Minimally-invasive surgery to remove tumor enables marathon runner to keep pace with her active life

39-year-old runner making plans for an upcoming marathon after having a tumor removed from her liver.

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CLEVELAND – When Rachel Parker, 39, a marathon runner, learned she needed to have a liver tumor removed, she was concerned about how long her recovery would keep her from training.

Diagnosed with perivascular epithelioid cell neoplasm (PEComa) – a rare and usually benign tumor which forms in the soft tissue of the stomach, intestines, lungs and other organs – Parker had the option of undergoing a laparotomy. A laparotomy is a traditional form of surgery requiring a large abdominal incision and a lengthy recovery time.

“My surgeon in Hawaii told me he could do the surgery, but that since I’m an athlete, he knew I wouldn’t want an extended recovery,” she said.

Parker was referred to Choon Hyuck David Kwon, MD, PhD, at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Kwon is one of just a handful of surgeons in the world who has mastered the use of a delicate form of surgery called laparoscopic liver resection, also referred to as a hepatectomy.

“Instead of a very large incision, which results in a higher chance of hernia, more pain and a longer recovery, we make a small incision, which offers lower rates of hernia, less pain and a quicker recovery. It’s much easier on the patient,” said Dr. Kwon.

Parker is recovering at home, and taking a break from her usual 60-miles-per-week training regimen, after having the tumor in the right lobe of her liver removed by Dr. Kwon.

“My only rehab is getting plenty of rest, but I’m not even sure what that word means,” said Parker, who was discharged from the hospital just two days after the surgery.

Parker has plans to run in the Honolulu Marathon in December, and while she doesn’t have plans to set a personal best time, being at the starting line is important to her.

“Although I’m not supposed to run for three months, I can be running marathons again pretty soon – much sooner than if I’d had the regular surgery,” she said.

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