In March 2017 I was diagnosed with cholangiocarcimona, a rare cancer of the bile duct in the liver, unrelated to lifestyle. The prognosis is usually not good. The average patient with cholangiocarcinoma is aged 60+, and it is not usually not detected until the disease has progressed too far for treatment to be effective. Thanks to my age, otherwise healthy state and most importantly, a good level of fitness, I was deemed a good candidate for treatment. I was lucky.
Treatment for cholangio follows what’s called the Mayo Protocol. This involves brachytherapy, twice daily radiotherapy and infusion and oral chemotherapy. If, after all this, you are one of the lucky ones where the cancer has not progressed, you go on the liver transplant list and face a whole new set of challenges.
Fast forward a gruelling months of treatment, and I was live on the transplant list. But I hit another setback when I developed septicaemia. I was on 22 hours of infusions a day - pain relief, blood transfusions, and very strong antibiotics, none of which I responded to. This continued for 11 days at which point it transpired that I had a perforated gallbladder, the only solution for which was to remove it, and in so doing, remove me from the transplant list. If this was done, I knew there was a high chance that I might never get back on the list.
Thankfully, this eventuality never came to pass. I was lucky enough that a donor liver came in that night.
I woke up the next evening in ICU and was overcome with emotion. Not just for what I had been through, what my family had been through but for the generosity of the donor and their family. I was alive because someone had the conversation with their family and the family in question carried through with those wishes.
And so, I am rowing 1,000,000 metres in honour of my unknown donor and their generosity and selflessness in donating their organs. The money raised here will be withdrawn by me and will go to Cancer Research and the Transplant Programme in Ireland, specifically.
1. The Cancer Clinical Research Trust: http://www.ccrt.ie/.
Monies will be used for cancer research projects and distributed by the charity through their grant application process.
2. The St Vincent's Foundation http://www.stvincentsfoundation.ie
Monies will be ringfenced for the Liver unit in the hospital to develop eduction and support programmes for families.
Follow and support my journey here
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