San Diego man didn't know he had a volleyball-sized tumor - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego man didn't know he had a volleyball-sized tumor

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - If you gain 10 or 15 pounds in the next few months, you'll probably assume it's from holiday feasting. But a San Diego man gained that much weight from a tumor growing inside him.

Back in June, Jim Benison went on a 15-mile bike ride that ended with a crash that sent him to the hospital.

"And I had multiple rib fractures," he said.

During that visit, a scan of Jim's body revealed a massive tumor growing inside of him that he had no idea he had.

"I looked completely normal. When people see the images they just shake their heads," Jim said.

Keep in mind, Jim is a physically fit man who loves to sail and keep active. He still wonders how a 10- to 15-pound tumor was able to hide inside of him.

"Normally I have a waist size of 30 or 31 and I was up to maybe a 33. I thought I was just aging and starting to put the fat on in my belly," he said.

Doctor Joseph Ciacci from the UC San Diego Health System took one look at the tumor and immediately made a decision.

"We know that this is a tumor that needs to be operated on," Dr. Ciacci said.

Although the tumor was a benign, non-cancerous mass, just the size of it called for the second longest surgery of Dr. Ciacci's career.

"In fact I think the total operative time was approaching 20 hours," Dr. Ciacci said.

It was a tricky procedure because the tumor was discovered at the base of Jim's spine. Had it not been discovered, it could have lead to a bowel and bladder shutdown and even paralysis.

"I thought I was invincible. I mean, I didn't even have health insurance," he said.

It's a lesson for all of us to see a doctor for regular check-ups.

"He was extremely lucky," Dr. Ciacci said.

Even though Jim may only need one round of follow-up radiation treatment, he plans on coming back to the hospital again and again for an unexpected reason.

"I was a third-year resident when I left," he said.

Before Jim became a professional sailor, he had graduated from medical school and walked away. But now after a twist of fate, he plans to finish what he started.

"Makes you have an appreciation for what doctors do when you've been on the other side," Jim said.

The radiation treatment at Moores UCSD Cancer Center is a new method that takes just 61 seconds to complete.

Jim Benison is expected to make a full recovery.

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