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The world's first multi-organ transplant has saved a man who was given just six months to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
But a year on from a 17-hour surgery to save him from the brink of death, he is back to living life to the full.
Andy Voge told NBC News that his first symptom of the disease was a bulge on his abdomen: "I didn't really think anything of it… She called it my funny looking belly button."
However, he still decided that it was worth having it checked out with a doctor, who also dismissed the symptom, telling Voge that it was an umbilical hernia, as reported by Today.
"We don't need to do anything about it," he remembers the doctor saying.
Thankfully, further blood tests revealed enzyme abnormalities, which were the first clue that something was seriously wrong.
"So we did an ultrasound the next day, and they found masses in my liver," Voge said.
His diagnosis of cancer was later confirmed by a CT scan, which left Voge and his wife in shock as he was otherwise in good health.
“A couple of days before I’d gone for a run, we were eating fine. Everything was normal,” Voge said.
Dr. Anil Vaidya, a surgeon at Cleveland Clinic and the Voges' doctor, explained on NBC News that the rare cancer is so difficult to detect because it typically progresses undetected.
Patients with the illness may also experience abdominal pain and swelling as symptoms.
Voge went on to have surgery to remove the cancer, and while it was successful at first, it wasn't long before he grew sicker than before.
"I was vomiting daily. I couldn’t keep water down. I was pretty malnourished and dehydrated," he said of what was likely cancer causing blockages in his intestines.
He was then given the 'devastating' news that he wouldn't be able to receive another surgery and was put on a feeding tube.
"I thought it was done," his wife Rachel said, while he added: "They probably figured I had about six months left."
It was then that Dr Vaidya stepped in and suggested an alternative to save his life: a multi-organ transplant to replace his dying organs with healthy ones, which had never been used to treat PMP.
"It's a very major procedure. … The whole concept is pretty daunting," Voge said, but after a few days he concluded that he had nothing to lose.
Incredibly, luck was on Voge's side and his liver began to shut down, he was matched with a donor who was able to give him the seven new organs he needed.
While it's not known if the organs will continue to work for Voge indefinitely, he has been given a second chance at life, and can now eat again and even completed a 30-mile bike ride.
He is hoping his story will remind others in similar positions that there is hope.
"There's always hope in different pockets of our lives. And never give up that hope," Dr Vaidya said.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week
Featured Image Credit: Andy and Rachel Voge
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