I was playing games while my parents were being told that their son had stage 4 liver cancer

9th November 2022

Sam was only 11 years old when he was told he had cancer after suffering pain during a family holiday.

My dad and I escaped to Morocco to enjoy some sun, leaving my mum and brothers at home. It’s a beautiful place, and I loved having fun at the beaches. In the middle of the trip, I got a horrendous pain in my stomach; it left me bedbound for most of the holiday. I was still in pain when we got home so we decided to make an appointment with my doctor.

I could tell instantly by the shock on the doctor’s face that something wasn’t right.

Within an hour of the appointment, I was in the MRI room getting all my scans, and then we were sent to the waiting room. I remember chatting to my parents here talking about how it would just be a really bad stomach bug and not feeling too worried.

But when the results came back, my parents got called into one room, and I was sent to a children’s playroom with a care worker. Then my parents walked into the playroom, crying their eyes out. They sat down next to me, held my hands, and the doctor told me that they had found a lump on my liver.

I didn’t ever consider that you could get something like cancer so young.

When the results came in, I heard the words ‘liver cancer’ for the first time. Everything suddenly felt so real. I started intense rounds chemotherapy straight away. My mum and dad were with me a lot, which sadly meant my brothers were dotted around different family members most of the time. It was a really hard time, but together as a family, we tried to balance everything as best we could.

When we were told that the treatment had worked so well that it meant my tumour was small enough for me to be put on the liver transplant list, it was a bittersweet day. I was told that I had been put on the list and that they didn’t know long it was going to be until I had a match, but to pack a suitcase ready to go in case we got a call. Thankfully, we got the call and I had the surgery.

Since then, it’s all been a rollercoaster to say the least. After the transplant, I had more chemotherapy, before being given the all-clear in November 2015. You’d think it would have been the best moment of my life - being told the cancer was completely gone and that I could go on to be a normal 12-year-old. But I actually tried not to think about it; I don’t think I was able to process it.

I wanted that part of my life to be gone, forgotten, and completely over with.

The realisation that I’d nearly lost my life really affected me. But the support from my family and friends was amazing and helped me get over it. Everything is positive now, but sometimes I do experience what is known as ‘survivor’s guilt’, because I was able to have the transplant, survive, and now live my life the best I can, but I know not everyone is so lucky. Especially because I lost so many friends on the ward, and it’s really hard to think about sometimes. But you’ve got to just be grateful for the life and experience you’ve had.

The transplant itself, and organ donation as a whole, means so much to my family and I; we’re all on the transplant list now. Every year we celebrate ‘Olivia’ (what my mum nicknamed my new liver!) by having a ‘livery party’ with close friends and family, to celebrate the liver that ultimately saved my life.

If it wasn’t for cancer research and charities like Worldwide Cancer Research, I might not be here today. So much time, effort, money, and resources go into finding new cures for cancer that might not have existed for me – or people going through it now – if it wasn't for people coming together and raising the money that they do.

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