Garrett's Story

Attributions: 
Jamie Finch

By Jamie Finch

Cancer is still considered by many to be an adult’s disease, but Payson High School’s perspective has completely changed now that our own seventeen-year-old Garrett Gneiting has been fighting a rare liver cancer over the summer. 

Garrett is a cancer survivor, something that cannot be said by many high school students.  Through the surgeries, poking and prodding, and endless waiting, something had to have pulled him through. 

“I knew I had two possible fates: I could either lose my life, or do all I could to live.  I had already accepted the fact that I could die from this cancer, but I wanted to do all I could to endure and make it out all right in the end,” said Garrett. 

Beginning in July, he began to feel itchy, so the Gneiting’s uncle, a nurse practitioner, decided to check him for abnormalities.  He noticed Garrett’s liver felt enlarged and recommended the family have him tested. 

Garrett took the advice and went in for blood tests. A mere hour later, Garrett received a phone call informing him that red flags had been raised and that he needed to come back in for additional testing.  This continued for an entire week.  A liver biopsy took place, which Garrett firmly said was painful: 

“The biopsy hurt a lot. I had to be awake when they put a bone marrow needle into my liver without using any kind of numbing agent. It felt like someone was punching me in the stomach.” 

After staying overnight in the hospital, the results from the biopsy came back: Garrett had cancer.  They had found a tumor the size of a fist on his liver.  His bile ducts weren’t opening because of the tumor, making the bile come back up.  This caused the intense itch he’d been feeling.  This specific type of cancer is called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma. It is an extremely rare form of liver cancer that typically occurs in adults between the ages of 20 and 30. In fact, it is so rare that only 200 people in the world get it each year.

“I didn’t know what to feel,” said Garrett.  “I basically went numb, thinking of the most important things in life.  School was no longer a priority to me.  Family, friends, and checking off my bucket list became my prerogatives.  It changes the way a person thinks about life.” 

Garrett had to have surgery to remove the tumor and to make sure it wasn’t spreading to his lungs.  The surgery took place on August 9, and required seven hours to complete.  During that period, 60% of his liver was removed and reconstruction was made on his bile ducts.  The surgeon said Garrett’s surgery was easily the hardest he’d done.  After spending eight days in the hospital, five of which were without food or water, Garrett was sent home to recover where his mother, Tammy Gneiting, took care of him:

“It was a relief he’d only had the youth version of this type of cancer because the adult kind of cancer had a 30% success rate.  If the surgery hadn’t gone well, he would’ve only had six months left to live.  We’re grateful that he’s doing much better,” said Tammy. 

Payson High School has definitely become involved regarding Garrett’s cause.  A recent dance raised $1000, which was donated to the family to show the school’s support.  The Gneiting family would like to thank Payson High School for the love and support shown to them during this time. 

 

With a nasty scar made from twenty-four staples, Garrett continues to stay home and recover from quite the eventful summer.  He’ll continue to see a doctor every six months for two years, and then it will reduce to one a year.  There is still a 30% chance the cancer will come back, but the likeliness decreases daily.  We’re happy to still have Garrett as a part of our lives, and hope he’ll continue with us for a very long time.