Barber Art Alfinito is back in business and back on the air with his Friday morning fishing report after having a fist-sized tumor removed from his brain. - Jim Craven

BACK in the CUT

Many people are justifiably concerned about their jobs and homes in the midst of a struggling economy. Art Alfinito is just happy to be alive.

The proprietor of Art's Barbershop on the corner of Sixth and Holly streets in Medford couldn't explain why his weight had doubled. Nor could he fathom how quickly his eyesight had gone from good to virtually nonexistent in a matter of months.

When Medford opthalmologist Loren Barrus ordered an MRI, Alfinito didn't anticipate two intricate surgeries at Oregon Health & Science University or missing three months of work.

The 47-year-old Alfinito is an avid outdoorsman and hardly led a sedentary existence. Still, he gained weight at an alarming rate.

"I was losing my stamina daily and tiring very quickly," he admitted. "I worked 12 hours a day at the restaurant, on my feet most of the time. I could barely get in six hours at the barbershop, I didn't have enough juice to get off the couch and I'm not that old."

Then, in 2007, his eyesight started failing.

"I kept asking my parents 'When do you start needing to wear glasses to read?' " he said. "When I was doing customers' hair I couldn't see the detail well enough to do a good job."

He had no idea that a rapidly growing tumor was the cause, pushing his eyes two millimeters beyond the sockets.

He went in for the MRI on a Friday early last October and at 8 o'clock the next morning, Barrus was on the telephone.

"Art, you are in big trouble," Alfinito recalls the doctor saying. "You have a very large tumor in the front lobe of your brain and it is compressing your brain."

Alfinito was scheduled for surgery the following Tuesday at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Complicating the matter was Alfinito's VonWillebrand disease, a type of hemophilia. The surgery was delayed until a two-week supply of Humate-P, a coagulant, could be rounded up. Dr. Kenneth Liu led a team of four neurosurgeons, who removed a fist-sized tumor, during a 13-hour operation.

"They told me they didn't know what to expect," Alfinito said. "But I believe they gasped when they saw how large the tumor was."

The good news was the tumor was benign. A post-operative exam revealed his vision was perfect and his pituitary gland was functioning normally. He was released after 11 days.

Because of the nature of the operation, a second surgery was a sure thing. It was a matter of when, not if.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, he received clearance from his doctors to go elk hunting under the condition that there wasn't leakage around his sinuses.

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