PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Scot Jacobson has his own personal Mount Everest to climb — and he must make the trek carrying more than 500 pounds of body weight and a basketball-sized tumor named Wilson.
The Pendleton man faces two separate surgeries that may or may not save his life.
First, his surgeon must perform a gastric bypass, shrinking Jacobson's milk jug-sized stomach to a narrow sleeve. Then, after Jacobson loses some weight, the 50-to-70-pound tumor can be removed in a separate surgery.
It is risky business, Jacobson knows. He and his wife, Clare, clearly see the steep path ahead.
The first hurdle is simply paying the cost of the $18,000 gastric bypass, not covered by his insurance policy. They have to find about $6,000 before Feb. 22.
Earlier this week, the social worker and father of eight sat in a recliner in his living room explaining how he ended up in such a mess. Clare sat nearby, casting loving and worried looks at her 50-year-old husband. Their three adopted boys, brothers of 12, 13 and 14, sat on the periphery, playing with a trio of family dogs.
Scot is naturally upbeat, almost Pollyannish given his circumstances, but admits staying positive sometimes takes an iron will. He sat folded into a recliner, his sweatpants stretching to cover his bulk. "Wilson," the melon-sized tumor named after a volleyball toted around by Tom Hanks in the movie "Cast Away," hung down from Scot's abdomen.
"I've always been heavy," Jacobson said. "There isn't a diet I haven't tried."
His appetite doesn't explain his bulk, Clare said. When the couple diets together, she loses weight while he gains, even at 1,200 calories a day.
"People don't know how maddening it is to hardly eat and still gain weight," Scot said.
He doesn't go out much these days except for his job at the Community Action Program of East Central Oregon, where he manages the volunteer services program. Going out in public is painful.
"People stare and make comments," he said.
He sees what they see in his own mirror, but said "it hurts" when he sees the judgment in their eyes. Scot said doctors nagged him about getting more exercise and reducing calories. Finally, last year, his new endocrinologist suspected something more.
"She did tests and explorations and found thyroid cancer," he said.
The thyroid was removed, but then Wilson appeared in early September. Scot's situation grew dire.
An Oregon Health & Science University surgeon pondered Scot's predicament and decided operating was just too risky. After the hospital's high-risk surgery committee reviewed the case, Clare said, the surgeon changed his mind. The gastric bypass and the removal of Wilson would have to happen in two separate surgeries, several months apart.
Clare said the surgeon's initial hesitation might have been partially fueled by a previous failed gastric bypass surgery in 2007 in Tri-Cities.
"The surgeon came out to the waiting room and said we couldn't do the gastric bypass," Clare said. "He said, 'My associates are sewing him back up.' He was afraid Scot would bleed to death."
OHSU has a different process that is Scot's only hope, the couple said. They know the dangers — the surgeon isn't candy-coating the risk — but Clare and Scot say they are at peace.
"Scot said to me, 'I have my faith. I'm not afraid to die,'" Clare said. "It comforts me to know that."
The immediate problem is scraping together the funds. Scot emptied savings and retirement accounts and sold vehicles to afford the failed bypass. They have only $8,000, despite his salary and Clare's job as customer service supervisor at Banner Bank. Friends convinced Scot to let them organize fundraisers and start a bank account.
Organizer and friend Peggy Ruiz said their reason for helping Scot is simple: the Jacobsons' three adopted sons.
"God didn't give those boys a new dad just so they could lose him," Ruiz said.
It took some convincing for Scot to finally accept assistance.
"I know how hard it was for Scot to admit, 'I need help,'" Ruiz said. "He's a very humble man who's always willing to give of himself to others."
Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info