Weight loss uncovers Holland man’s rare cancer

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Wally Sutt of Holland exercises with weights for the first time since his late August surgery to remove rare cancerous tumors from his abdomen at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand on Monday. Sutt has lost about 150 pounds in the last few years after deciding he was ready for a change.


HOLLAND — After losing the weight, Wally Sutt felt like a new man.

Then, everything changed.

His dedication to dropping pounds and living a healthier lifestyle led to a grim diagnosis. A rare form of incurable cancer had taken over the inside of his body, and in July, doctors gave him an expected lifespan of between three and 10 years.

It’s a revelation the Holland man still struggles with today. But Sutt isn’t shutting down.

He’s now dedicating his life to preaching the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and — though he’s not yet sure how — he wants to instill in people that being in shape isn’t just about looking good.

It can save your life.

“If I wouldn’t have lost this weight, and this would have continued for two years, the surgeon said we never would have had this conversation,” said Sutt, 45. “So, I understand the necessity of it.”

After shedding about 100 pounds, he began to notice the good. He noted how he was free from the “dinosaur arms” that were impeded by his big belly. He could reach over from the driver’s seat of his truck and pick up objects on the passenger floorboard. He realized he could use the foldout trays on airplanes.

“It was just amazing, the difference,” he said. “And that’s what pushed me to go farther. And then, when I pushed farther, that’s when I found out that something else was wrong.”

Sutt began to gain weight back despite continuing his normal workout routine. He knows what being big feels like. But as the weight started coming back, something felt different.

Doctors found that almost 34 pounds of liquid had pooled in Sutt’s abdomen. They drained him and put him on a low sodium diet after diagnosing him with liver disease. After a few days of working out, his body weight plummeted drastically.

Sutt travels frequently through his work as a territory account manager at Ice Master Systems by Enduraplas. Around this time of his liver disease diagnosis, he decided to stop in the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to visit the hospital’s renowned liver disease center to learn about different medications or clinical trials that could benefit him.

Tests revealed his kidneys and liver were functioning well, but something wasn’t adding up. A few days later, a doctor called him and informed him that cancerous liquid was found in his body. An oncologist later delivered the final verdict.

Sutt didn’t have liver disease. He had and still has pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of soft tissue cancer in which tumors form on the outside of the appendix and spread throughout the abdomen and organs. Hearing a medical professional tell him he didn’t know what his options were scared Sutt to death.

He’s still trying to process the past few months. He married his wife, Lynne, shortly after the diagnosis, making it that much harder to handle. He cannot fight the disease into remission. He can maintain it, but the cancer will continue to grow.

Sutt received the only treatment available at the Mayo Clinic, which involved debunking a central mass and shaving as much of the many cancerous tumors in his abdomen off as possible, followed by the pumping of radiation and chemotherapy into his stomach. He was then sent home.

He and Lynne are often asked, “What happens next?”

“Keep working out, eat plenty of protein [and] stay healthy,” Sutt said of the doctor’s orders. “That’s it.”

Two weeks after his surgery, he returned to the gym to regain his routine and rebuild his strength and muscles. On Friday, he reintroduced weights into his regimen. He currently weighs 190 pounds — significantly less than when he topped out at the scale at 337 pounds.

Even knowing that the cancer lives in his body, he’s still fighting. And he doesn’t look at his life expectancy as an expiration date. His organs are all functioning, and Sutt is now contacting other cancer researchers to learn of clinical trials and new medications to prolong his fight.

He knows there are people out there who have it worse off than him, and that motivates him to share his story and steer more people to healthy lives.

“I hope nobody ever has to lose weight and find out they have cancer,” he said. “But if they can lose weight and find out they can help their diabetes, or anything like that, to help them is going to be huge.”

He wants to launch a platform to encourage others far and wide. It will be based on the importance of consistency and silencing excuses to not exercise. Because as he knows better than anyone else, maintaining a healthy weight can be the difference between life and death.

“I’m 45, I was 337 pounds, I’m missing a leg,” said Sutt, who lost a leg to a degenerative bone disease in 2003. “C’mon. What do you have that’s going to beat that? There is so much opportunity to talk to these people and be serious, but yet almost kick them in the [butt] at the same time. Because that’s what they need.”

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