“Hepatocellular carcinoma,” said a familiar-but-distant voice on the phone on a Friday afternoon in April 2016. I fell to my knees, knowing everything had just changed. I was 35.
I had aggressive liver cancer. But living in California meant I faced a long wait for a new liver—maybe a longer wait than I had.
I am not alone. For every 92 lives saved through transplantation every day, 18 die. But UNOS is working to provide greater equity in access and promote efficiency in donation and transplant.
My surgeons treated my cancer with a liver resection, but I still needed a transplant—I had constant infections as well as a real risk of recurrence. It was then that I learned about another way to get a new liver: a living donor.
I was lucky. This time, I didn’t have to worry about waiting for the perfect match. Location and logistics didn’t impact whether I received a new liver.
Following a rigorous process—a process monitored by UNOS—my half-brother Kristofer donated 60% of his liver to me in July 2017. Within weeks, both of ours had fully regrown!
Because of his gift, I got a new shot at . . . everything.
At making a mark in the world. At being present with my seven-year-old. At seeing every moment with fresh eyes, full of awe. My wife and I are working to embrace our new life. Fear is ever palpable. “Scanxiety” for cancer surveillance still rears its ugly head every few months.
But more than anything, our overriding emotion is one of gratitude.
We have deep gratitude for everyone who played a key role in the story of my second shot at life—for Kristofer, for the surgeons and nurses, and for UNOS.