In need of a liver

Black Creek teen with rare form of cancer uses YouTube to seek out donor

  • Nov. 5, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Tessa Williams at a Vancouver Canucks game.

Tessa Williams at a Vancouver Canucks game.

Scott Stanfield

Record Staff

A Black Creek teenager diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer is asking the public to consider the gift of organ donation — which could save a life.

Tessa Williams, a Grade 9 student at Vanier Secondary, had regular stomach nausea and pains when she was a little girl. The pains worsened with age.

Depression set in at age 12.

Her mother, Dawn McQuinn, took her to counsellors, but the depression worsened, as did the nausea.

This past summer, an ultrasound on her abdomen showed a large mass on her liver. Tessa was sent to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where blood testing and further scans showed the mass was near the hepatic vein.

She was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma, which strikes about 200 young people worldwide each year. The only cures are removal of the diseased liver or a transplant.

Tessa had two-thirds of her liver removed. The large tumour was removed but it was too risky to remove any more of the liver near the mass, considering its proximity to the vein.

She now awaits a liver transplant.

Though “terrified beyond words,” Tessa says in her video that she is lucky to be alive.

“I want to live and I want others to know they aren’t alone.”

(To see her YouTube video, go to

In January, a family friend at Vanier — Ciaran Martin — was killed when he was struck by an automobile while longboarding. His family donated his organs to BC Transplant, in keeping with his wish. Tessa became passionate about organ transplant, wanting youth to know about the registry.

“We’re seeing it from the horror of the donor side and what happened to them (Martins), and now we need it,” McQuinn said, noting the importance of organ donation. “It gives me goose-bumps just talking about it.”

Tessa returns to Vancouver Nov. 16-19 for pre-transplant preparations. She is on the list for the next available liver.

“There’s only a handful of people, and she’s the only one in her category,” McQuinn said.

The YANA charity (You Are Not Alone) has asked to film a documentary on Tessa’s story to help spread the word about this type of cancer and organ donation.

A Facebook campaign is attempting to help Tessa meet her idol on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she would spread awareness even further. She had requested it to be her ‘Make a Wish’ but was told that seeing Ellen is next to impossible.

Visit Tessa’s Journey on Facebook to leave messages and read updates.


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