Tracy's Thursday

(Tracy-liver cancer survivor-Minnesota)

(Cupcakes from Tracy's 3 year survivor party)

Only thing green here today on the blog is green for honoring Tracy O. from Minnesota. Tracy is pushing towards being a 4 year liver cancer survivor. She joins us sharing her story this October day for Liver Cancer Awareness month. Usually on Thursdays, I share the green turtles who reside here at The Murphy Lodge, Thursday Turtles

Tracy start by sharing with us what life was like before cancer ?

When I was diagnosed with cancer I had been married to my husband, Jon, for almost 8 years. Our daughter, Lesley, was 5 years old at the time. I am nurse and received the phone call with my biopsy results telling me I had fibrolamellar hepatocellular  carcinoma while at work.

How did your work family handle your diagnosis?

My work family had been walking beside me the few weeks leading up to this and I am forever grateful for their support. Their support continued as I went through my liver resection and was off work for the next 6 weeks. They blessed our family with food, treasures for Lesley, and monetarily. I will never forget their support.

How did you find out? What were your symptoms?

I had been having a work up for some side pain for about 6 months before my diagnosis on April 27th 2011. I ended up in the ER on April 12th due to the side pain being so severe. The doctor thought for sure it was my gallbladder causing the issues but after the CT they ruled that out. He sent me home with pain meds and that was the end of that. The next day I got a call from the ER that the radiologist read it as a "spot" on my liver and I should follow up with my regular MD. So the following day I had an ultrasound, which was still too general so I had an MRI the following day, the 15th, and got the results within an hour that I had a mass in my liver. All the testing happened very fast for me which led to a quick diagnoses.  That is all in all a great thing.  I was referred to a liver specialist. On April 21st I saw the liver specialist and he said that a biopsy was needed along with some blood work to check tumor markers. The tumor markers were negative and I was scheduled for my biopsy the following Tuesday the 26th. 

Tell us a little more about the day you received the call at work.

My phone rang at work on the 27th and I got the news that has changed my life, that it was fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma. I was so lucky to be scheduled with the liver transplant specialist and liver surgeon the following day. Both were incredible, kind doctors. Both of them agreed that a liver resection was the way to go and I was scheduled for surgery on May 2nd. 

What type of treatment did you receive? 

The liver resection is the only treatment I have had. They ended up taking the tumor with 30% of my liver and 7 lymph nodes.  All lymph nodes and margins were negative. The tumor was 10x9cm.  I found out my tumor was mostly stage 1, only mentioning of stage 2 because of the size.  
I was off work for about 6 weeks. No chemotherapy or radiation was needed.  

You mentioned to me your moms help, explain

During that time my mom helped to take care of me so that Jon could go back to work.  I knew my mom was the best before all this happened but God truly blessed me when he gave her to me as my mom.   

Emotionally how did you handle everything?

Things didn't really "set in" that I had cancer and was a survivor until about 3 weeks after my liver resection.  I then began to deal with a great deal of anxiety.  I still deal with "scanxiety" when my scans draw near, as I still get them every 6 months, and will continue with the every 6 month plan for several more years. 

Tell us what you have learned along this journey?

Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28 was very difficult.  Young adult cancers and the kind of cancer I had are both rare.  At the age of 28 you don't expect to be dealing with things that come along with being a cancer patient.  Your suppose to be raising your family and enjoying life.  I know try and slow down and every single day find something I'm blessed with.  Life has a whole new meaning to me than it did 3.5 years ago.  You can't take a single thing for granted and you have to tell people you love them. 

Tracy how did you find the Fibrolamellars of the World Unite Facebook group?

I was searching online for anything I could find to do with fibrolamellar.  On the American Cancer Society website I dug and dug and ended up finding Casey who was already a member of the fibrolamellar group on Facebook. She connected me with Tal, the founder of the group, and I became part of the group in summer of 2011.

Might I add, the Fibrolamellar of the World Unite group is where you and I met just after you joined. I've noticed you've had some involvement more in depth with the group, share with us a little more about that.

After I had been an active member of the group for about 2 years I was asked to be an administrator.  As an administrator, I welcome new members and try to connect them with someone if I know they have a "similar" story, if they are located close to someone, or just take the time to listen.

Also, I've noticed your fundraising for The Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation, share about that. 

I have done 2 different fundraisers for The Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation.  I sold t-shirts last year and this year I am selling coffee as part of October being Liver Cancer Awareness month. 

I saw you recently went to Vermont tell me about that. 

I have been blessed with going to the family gathering for fibrolamellar patients and their families for the last 2 years.  This has been held at the Trout Lodge in Stowe, VT.  It is hard to explain in words how much those 2 weekends have impacted my life.  Meeting others going through this journey, meeting families of fibrolamellar patients that have passed... being a face of hope.  I do struggle with survivors guilt but those parents that I have met, have made me feel so loved.  Shout out to Martha Ann and Harry! 

Lastly, I know your family has not only been touched by cancer with you but also your father tell me about that. 

I was exactly 18 months into my journey when my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.  His battle only lasted 3 months.  As hard as this was on me, it brought up some really hard questions from my daughter.  Like "mom, is your cancer going to come back?  Will you die from cancer mom?"  No 7 year old should have to know stuff like this.  I will fight on every day… knowing I will continue to beat this for my dad!

(Tracy and her family) 

(Tracy's trip to Vermont this year with the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation)

Tracy, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to pour out your precious heart. Meeting you just months after your surgery has brought us through a lot together. We have coached each other along the way, cheered others on, watch many of our friends gain their angel wings and you've read my book allowing your soul to know me on a deeper level. All those things have brought us so closely together. I know I can reach to you anytime. Not only or we survivor sister but we are sisters in Christ. We shall meet in person one day when you come to Mississippi, lol!   I seriously thank God for your journey and will continue to pray for clean scans for you sweet girl. Giving Him all the glory knowing we shall seek His face through it all especially "scanxiety".

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