Hello, my name is David and I am 36 years old. I was first diagnosed when I was 22 years old. I live in Olympia Washington with my beautiful wife Kristine, two wonderful crazy kids. One, Emilee who is 2 and Matthew who just turned 5. I work for Costco Wholesale and have since I was 18 years old.
My story begins at the age of 22. I was working at a Costco warehouse at the time and I had been having a stomach ache throughout the entire afternoon, (I honestly thought it was just from the mass amount of mozzarella sticks I had eaten right before work). I was doing what is called a “cart transfer” (moving all the heavier shopping items from one cart to another) and I came across a 50-pound bag of Johnny Cat Kitty litter. I started moving it and instantly, there was a surge of pain like I was being stabbed in the side repeatedly with a knife. I called my supervisor over and they sent me to the office. It didn’t matter how I was situated. I tried sitting, standing, hunching over, laying down, and nothing was helping with the pain. My manager at the time called 911 and next thing I knew, I was headed to the ER.
When I arrived at the ER, the initial doctor just said that I was probably having appendicitis but felt around and noticed a large bump. They took me in to get an x-ray and when they were done, there was a mass the size of a softball in my liver. The doctor at that time told me that they were not sure what it is, but it will have to be removed.
Just 2 days later on November 1 after an MRI to confirm, I had surgery to remove the mass. After the surgery, I was told that they were able to remove the entire mass along with a large portion of my liver. The next day, I was told that I had Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma.
When I was told this, I was not sure what to think or how to act. I was told that because they were able to remove everything, I should be good now, but I would need to go in every 3 months for the next year just to make sure that I was clean. Unfortunately, and luckily during my 1-year scan, there was a little spot that they saw on the lower lobe of my right lung. When this was discovered, they wanted to do a biopsy, but they stated that it was probably just a cyst. Well, it was not a cyst. It turned out that the Fibro had spread to the lungs. A cat scan later showed that in fact I had a total of 3 spots. Two on my right lung and one on my left. Again, I was to have surgery but this time, I was given a 3-year life span and was labeled stage 4 liver cancer.
After a few surgeries my doctor at the time stated that there were no more spots. For 3 years, I thought I was clean but while I was at another CT Scan I was looking at the scan along with the doctor and I asked what that spot was. She had mentioned that it was a spot that they were monitoring for the entire time I thought I was clean. It turned out that it was a spot that was gradually growing, and they didn’t mention it. The spot had grown to about the size of a silver dollar. Once this happened I transferred my care to SCCA (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) in Seattle and started working more closely with Dr William Harris. While there, we not only saw that silver dollar spot, but another spot was in the kidney. I had both removed in two separate surgeries. It turns out that the spot in the kidney was in fact cancerous, but it was a second type of cancer (which is really rare). That spot has never come back but I did inherit a bright shiny new surgical hernia that I still have to this day. My doctor is not comfortable with doing yet another surgery to remove if it is not bothering me physically.
Through all 12 of my surgeries, multiple bouts of chemo therapy, and radiations, I have had an amazing support system. I remember all my surgeries in their own way but one of the greatest memories I have is one from my last surgery. My daughter had just been born and she was not happy to not have her daddy, so when we could I got both of my kids on the bed with me in the hospital and we all watched WWE together. It seems so small of a memory but having my kids there to help me through things kept me fighting.
It has been almost 14 years since my initial diagnosis (far more than the 3 years they gave me) and I am doing pretty darn well. I have a fantastic life. I have found the love of my life, I have two wonderful children whom I was not sure because of the chemotherapies we would even be able to have and through the grace of God, I am still here.
Just this last May with the blessing of my doctor I completed a goal that I have had since my original diagnosis. I ran a road race called Bloomsday. It is a 7.46-mile race in Spokane Washington that I ran when I was in high school. My goal was just to run and finish it. Yet another road block came my way when just 2 weeks before my race, I came down with a bronchial infection in my lungs (that I already have about 25% missing from) so my training was halted entirely. The day before the race, it finally felt like it was cleared up but low and behold 3 miles into the race, the infection reared its ugly head. I didn’t let the infection stop me and after a grueling 1 hour and 41 minutes I slowly but surely ran to the finish line. (14% of the people that started the race didn’t finish) I wanted to tell this part of the story because I want it to be known that this disease does not have to stop you. It sucks for sure, and there were days I wanted it all to end but know that there are people out there that have your back me included.