Bryan White runs far. He runs for hours. Sometimes the 59-year-old starts at sunrise and finishes when the sun sets.
"I've been an exerciser in an exercise program for at least 15 years," he said.
But his running came to a halt last spring. After recovering from pneumonia, a chest X-ray revealed a slow-growing tumor in his right lung.
"The news was very bad," White said. "She said I had a growth of 2.5 centimeters and she was pretty sure it was cancer in my lower right lung."
"He was beside himself," said Dr. Sandeep Khandar, a thoracic surgeon with the Inova Thoracic Oncology Program. "He just didn't understand how this could happen to him. He did everything right."
White believed the diagnosis was a death sentence, but Khandar told him there was hope in a new procedure to remove lung tumors that would not only get rid of the cancer, but would allow him to get back to his active lifestyle -- in mere days.
"With the minimally invasive operation, we're able to get people out of the hospital as early as the next day," Khandar said. "They get back to work in a couple of days, back to functioning in a normal capacity generally within a week or so."
Khandar is one of just 40 surgeons in the country who is removing lung tumors through two tiny incisions. Doctors insert a small camera through one of the holes. In the other, they put in special instruments that go between the ribs to remove the tumors.
"The biggest advantage is not spreading the ribs," Khandar said. "If you don't spread the ribs, then patients will have less pain."
In the traditional open surgeries, surgeons make large incisions in the chest and actually spread the ribs to access the lung. That causes damage to the muscles and a lot of pain. It can take weeks for patients to recover.
"A traditional open operation, the patient is typically out of work for several weeks, on narcotic pain medication for several weeks, up to a month, and still having a substantial amount of pain up to four, seven, eight, even 12 weeks."
"After the operation, he said, 'I'll have you walking from the recovery room into your room,' and I said, 'That's pretty much unbelievable,'" White said.
But the doctor was true to his word. White was not only back home the next day, but his running sneakers were back on his feet in less than a week.
"Everything he said, it came true," White said. "And it really was amazing. How he got my lung out of that little hole, I have no idea, but he did."
Most lung tumors can now be removed through this procedure, but some larger tumors or those that are located in the center of the lung may still need to be taken out through the traditional open surgery.