60-year-old Ballina local Maree Smeal was first diagnosed with liver cancer following an appendectomy in June 2017. Although scans found a 2.2 cm lesion on her liver, Maree was told this was benign and didn’t require any further treatment. It was after seeing her GP later in the year for an unrelated issue that Maree was referred to a specialist for further scans, which indicated that the tumour in her liver had grown significantly in size to 10.5 cm and her AFP levels had skyrocketed.
“I was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). I was in shock, as prior to this I had always been really healthy, fit and active. There was no history of cancer in my family.”
In November 2017, Maree had 60% of her liver removed as well as her gallbladder and was told that her cancer appeared to be confined to her liver. Just a few months later in January 2018, Maree’s cancer was found in her lungs and she was given a new diagnosis – Stage IV HCC.
“It was devastating. I was referred to my local oncologist who said my long term prospects were very poor. My only course of action was to take the standard treatment to give me some more time.”