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“They looked at me as the mother of a 12-year-old, not as a statistic.”

“On Feb. 14, I went to my normal OB-GYN checkup not thinking anything was wrong,” says Tessa Basford. “I was perfectly healthy. I’d lost some weight and felt pretty good about the appointment.” After the exam, Basford’s gynecologist recommended that she have a colonoscopy. When she went for her scheduled colonoscopy a month later, she still didn’t suspect anything was out of the ordinary.

However, when she awoke after the procedure, her doctor said they had found a tumor in her colon. “It was flat and that’s why I hadn’t had any symptoms from it,” she explains. “It was very hard to detect.” Basford’s doctor said she thought it would need to be removed, but that she was probably too young to worry about anything serious. However, a biopsy found the tumor to be malignant. “We sat down with the oncologist and figured out what we should do and in which order,” says Basford. “I started on the normal chemotherapy protocol, plus a research trial. My oncologist got in touch with the tumor board and sat down with them.

They said even though the scans looked so great and I was responding so well to chemo, that they would not recommend liver resection because cancer had metastasized to so much of my liver. At the time we knew it had metastasized, we only knew it had metastasized to the liver.”

Her oncologist recommended she start chemotherapy right away, but said the liver cancer would kill her. “She said, ‘If you don’t get the cancer out of the liver, it’s a very short amount of time before you meet an end with colon cancer,’” explains Basford. Her oncologist explained that there are other organs she could live without if the cancer spread, such as the ovaries or part of the colon – but the liver, she could not live without.

“She said I was pretty much going to have to wrap my head around a lifetime of chemo and additional treatments,” says Basford. However, there was one final option: her physician wanted to send Basford to Marty Sellers, M.D., a multi-organ transplant surgeon, for a second opinion.

“She thought very highly of him and said, ‘I’m pretty certain he’s going to tell you there’s nothing he can do, but when he closes the door, you will know the door is closed and that you’ve done everything you can do,’” says Basford. She met with Dr. Sellers, knowing the chances that he would be able to help her were slim.   After meeting Dr. Sellers for the first time, “He said, ‘We’re going to look at this situation with you being the mother of a 12-year-old. We’re not going to look at this as the statistics,’ and for the first time, someone was saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to look at you instead of this group of people you’re now a part of,’” she says. “A few days later, Dr. Sellers called and said, ‘I’ll be very honest – I’m concerned with what I see, but I think that there’s a possibility that I can do a large enough resection, but I want to go in first laparoscopically and take a look.’"

Dr. Sellers told Basford that when she woke up, he may have found that there was nothing he could do or that he would be able to remove a large enough section of her liver. “We decided it was worth taking that leap of faith and go in for the surgery,” says Basford. “The good news was he did it.” Dr. Sellers removed 75 percent of Basford’s liver and the area that was left could be targeted with treatment if necessary. At that point, the chemo had worked so there were no longer active cells in her liver. Because the liver is an organ that can regenerate itself, hers has grown back. “He did what everyone else said couldn’t be done,” says Basford. “He gave me a very different view of watching my daughter grow up and being a part of her life instead of being on chemo for a period of time and that being it.” Click here for more information on Piedmont's Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Program.

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