Living Strong

• Diagnosis Date: January 20th, 2000
• Age at diagnosis: 21
• Diagnosis:
Fibro lamellar hepatocellular carcinoma

• Surgery: Yes
• Radiation: No
• Chemotherapy: Yes

Age 20– Healthy, but a little tired.
I was a 21 year old college student playing on the varsity basketball team. Life was good, but I was experiencing extreme tiredness and continued to see my doctor for an explanation. I was given a clear bill of health; blood test showed a little iron deficiency, but that was all.

Age 21– Getting a little concerned
Approximately one year later, I was having periods of faintness and weight loss. No real symptoms here - right. I was given a medication for a stomach ulcer without any testing to confirm this. We decided to switch family doctors after the next faintness spell and a 10 lb weight loss episode.

Finally an answer!
My new family doctor put me through the ringer - thankfully. The first test was an abdominal ultrasound, and there was this 11cm in diameter tumour growing inside my liver (right lobe). Within the day of receiving the news that there was something inside my liver, I had a biopsy completed. It took a full week to get the results as two different labs needed to assess the biopsy to ensure the diagnosis. I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer - fibro lamellar hepatocellular carcinoma. My new specialist sent me to a surgeon in Toronto on a Monday, and that Thursday morning, I was in surgery for 10 hours. The surgery was successful; the entire right lobe of my liver was resected (just over 75%). After the recovery period, I went through a round of chemotherapy as a precaution. There are no known measures to cease my cancer other than removal. During all courses of treatment, I still lived my life. No wigs no make up - this was me! Like it or leave it. I was comfortable.

Age 25
At 25 years old I was attending my last 6 month check up before I would graduate to a year long check up interval when it hit me again! This time there was tumours intertwined through my spine (T11 - L1) and also just below my liver in lymph nodes (approximately four tumours).  Being in school for dental hygiene, I asked if we could postpone my surgery a couple of months.  I wanted to complete the semester.  My surgeon agreed that this was a slow growing tumour and that would be OK. It was September 6th, 2001, and I underwent another 10 hour operation.  During the operation, there were specialists in almost every department present since the tumours were in different areas of my body. This time, there was no chemo to follow.  I have had my lifetime dosage! Radiation was an option, but there was nothing left to radiate.  After eight weeks of recovery, I returned back to school, so that I would not have to extend my study period. I graduated with honours.

Age 27
At my next two year check-up, low and behold, the cancer had returned to lymph nodes in my abdomen. I had planned to be married in two months time.  Once again, since these tumours are slow growing we waited until the New Year to have surgery. My surgeon removed four clusters of the lymph nodes.  After the surgery, the doctors advised me to hold off on any further treatment as they wanted to save radiation as a last resort if ever needed.

Since then I have completed another year at school, and graduated with my Restorative Dental hygiene Diploma with Honours and the Dean’s medal!

Life is precious to me and I live for the now always! I would not have been able to get through the hardships without such a great support network of family and friends. My husband has been my lifeline from the beginning to the end (he sent me to his family doctor at the very beginning - 1997).  It takes great strength to deal with cancer from the outside. I cherish and worship the strength he possesses.

I am a 3 year cancer survivor and proud of it!

Three times a charm! I am now a three year cancer survivor! Something I think about everyday as a life rule for myself is this:

Livestrong means waking up feeling healthy and alive each and every day. Taking care of my body through exercise and food is living strong. Being pure to myself and respecting my body as a whole. With these as simple tools, my attitude will conquer anything. I always keep my friends and family involved in my life to ensure the support system that I may need in the future to help me persevere. All of the simple personal guidelines are a recipe for a livestrong life! I believe in the livestrong theory for the mind, spirit and body.

Post Script:
It is January 2007, and we are expecting our first child. 
Life couldn’t be better.  Livestrong!



"What makes cancer so horrific is how it continues to torment and taunt its victims long after the treatments are finished"
– The Globe and Mail

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