Cancer survivor stands by procedure

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 20, 2005

Shepard Bryant had hardly ever been under the weather.

&uot;I’ve never been sick more than a bad cold,&uot; he said. &uot;I’d never had any surgery.&uot;

About two years ago, Bryant went to the doctor for his annual checkup. The exam revealed a stunner – he had colon cancer.


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&uot;It was like somebody hit me across the head,&uot; said Bryant, 71, a father of one and grandfather of one more. &uot;I didn’t have any history.&uot;

Bryant, Suffolk’s former assistant director of public utilities, decided to have the cancerous section of his colon removed. Then he met Dr. Ray Ramirez, and went in for the procedure in January 2004. Four days later, he was up and about.

&uot;Everything he did, he did outside my stomach,&uot; Bryant said. &uot;He took four inches of my colon out. There was never anything but instruments inside of me.&uot;

That was because the surgery was laparoscopic, the most minimally-invasive of procedures.

&uot;The traditional way (of surgery),&uot; said Ramirez, who splits his time between Obici Hospital and Maryview Medical Center, &uot;is you make an incision in the middle of the abdomen, but you make a big incision, 10, 12, 14 inches. (In laparascopy), you can get everything through a 2.5-inch incision.

&uot;That’s really the beauty of it. These folks have a lot less pain from surgery, and they’re out of the hospital in two to three days. The typical way, they’re in the hospital for five to seven days, and they’re not feeling well for four to six weeks after surgery.&uot;

Gall bladder, gastric bypasses and appendectomies are often performed with laparoscopy, he continued.

&uot;Minimally-invasive surgery is the way to go,&uot; Ramirez said. &uot;Patients used to have to have a monstrous invasion to do it, and now we don’t have to make a large incision to get the instruments in.&uot;

Nearly two years after his surgery, Bryant can attest to what the doctor says.

&uot;I was out of the hospital, getting around and doing what I wanted in about four days,&uot; he said. &uot;When I came home, I didn’t even have a band-aid on. I have a scar about the size of the end of your finger.&uot;

A colonoscopy a year after the surgery found no sign of the cancer.

&uot;I’m really lucky that everything worked out,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t think a lot of people are aware of how easy it is. If I hadn’t gone to the doctor, I might not be here right now.&uot;