Join Katie and Team LIVESTRONG at the LIVESTRONG Challenge Austin this October. Can’t make it to Austin? Run, ride or tri with us in 2012 or 2013. Visit www.teamlivestrong.org for more information.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Katie Shaffer I am from Everett, WA.
What is your cancer connection?
I am a Liver Cancer Survivor. My attitude is one of sheer defiance. I am NOT a cancer patient. I am a person living with cancer. I do not HAVE cancer, nor does it have me. It is simply leasing temporary space in my body. I do not let the disease bully me. I face it head on. I defy it. I would not wish it on my worst enemy, but at this point, I don’t know that I would have it any other way. I am not the same person as I was before the illness, but I am NOT a victim. I am a Survivor, and now I have a job to do because cancer may leave my body, but it will never leave my life…and that’s ok.
I am a 4-time Liver Cancer Survivor. I was diagnosed in 97’ a week after my 25th birthday. I had a 4-½ inch tumor on my liver – a rare form of Liver Cancer at my age, stage four. I was very young to have this type of cancer. Fibrolamellar Hepatocelluar Carcinoma is a very rare cancer (about 1 in 5,000,000 people contract this disease) predominantly striking people in their teens and twenties. When they went in to do a biopsy, it went terribly bad. They punctured the tumor spreading the cancer everywhere. I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and they could not keep up with the blood lost. I actually died on the table during surgery. The doctors had to take out half of my liver and part of my diaphragm. They repaired the diaphragm with Gor-Tex, so I am now waterproof! (Good thing because I live in the northwest). After the surgery my family was told I would not live and to be prepared to say goodbye. They even had my minster come in and give me my last rights. But I proved them wrong. I was in the hospital for a month. Months later I was having Chemotherapy. I didn’t receive Chemo like most people intravenously, I had it injected directly into the tumor though my groin. This was an experimental procedure and needless to say, the chemo did not work. The cancer was not going away, it was growing.
I had another surgery in 98’ in which they removed half of my liver again. Yet it came back again and this time everywhere – my right lung, my esophagus, my liver, and tissue around my heart. In 99’ they went back in and removed everything they could that had a tumor on it. Half of my right lung, parts of my esophagus, tissue around my heart, and parts of my liver. The inside of me has seen more daylight than it should. Another year past, and yet again the surgery did not work. 2000 was going to be different. This time, the doctors tried something different, an experimental procedure. They injected the tumor with alcohol. It’s called An Ethanol (alcohol) Embolization. Believe it or not, it worked! The tumors have died and knock on wood.. Knock Knock.. It has not come back. It was an experiment that has saved my life. Because of Cancer research, I had a number of experimental procedures for my treatment from the PET scans to the surgeries. I am alive because of the research and the funding for cancer.
I honestly believe that it was a blessing that I had cancer. Not only did it change me but I am able to appreciate life to the fullness. I have met the most amazing people in my life because of cancer. It is a STRONG community that I am part of. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I was diagnosed I had only been dating my husband for 4 months. And He stood by me though it all. It wasn’t even a second thought for him. Though it all. We have been together now for 16 years and have TWO beautiful boys. (angels from heaven)
What events have you taken part in with Team LIVESTRONG?
I have taken part of many LIVESTRONG Challenges. I have been in a total of 5 events. Many were in Oregon when it first started and then we finally got to have it up here in Seattle. (wish they would come back) And I was able to go to Austin. Every time I participated in the event. I had an overwhelming sense of pride… So many people coming together for one goal. To see all the other survivors walking and riding together. What an amazing site to see. It still gives me chills when I think of it. How can you not walk away from this kind of event and not be touched by it.
When I was diagnosed and going through treatment. LIVESTRONG wasn’t around. I wish it had been. It would’ve been nice to be able to talk to others while I was going through everything. Now that I am a 11 Year Cancer Survivor. I refer many people to the website and to LIVESTRONG’s services. I tell them about the amazing people who work there. I remember when the yellow wristbands first came out. And very few people had them. I would walk up to them and say “Thank you, you are supporting a cancer survivor like me. And I just wanted to say Thanks!” Some people who smile and some people would start telling me their story. It was great. Seeing them now. It’s like seeing our own army. Ready to take on cancer!
What does LIVESTRONG mean to You?
EVERYTHING. It’s life, Strength, Unity, Hope, Friends. I live each day with it as a part of me. I wear two wrist bands always. My work badge hangs around my neck with a LIVESTRONG holder. My car back window has a sticker on it that says LIVESTRONG. Everyone who knows me knows that I LIVESTRONG…I am a SURVIVOR there for I LIVESTRONG!
What piece of advice would you give to someone facing cancer?
Know that your NEVER alone! And try to Laugh a little… As hard as that sounds. Laughter got me though so many hard times. It’s important. You need to laugh.