Ross Mangan was told he had less than a year to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of heart cancer.
Almost six months later, he’s in recovery after a Toronto area cardiac surgeon performed a rare operation.
Mangan says he didn’t have any symptoms and nobody in his family has any form of heart cancer, so the diagnosis came as a surprise.
“I’m very, very happy. It’s a thrill to be home. Especially [since] the weather’s nicer now. You get to be home, you get to be home with your kids,” Mangan rejoiced.
Mangan says he was working from home in November of last year when he fainted. While he attempted to brush it off, his wife insisted they visit the hospital. That’s where he found out about the fluid in his heart, which doctors say was a result of a rare form of cancer. About two weeks later, he started treatment.
Read more: A 70-year-old N.B. man to walk 300 kilometres for rare cancer awareness
“I had six rounds of chemo, then I went to Toronto for the surgery,” Mangan explained.
Since this form of cancer is so rare, there’s only a few doctors capable of treating it.
“It’s kind of frightening to hear you’ve got this super rare, you know … weird cancer that nobody’s seen,” Mangan said.
Kingston area doctors told him that many go their whole careers without seeing something like this.
Dr. Robert James (RJ) Cusimano, a cardiac surgeon at Toronto General, is one of the very few doctors who perform the surgery this kind of cancer requires in all of Canada. Dr. Cusimano performed surgery on Mangan on May 5, after his final round of chemotherapy.
“I opened his chest up and I first of all assessed to make sure it was still removeable, so that the amount of heart that I had to remove and rebuild would’ve been enough to sustain life, and when that was found to be possible, I started the removal of the tumor and removal of the heart that it was attached to and then rebuilt the heart,” the cardiac surgeon said.
Read more: B.C. baby fighting rare cancer dies; fundraising money to go to other infants in need
Cusimano says that he was in constant communication with his peers in Kingston who were administering the chemotherapy before he organized surgery for Mangan in Toronto.
“To be able to take him from the very beginning of his care till now is really, really good, it’s very, very satisfying,” the doctor said.
Cusimano explains that there’s a shortage of cardiac surgeons who can operate on heart tumors worldwide, which led him to advocacy work.
“I do a cardiac tumor conference once a year to bring the experts in the world of different aspects of cardiac tumors, whether they be cancerous tumors or non-cancerous tumors, to increase the awareness not just amongst the population, although that’s extremely important, but also amongst the doctors,” Cusimano said.
He says he is also working to start an international cardiac tumor registry so that patients like Mangan can find support no matter which hospital they step into.
“I’ve been called by people around the world who don’t know where to go next and don’t know what to do next. So the Toronto Cardiac Tumor Conference that happens once a year is a great way to bring people together, and to spread knowledge,” said Cusimano.
Mangan says he’s feeling a little sore from the surgery, but overall he’s feeling great and is looking forward to enjoying the warm weather with his wife and children.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.