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Young Bend man diagnosed with rare cancer


Cancer: Arguably the most terrifying word in the English language. And for one Bend man, that word became a scary reality recently.

Colby Atkinson celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday at home, doing chemotherapy. Colby was a young and healthy man hit with a debilitating disease, but he and his family are doing their best to stay positive.

“It’s really hard sometimes to stay positive. That’s your baby you know? It’s devastating,” said Libby Atkinson, Colby’s mom.

Two months ago, Colby was complaining of pain in his abdomen area. He went to the doctor, and tests showed he had a blood clot in a vital vein from his liver to his stomach.

Blood thinners were prescribed, but it wasn’t working. After more tests, doctors found the clot had grown, and they also found something else: Cancer.

Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma – a rare form of liver cancer that usually takes aim at kids and young adults.

“Normally pretty slow growing, but it’s not a good thing. It’s not a good thing at all,” Atkinson said.

FHC is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms, such as tiredness or abdominal pain, are usually attributed to more common causes. There is an incident rate of 1 in 5 million in the population at large. It is considered “ultra-rare,” because there are far fewer than 1,000 cases in the world per year.

Currently, there is no direct cure. But with treatment and removal of the tumor, chances of survival are much higher.

“You want to just take it away from him,” Atkinson said. “You want it to go away and that’s what I keep praying for because I know there are miracles out there.”

It’s a scary disease, with scary statistics, for patients and doctors alike.

St. Charles Bend diagnosed Colby with FHC, but they had never actually treated it before.

“They were being honest, it was scary to them. They were like, ‘We are not dealing with this. This is not something we can handle — nor do we want to,'” Atkinson said.

Colby was transported to OHSU in Portland and seen immediately by specialists. He is currently undergoing eight weeks of aggressive chemotherapy. The next step will be a liver transplant.

Right now, his best form of treatment remains positivity and love.

“Trying to be grateful for every day,” Atkinson said. “We’ve been through a lot, but we have a big battle ahead of us. But we’re going to do it — we’re going to do it.”

It had already been an expensive journey for the Atkinsons, and there is a long road ahead.

That’s why they are asking for your help. This Sunday, there is a fundraiser for Colby at High Desert Ranch & Home in Bend from 1-5 p.m.

They aren’t just hoping to raise money, but also Colby’s spirit.

Here’s a link to his Facebook page where a silent auction is being held:

Here’s a link to the Party on the Pavement event:

And here’s his page for you to donate, if you can’t make the event:

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