From Guatemala to Chicago: Daniel’s HIPEC journey

May 16, 2017 | by George I. Salti, M.D.

Daniel Urrutia lived in Chicago for nearly 40 years before retiring to his native Guatemala for some well-earned relaxation. But his world was turned upside-down when he was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer, a rare cancer of the appendix that can be challenging to treat with traditional techniques.

In 2011, Daniel came to see me for an advanced abdominal cancer treatment called HIPEC, or hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy. HIPEC is a powerful option for difficult-to-treat abdominal cancers like Daniel’s. As of April 2017, Daniel has been cancer-free for six years.

Daniel’s powerful story speaks to the ability of HIPEC to give hope to those who might not otherwise have any. I’ll let Daniel share that story in his own words:

A cancer diagnosis – and a plan

My wife, Luvia, and I retired to Guatemala after almost 40 years in Chicago. All of our children live in the United States, but we wanted a break from the winters. We live in a small town, two and a half hours away from the nearest big city.

In 2011, I began to have pain in my abdomen and did not feel well, so I went to the doctor. Luvia and I were shocked at the diagnosis: appendiceal cancer. We knew I couldn’t get the care I needed in our little town.

I called my daughter, Connie, who lives in Chicago, and explained what the doctor in Guatemala had told me. She started researching top cancer doctors, and she called me back soon to say, “You have to see Dr. Salti.”

The power of HIPEC surgery

My daughter’s research revealed Dr. Salti’s experience with HIPEC, a cancer treatment that combines surgery and heated chemotherapy to “double-kill” the cancer. Dr. Salti’s clinic is near Connie’s home in Chicago, so we made the trip from Guatemala to see him. It’s a lot of traveling, but we wanted to see the best. And Dr. Salti told me he thought I was a good candidate for HIPEC.

Dr. Salti did my HIPEC surgery on May 2, 2011, and made me cancer-free from day one. I didn’t have to have chemotherapy after the surgery — only the dose I received during the HIPEC procedure.

I had to stay in the hospital for 13 days after the surgery. My wife slept on the couch right next to me when I wasn’t in intensive care. After that, I spent a few weeks in the hospital for some trouble with my pancreas.

But I made it through all of that. And I haven’t had any problems since. It’s all thanks to Dr. Salti.

‘Dr. Salti gave my life back to me’

In the five years that followed my cancer surgery, we made the trip from Guatemala every six months to follow up with Dr. Salti. That was tough — scheduling the appointments, making plans with my daughter. And, of course, we all were worried for the first couple of years. “Please let everything still be good,” we said to ourselves each time. “Please let everything be OK.”

And everything was OK. The cancer had not come back since my surgery. As time went on, we got less and less worried. It’s still there in the back of our minds, but it’s not as bad as those first few years. Starting in 2017, I now only need to see Dr. Salti once per year.

I thank God for Dr. Salti. We love him a lot. Dr. Salti gave my life back to me. He poured his heart and all that he knows into my problem, and I feel good.

I’m able to enjoy my retirement now. My wife and I grow roses and other kinds of flowers, and I love to take care of my garden. But we miss Chicago. We miss our children and grandchildren. We’re planning to move back to the city. It will be good to be close to my family again.

I thank God for the opportunity to still be with my family. I wouldn’t be here without Dr. Salti and my HIPEC surgery. Dr. Salti will be in my heart and mind, and my family’s, for the rest of my life.

HIPEC consultation

Daniel is just one of the hundreds of patients I’ve been proud to help with HIPEC surgery over the years. To find out if you’re a candidate for HIPEC surgery, schedule an appointment with me so we can discuss your situation.

Schedule a consultation with Dr. Salti.

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