Topic: My husband's liver transplant: how early detection saved his life
Two and half years ago, my husband, John, received a liver transplant from the Mayo Clinic. He had been diagnosed with cc the previous year, but the doctors said they "caught it early", and were therefore able to go through the transplant protocol. His doctor, Dr. Gregory Gores, and surgeon, Dr. Julie Heimbach, saved his life. He is now cancer-free and living a strong, vigorous, normal life.
John had PSC and UC for twenty years. These factors most likely caused the cc, which first showed up as a Klatskin tumor, blocking the bile ducts. Luckily, the Mayo treated him with an ERCP, during which they did "brushings", the FISH test and the DIA test. From these three tests, they found "suspicious cells", and called it cholangiocarcinoma. He also got pancreatitis from this first procedure, which subsequently developed a staph infection and almost killed him.
After two months of IV antibiotics, they were able to start the cc transplant protocol -- external beam radiation along with Xeloda and internal radiation. Meanwhile, the team started searching for a suitable live donor, since the wait for a deceased donor would give the cancer time to spread.
Up until the staging surgery (the day before the scheduled transplant), the doctors were never really sure the cancer had stayed inside the bile ducts. If it spread, he would no longer be a candidate for transplant. But, they determined it hadn't spread, he received the transplant the next day, and the rest is history, as they say.
I have written a memoir about our experience, to be published sometime next year. Check out my blog http://www.kimkircher.com for more information.
I truly want to spread the message that with early detection, this cancer can be beaten. John has also participated in a study at Mayo to help determine the contributing factors to this disease.
As I understand it, transplantation is the only "cure" for this disease, as long as they know they "get it all out". With transplantation, they completely remove not only the liver but all the bile ducts, and often part of the pancreas as well, in order to remove all the cancer cells.
Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for transplantation. Mayo Clinic was the first hospital to offer transplants for cancer patients, but I hear that other hospitals are following suit.
All the best to anyone battling this disease.