A young man has made a successful recovery after doctors told his family to say their goodbyes after he was struck down with an ultra-rare “one-in-six-million” cancer.
Sam Parker, 23, of Clitheroe, England, needed to undergo a life-saving treatment after his nausea and headaches turned out to be paraganglioma in his kidney—a rare tumor usually diagnosed in people much older.
Sam first felt unwell in February 2020 when he believed he was showing symptoms of dehydration after a routine run. However, CT scans at his local GP revealed he had paraganglioma in his kidney, a rare cancer most often diagnosed in people aged 30–50.
Paraganglioma is a type of neuroendocrine tumor that forms near certain blood vessels.
Sam said: “It was pretty daunting. There is a strong history of cancer in my mom’s side of the family but not this type of cancer and nothing in someone as young as me.”
“They told me it was a one-in-six-million chance and the fact it happened in the adrenal glands made it even rarer,” he added. “I tried not to worry too much and just thought, ‘well I’m in the right place to get it sorted.’”
At the time, Sam kept thinking about the fact that he was only 22 and was so fit and healthy; so why did he have to face such a deadly disease?
In December 2020, Sam had a successful nine-hour surgery to remove his tumor at Royal Lancaster Hospital in England. But, during the operation, liquid from the tumor leaked into his lungs, which rapidly decreased the amount of oxygen moving around his body.
He was rushed to Wythenshawe so he could be placed on a ventilator to save his life and his family was called in to say their goodbyes.
Sam was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which had to take over his heart and lung functions to keep him alive.
The ECMO is a life-support machine that replaces the function of the heart and lungs.
Sam’s mom, Julie, went to the hospital with his dad, Ian, and older brother, Josh, as doctors feared he wouldn’t make it.
She recalled seeing his eyes taped up with tubes all around him and kissing him on the forehead and whispering to him “you can do this.”
“I walked in and his eyes were taped up and I just remember thinking this doesn’t happen in real life, it happens on television.”
His father was also distraught upon seeing him in that state.
“After that we were driving home and I just remember being angry at the world that everyone was carrying on as normal and my youngest son was fighting for his life,” Julia said.
With treatment to get enough oxygen around his body, Sam survived. Thankfully, due to his young age and high fitness levels, Sam was able to breathe on his own again after a few days.
The family had him home in time for Christmas and Sam is now on the road to recovery. He said he is now more focused on the things that matter in life and hopes to buy a house with his girlfriend, April.
To express his gratitude, Sam has also set up “Sam’s Gratitude Fundraiser” for Wythenshawe Hospital Charity to thank the team who saved his life.
“I just can’t thank the team enough for everything they did. I wanted to show my appreciation to them for everything they did,” Sam said.
“It definitely changed my perspective on things. I think I was a bit moody and a bit of a pessimist before but now I just want to get doing things and not wait around.”
All his near and dear ones have supported him by raising as much money as they can.
Jo Thomas, Wythenshawe Hospital Charity’s Community Fundraising Officer, said: “Sam is such an inspirational person and it’s a relief to hear he’s now on the mend and getting better each day.”
He also appreciated Sam and his family for wanting to give back to the hospital and fundraise for the ECMO unit’s fund.
“We will be supporting them all throughout their fundraising and can’t wait to see how they get on,” Jo said.
Epoch Times Staff contributed to this report.