he feels "completely different" – more energetic and many, many pounds lighter.