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Ryan's Story

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Ryan Brown was something of a miracle baby. He and his sister, Hope, were the first twins ever born to a liver transplant patient. Though delivered only one minute apart, Ryan was the older one – something he never let Hope forget. He was her smart, funny, confident big brother.

 

“We were supposed to grow up together. Now I won’t have that.”

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Ryan’s journey towards cancer began at the age of 12 with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. He tried to maintain as much a regular life as he could and was instructed to undergo surveillance colonscopies every five years.

 

His most recent scope was in 2017. He was to receive another this year – a likely inadequate schedule given that he now had a decade of colitis under his belt.

 

More ominously, his mother, too, suffers from ulcerative colitis and on two separate occasions has had early stage colon cancers detected and removed.

 

The signs of a serious problem for Ryan began in February of 2021 when he was stricken with what he thought was a particularly painful colitis flare.

 

 

He experienced changes in his stool color and composition, fatigue, headaches, dehydration, and constantly needing to use the toilet. He was prescribed antibiotics in a telemedicine visit.

By February of 2022, he was increasingly ill. In March, he spent a week in the hospital. An ambitious student, Ryan pushed through the pain to finish his dissertation from the hospital bed while receiving IV fluids and steroids. No additional testing was done and he was sent home. 

 

"It was purely down to his age that his symptoms were missed. You don't expect a 23-year-old to have stage four bowel cancer."

Within a few weeks, Ryan was in so much pain he was struggling to walk. At the end of April, he spent another week in the hospital. It was during this period that he began vomiting fecal matter due to a bowel perforation. It was only at this point, on May 1, that a CT scan was completed, detecting a very large [15x12, 13] tumor in his colon with spread to his lymph nodes and across seven of the eight segments of his liver.

 

Too sick to undergo treatment, he entered palliative care on May 12. He died in the early hours of May 14, less than two weeks after his cancer diagnosis and shortly before he was scheduled to graduate from Strathclyde University with a degree in electrical engineering.

 

Among the last things he learned from his family: his dissertation had earned him an honors degree at graduation. 

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