Most people, including us until recently, don't know much about liver cancer. Part of the reason for that is that it is a relatively rare form of cancer, and really has no early warning detection testing going on in general, unlike breast cancer, prostate cancer or colon cancer. The majority of people who do contract liver cancer are usually people that already have had some serious disease of the liver, such as hepatitis or psoriasis brought on from heavy drinking. Janice does not fit that profile, which makes her case an even rarer form of an already rare disease.
The mortality rate for people with liver cancer is very high, for two main reasons: 1) many of the people who get it were already very sick when they got it, and 2) by the time it actually shows up in your system, it has usually already spread to other parts of your body and can not be cured, which is what Stage Four cancer means.
Unfortunately for Janice, she falls into that second group. By the time they knew she had it at all, there were already small tumors in her lungs and spine, and a very large one in her liver.
How could that happen?? First of all, let me tell you that Janice is one of those people that goes in for a regular check up and blood test every year on her birthday (March 30) come hell or high water. And for the last 20 years or so, the only abnormality that has been present was an elevated AST reading in her liver. Not alarmingly high, but higher than normal. For the past several years, in addition to her standard tests, she has gotten a sonogram of her liver to make sure there were no signs of tumors, just to be extra proactive. In 2008, she was free and clear. In 2009, she was Stage Four. Liver cancer, once it starts, grows and moves very, very quickly.
Janice has always been a model patient, and she has a wonderful doctor as her GP that has always been proactive in looking out for things like this. We keep looking for some sort of an explanation-she is an artist, could it be caused by repeated exposure to chemicals like turpentine? No, we have no evidence to support that. She spent much of her childhood with her grandparents in a rural Arizona mining town near an open pit copper mine. Could that be it? They don't think so. The experts just don't have an explanation for it.
If it seems like it just isn't fair, it's because it isn't.