Hi! My name is Tiffany. I am a cancer survivor. Cancer is a huge part of who I am, but it doesn't define me. I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. Those are the most important roles I play.

Never in a million years would I have guessed at the age of 29, right when my little family was getting started i would be diagnosed with stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma. I have always heard stories about young people getting cancer, but I knew it would never happen to me. I was healthy and happy.

Then in October of 2011 I started having some health problems. I couldn't eat and weight was just falling off of me, I was also having some pain in my upper abdomen.

One Saturday I decided it was time to get the pain checked out, so I went to a local walk in clinic. They ran a test, and it came back negative. That was about all they could do for me there, so they sent me to the local ER.

I remember calling my husband on the way there telling him what was going on. Then I called my sister Brandy. i was crying, being the person that she is, she tried to calm my fears, and told me everything would be OK. I also called my Mom, and she was on her way.
When I got there, the doctors did lots of blood tests and a CT scan. From there we learned that there was something in my liver. They admitted me into the hospital, and started running more test. One morning an oncologist walked into my room, her name was Dr. Shah. I started crying, telling her she had the wrong room. She said they wanted to do a biopsy of my liver to find out what if it was cancer, or just a benign tumor. Surly it had to be benign. Young people like me don't get liver cancer. That night I made a huge mistake. I got my trusty laptop out and Googled "liver cancer", and I started reading. I couldn't believe the words I was reading....prognosis 6-12 months and words like palliative and hospice. The only thing I could think about was my husband and sweet babies at home. Who would take care of them? The next day the doctors sent me home to wait on the results of the biopsy.

The next 48 hours were a blur. I really don't remember much about them, other than lots of tears and not sleeping. I got the call from Dr. Shah, and she told me the news, stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma. I officially became a cancer patient.

Dr. Shah insured me that we would do whatever we could to keep me around, and that we would be very aggressive.
After the diagnosis my family sprung into action. We had to come up with a game plan. We knew I needed the best medical treatment I could get. Together as a family, we researched, and learned that MD Anderson was the place I needed to be. We called them, and in a few weeks Brian and I was out there learning what our next steps would be.

At MD Anderson I was poked and scanned more times than I can tell you. We meet with an awesome doctor named Dr. Javle while out there. Dr. Javle now manages my cancer treatment. He told me we have a few options, and that we were not going down with out a fight. He also told me it isn't going to be easy, boy was he right!! At that time, the best treatment for me was chemo. I was put on three different types. Thankfully, I was able to get my chemo at home, so I could be with my babies. So we headed back home to start treatment. I have been on chemo since November of 2011. I haven't had a break, and have had around 35 treatments.

I have been in the hospital a few different times for infections and low blood counts. Cancer has also effected my relationships. Some have become stronger, I have made lots of news friends, and I have lost some good friends also along the way. I have also lost a few good friends from cancer.

In November of 2012 I returned to MD Anderson, and we got some awesome news! Not only had the chemo been working, my liver was looking a lot better. Dr. Javle then sent me to another hospital in Houston to see if I could be placed on the liver transplant list. After days of testing, we got the news that I was going to be listed! Now we wait, because my liver is functioning good and I'm healthy, I'm at the bottom of the list. I could be on the list for years.

I will not let this cancer defeat me. I'm in for the fight of my life. I will do whatever it takes to live for myself and my family. Spreading awareness is the most important thing to me. Liver tumors are so serious, and people just don't talk about them. It's my mission in life to educate people on the signs, treatments, and how serious liver tumors are.

-Tiffany Schwantes
Tiffany Schwantes
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