When Frank Gardea was diagnosed with liver cancer in Ma rch 2013, he never expected he’d live to ring in
2014—let alone see the calendar turn to 2018.
Neither did his doctors.
That March day, the 59-year-old resident
of Woodland Hills, California, showed up at
a Los Angeles County emergency room with
severe abdominal pain. The pain itself wasn’t
new; he’d been talking to doctors about it for two
years. But the intensity was. Soon, the ER team
discovered what Gardea’s other doctors had not
seen: an 8-centimeter tumor on his liver.
Tests showed Gardea had hepatocellular
carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of
liver cancer in adults. He also had hepatitis C
and early stages of cirrhosis. Gardea says his
doctors told him that the tumor’s size and
the underlying liver disease left him with a
poor prognosis, and they advised him to get
his affairs in order. Gardea felt certain he
had only a few more months to live, but then,
by chance, other doctors doing rounds saw
his chart. They advised him to seek treat-
ment as quickly as possible at the Pfleger
Liver Institute of the David Geffen School of
Medicine at the University of California, Los
That May, he had his first appointment with
medical oncologist Richard Finn at UCLA. Finn
ran tests and scans and said he’d see him in two
weeks. But within days, Gardea was back in an
emergency room—this time the one at UCLA.