It seemed that all the weight was going right into your gut.
Hector Hernandez said he was always "a big guy" so he did not notice any problems until two years ago when his arms and legs started to get smaller while his stomach was getting bigger.
The 47-year-old man from Downey, Calif., Said he also started fighting heartburn and constipation and noted that it was sometimes difficult to catch his breath.
At 136 kg, he said, strangers started looking, and his friends were telling jokes about his "beer belly," although he said he rarely drank it.
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When he first mentioned the issue to a doctor, he said, the doctor ignored him, saying that some people only carry weight differently from others.
"I just thought I was fat," Hernandez said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post.
But Hernandez said that his stomach felt "heavy" and "hard" to the touch, so he had a second opinion.
Ultimately, he said, he was diagnosed with a 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. Or because.
But he weighed 35 kg, according to his surgeon.
Hernandez said he did not know how to feel about the tumor or the surgery needed to remove it.
At first he said he was "shocked" and "confused" but also relieved to finally know what was wrong.
"I have had a lot of support and prayers from family and friends," he said, noting that they are raising funds to help in their recovery. "I finally left it in God's hands."
Hernandez surgeon William Tseng, an oncologist and an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, said that liposarcomas develop over the years and can grow in gigantic sizes, although they do not tend to spread or cause large problems.
Tseng, a specialist in sarcomas, said that throughout his career he has surgically removed dozens of them, which average between nine and 14 kilos.
"This is probably the biggest I've removed," he said. The post.
During an hour-long surgery over the summer, Tseng removed the tumor, which he said had spared the major blood vessels and most of Hernandez's organs, although he had to cut a kidney that had been damaged.
Tseng said bleeding is the biggest risk associated with surgery and that patients may die on the operating table, but there were no complications in the case of Hernandez.
The surgeon said Hernandez will not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation, but since liposarcomas usually return, Hernandez must do follow-up exams periodically to monitor the situation.
"I was very lucky," Hernandez said.
Now, Hernandez said he feels "totally different" – more energetic and many, many pounds lighter.