Alexandria “Ali” Webb is the love of my life. Ali is an aspiring filmmaker who spent the last several years earning her degree from Miami University. In May, Ali sought medical care for severe pain in her right side and chest. For several days she underwent various scans, blood tests, and x-rays to determine the cause, finding a mass on her liver and numerous pulmonary embolisms in her lungs. After days of waiting, we were finally given the gut-wrenching news that none of us wanted to hear - Ali had Hepatocellular Carcinoma
and would need resection surgery to remove the 6 lb. tumor, as well as 70% of her liver. Hepatocellular Carcinoma
, or HCC, is the most common type of liver cancer. A majority of HCC cases are secondary to either a viral hepatitis infection or liver cirrhosis. However, Ali is part of a small percentage of young adults that can develop HCC for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Her liver tumor also contained elements of Hepatocellular Blastoma
, a pediatric liver cancer that suggests she’s suffered from this tumor since she was a child.
Ali started chemotherapy in July of 2015 with the experimental treatment Nevavar (Sorafenib)
is a relatively new treatment with side effects ranging from nausea and alopecia (hair loss) to hand-foot syndrome, which requires several specific creams, clothing and foods to manage. Much is unknown about the effectiveness of Nexavar
in young adult cases and, unfortunately, it was unsuccessful.
After follow-up scans and tests in December, it was found that the tumor on Ali's liver was already starting to grow back. The cancer had spread into her right lung and she was moved from Stage 2 to Stage 4. Faced with this news, Ali switched to a more ‘traditional’ chemotherapy (Cisplatin
). This treatment was particularly rough on Ali, resulting in numerous trips to the ER from passing out or fainting. Repeat scans and tests showed that the treatment not only wasn’t working but that the cancer was growing and spreading at rapid rate.
In February of 2016, we found a treatment that showed some promise (Oxaliplatin
). This treatment had a handful of awful side effects as well, including extreme sensitivity to cold and irreversible nerve damage. After 5 of 6 cycles, the treatment continued to work but at the cost of Ali permanently losing the feeling in her hands and feet. At the earliest signs that the neuropathy was begin move into her legs, we decided to discontinue treatment for fear of Ali ending up in a wheelchair.
With the addition of 5-FU
, Irinotecan (Camptosar)
was used to replace Oxaliplatin
, the platinum-based drug responsible for her neuropathy. Side effects of Irinotecan include nausea/vomiting, fatigue, low red and white blood cell counts, fever, weight loss and hair loss. Scans and tests showed that this new treatment wasn’t working and the cancer was starting to grow yet again, spreading to her left lung.
When plans A, B, C, and D don’t work, you move on to Plan E… Ali’s Plan E was Adriamycin (Doxorubicin/Rubex)
. Some cancers treated with Adriamycin
include bladder, breast, head/neck, leukemia, liver, and lung. Common side effects include nausea/vomiting, mouth sores, low blood counts, and hair loss. After reaching her “lifetime maximum dose,” we had to discontinue treatment due to heart complications.
In April of 2017, the FDA approved a new treatment called Stivarga (Regorafenib)
for liver cancer patients who have previously been unsuccessfully treated with Nexavar (Sorafenib)
. Some of the most common side effects of Stivarga
include hand-foot syndrome, extreme weakness/fatigue, loss of appetite/weight loss, voice changes (dysphonia), fever, and nausea. More scans and test results showed virtually no signs of tumor growth on her liver. The numerous tumors in both her lungs, however, remained unchanged. Because of the tumors in Ali's lungs, she will no longer be eligible for a liver transplant - the option is off the table. With the immunosuppressants Ali would be required to take after a liver transplant, her oncologist and surgeon believe that the cancer in her lungs would flourish. Our hope moving forward is to increase Ali's overall survival with the addition of Stivarga
This is an extremely painful and uncertain time for all of us who love and care about Ali. As those of you who know her can attest to, she is a genuinely kind-hearted and hilarious person whose never-ending positivity brings light to everyone she meets. She has brought this positivity to her situation, becoming a certified Imerman Angel Mentor
to help other young adult cancer patients and has begun plans for a documentary about young adult cancer patients, such as herself. She is a loving aunt, sister, daughter, and friend whose talents extend far beyond those she puts into her films. If you know her, you love her…
Ali still has a long and difficult road ahead, but with your support, she can make it through this nightmare. Ali is not one to ask for help, but is always the person willing to help others. Any money received will go directly to Ali and her family. With Ali’s inability to work and mounting bills, every little bit counts. If you are unable to donate, all we ask is that you keep Ali in your thoughts and prayers, and maybe send some good vibes her way.
We will try to keep you informed about Ali’s fight and post regular updates. Please share this campaign with friends and family!