Liver Transplant and Brain Cancer: 2 Sisters, 2 Best Friends, 2 Journeys

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August 18, 2010

My name is Terri and I live in Ahwatukee, AZ with my husband of 27 years. We have 3 amazing grown children. I have a younger sister (by 12 years) named Cathy. Cathy and her husband have a family of their own also here in AZ. They have 3 wonderful young children who adore them and are especially close to their mom, Cathy.

 

The years have been great to Cathy and I. We grew up in Phoenix, AZ. Our parents raised both of us along with our two brothers in Sunnyslope. We lived in a very modest home that was full of love and support. We were all brought up Catholic and a strong faith was all around us. We all shared many great times together and many, many wonderful memories. Our folks now live in Scottsdale and with the rest of us spread out, all in AZ except one brother; it is there that we gather many times throughout the year. Little did we know that in the fall of 2008, the year and a half that would follow would age my parents about 10 years.

 

This story is on Cathy’s behalf, but hopefully to draw more attention to it I will tell you what was physically going on with me during the same time that Cathy started experiencing symptoms.

 

Two years ago this October, I went in for my yearly check-up and blood test  and the doctor called me early the next morning to tell me that my enzyme level was through the roof. I had to go for additional testing he had set up for that day! Eeek! At first, I thought that I maybe had mono. At the same time, Cathy had been experiencing tingling in her fingertips, but thought it was nothing more than a pinched nerve. She had even gotten an MRI from the neck down to see, but that test showed that all was okay with her.

 

Within a few weeks, I had more testing and more doctor appointments with specialists. I was beginning to have a yellow tone (not the prettiest color on me) and started to feel weaker. Then, one day, when I went in for a follow-up appointment after yet another blood test. The doctor came in the room and looked at my “yellow self” and told me to go to the hospital across the street immediately! Within a week, I was on the donor list for a new liver. I was in shock and in denial. How could this be?? I don’t over drink, never did drugs and had no signs of Hepatitis A, B or C. Even when a donor liver became available to me and they were wheeling me off for transplant surgery, I still thought they would find out what’s going on with my liver and fix it. Not the case though. It turned out that I had a virus in my body that attacked my liver for whatever reason and there was no way of repairing it. I received my new liver on November 10, 2008 from a very special donor/angel and began the journey of healing. Anti-rejection drugs everyday from then on allows me to have a second chance at life.

 

After my liver transplant, I remained in the hospital for another week. My sister Cathy was amongst many of the family and friends that visited/ helped. While she was there, I remember her saying how the tingling in her left hand was so apparent that it traveled through her left through her left arm now. Other than that she felt fine. When I arrived at my home, Cathy stayed with me for a few days. While she was at my home, she experienced all the tingling on her left side. We got online and Googled her symptoms. We then came up with our own diagnosis of MS, but what did we know? What we did know as that she had to make an appointment when she got back. The following day she had bumped into a wall a few times and she couldn’t hold things in her left hand very well. We called her husband to come pick her up and suggested taking her to the ER at the hospital. After she had extensive testing done at the hospital, we all found out that she had an inoperable brain tumor. She was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma (GBM) Grade IV. We were all devastated!

 

Through the next weeks of November 2008, Cathy found herself at the hospital. They were going to biopsy the tumor. Then great news…the doctors there saw that the tumor had shifted and they were going to operate and remove the whole tumor! It all happened so fast, but before they wheeled her down, they held hands around her hospital bed and prayed. Even the doctors!

 

She came out of surgery great and she was on her way to healing!! Within time, she went for chemo and radiation treatments. Many of those trips on the road to and from were spent saying the rosary in the car. While I was on leave from work, and feeling much better, I was able to help drive her at times and pray with her (even though at first I felt a little funny saying rosary with cars passing and stopping at the lights).

 

After a year went by, with many trips to many of her doctors, including being on a study for brain cancer, Cathy was officially in remission. She felt good and helped others who were going through this. She was even asked to speak for a health event to tell her miraculous story.

 

This past January, Cathy had another one of her many MRI’s. It showed that there was another tumor. They went to another hospital in a different state to have it operated on, but after the doctor went into her brain he felt he was not able to perform the surgery. While in another state, they went to another hospital for another opinion. The next week she went in for surgery again and this time they got it! Yes, 2 craniotomies within two weeks of each other.

 

She has been going for her MRI’s every six weeks. Last week, she went for another MRI, but it showed another tumor. She will be going back to the hospital on Monday, August 2. Instead of another craniotomy, doctors will do a new procedure on her….one that has never been done on a human being before. We pray.

 

We all learn a lot about what directly affects us, whether it is us or our loved ones. We delve into studying up on everything we can get our hands on. Nowadays with the world at our fingertips, it’s not hard to do. The more one learns the more one sees how much more there is out there to learn and research.

 

Throughout all of this, our sense of humor has never left. There are so many great stories to share- many funny ones, too. I believe it’s through our attitudes and faith each day that gets us through and continues to keep Cathy strong.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. To read more about Cathy or myself, please go to www.caringbridge.org and type in cathystaats or terriwold or www.faithforcathy.com