Robert Bilek, 89, of Westmont is a two-time cancer survivor – prostate and bladder – with a goal to live until he’s 110, which would beat out his uncle, who died at 108.
That’s why Bilek is certain that he’s also beat lung cancer, thanks to a lifesaving operation performed by Dr. Michael Liptay, chief of thoracic surgery at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.
In November, Liptay removed a portion of Bilek’s lung, the first time this minimally invasive lung cancer procedure had been performed at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. The video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy utilizes three tiny incisions and avoids painful rib spreading, leading to a quicker recovery with an average hospital stay of two to three days.
One day last fall, after Bilek had attended his grandson’s 40th birthday party, Bilek had settled down to watch television when he coughed and noticed blood. When he repeated that same routine two more times, Bilek went for his daughter, who was reading in another room.
“Before I knew it, I was on my way to the hospital,” Bilek said.
At the hospital, a CT scan showed Bilek had pneumonia, as well as a black spot and some cloudiness in one lung. A few tests later and doctors were informing Bilek he had lung cancer and were outlining treatment options. Bilek chose the surgery, which surprised the medical professionals.
“It was obvious that when you say someone is 89 years old, people automatically think of a frail old man,” said Pam Jahoda, Bilek’s daughter. “They asked me if he had a walker or a wheelchair and I told him that he still drives and does his own grocery shopping and housecleaning.”
Bilek did well following surgery, except the pain medicine did not agree with him, so that was eliminated after the first day of recovery. He went home on day three with a list of instructions, which included no lifting of objects over 10 pounds.
“I wasn’t supposed to shovel snow either,” Bilek said with a chuckle.
Except for losing a little weight, Bilek said he has felt strong and healthy. He experienced no post-operative infection. At no point, either before or after the surgery, has he felt any shortness of breath. Given the choice again, Bilek would definitely choose the surgery.
“Dr. Liptay was very courteous and explained everything and it turned out to be exactly as he explained it,” Bilek said.