Photo credit: National Post

By Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press

Toronto: Rob Ford, the controversial former mayor of Toronto, began intensive surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his abdomen Monday, with the operation expected to last more than 10 hours.

The city councillor has previously described the procedure as a “very serious operation,” and noted that it could put him out of commission for as long as four months.

In a photograph posted on Twitter by his chief of staff before the surgery began, Ford was seen dressed in a blue hospital gown giving the camera two thumbs up.

“Just prior to 8 a.m., the scheduled start for his surgery, Coun. Ford took a picture in his hospital bed, with the message ‘Thank you Toronto, for all your love and support.”’ Ford’s chief of staff Dan Jacobs said in an email.

“Coun. Ford then stood and walked with hospital staff to the operating room.”

Ford’s surgery comes after several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation which he said shrunk his tumour to an operable size.

Surgeons at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital are now expected to make two incisions of about 30 centimetres each in an effort to remove Ford’s tumour, which is approximately 5 centimetres in size, Jacobs said.

Following the procedure, Ford is expected to be kept in a post-operative recovery area, before being transferred to a “surgical step down unit,” Jacobs added.

On the weekend, Ford told local television station CP24 that his biggest fear was not waking up.

“I just want to wake up. That’s all I want to do is wake up,” he said in the interview. “Once I wake up from the surgery, then I can start dealing with it and fighting it and getting better.”

Ford, whose admitted drug and alcohol abuse and outrageous behaviour earned him international notoriety, was forced out of his mayoral re-election bid last September when doctors discovered his rare, aggressive malignant liposarcoma. He ran successfully for council instead.

The type of cancer Ford has, only about one per cent of cancers are similar, arises from fat cells and can attack a variety of soft tissue in the body.

© 2015 The Canadian Press