Man Frustrated with Stubborn Belly Fat Learns It’s a 30-Lb. Tumor: 'I Was Completely Panicked'

Kevin Daly was always tall and slim, thanks to a history in athletics and his 6’3″ frame. But he, like many men in their 60’s, just couldn’t lose weight from his stomach.

The estate planner from Hoboken, New Jersey, started to notice that his stomach was bigger than ever after undergoing heart surgery for a calcified valve in Dec. 2015.

“I came home a week after the surgery, and I looked in the mirror for the first time and I was all upset,” Daly, 63, tells PEOPLE. “This thing was growing, but my shoulders and chest had atrophied from the surgery, so it made my stomach protrude more. I brought it to the attention of my doctor, but [any] doctor would say the same thing — you’re in your 60’s, low testosterone, visceral fat. You’re fine; it’s just how it is.”

Daly’s doctor did, however, encourage him to lose weight for his heart health, and over two years, he dropped 34 lbs. But frustratingly, the belly fat remained.

“When I went back to him in October 2017, he said ‘I’m so proud of you, you’ve reinvented yourself, your heart and valves sound like a twenty year old,’ and I said ‘Great, I’m thrilled with all of that, except how did I lose 34 lbs. and not lose an ounce off of my stomach?’ ” Daly recalls.

His doctor agreed that his stomach needed a closer look, and an abdominal cat scan showed a massive growth.

“For a second I was vindicated, and then I was completely panicked, because when a doctor says that you have an extremely large mass, you assume that you have a cancerous tumor growing in your stomach,” Daly says. “Am I going to live, am I going to die, am I going to suffer?”

After consulting with surgeons at Lenox Hill Hospital, Dr. Julio Teixeira took on Daly’s case, and scheduled surgery on Dec. 28 to remove the tumor, a low-grade liposarcoma.

“I took a look at the images and immediately got very concerned, given the size of this mass,” Dr. Teixeira tells PEOPLE. “I’ve seen tumors that are large, but not of this size. Just the mere fact that something was able to grow this big shows that it has a malignant behavior, so I was concerned.”

And the tumor brought another surprise during the surgery — the surgeons approximated that it would be about 12 lbs., not 30. But after several hours, Daly was down a tumor, a kidney and another 30 lbs.

“I feel tremendous,” he says. “I had lost a tremendous amount of weight already and then I came out of the hospital weighing 172, and that was my high school weight. I’m now up to 187, which is my college weight. It feels really, really good. It’s made me feel 35 again.”

And Dr. Teixeira says that Daly’s story makes an important point about advocating for your health.

“It’s important that people listen to their bodies, and are in tune with their bodies, because often, your instincts are right,” he says. “If you have a sudden weight loss, or a lack of appetite, or a loss of energy, or if you see an abnormal asymmetry with your body, those are things that you should bring to the attention of your doctor.”

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