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Personal Stories: Adrian's Gift

Adrian ElkinsRunning was Adrian Elkin's passion. As the youngest of five children, Adrian grew up running, trying to catch up with his older brothers and sisters. In high school, he discovered cross-country running and continued running after he went to college.

During Adrian's sophomore year at Southern Oregon University, he was unexpectedly diagnosed with liver cancer due to chronic hepatitis B. This became his toughest race ever. Adrian courageously underwent months of surgery, chemotherapy, and related treatments to beat the cancer. During the last two months of his life, he devoted his time to organizing a race to raise awareness about liver cancer and hepatitis B.

Adrian and his family started work on the first Answer to Cancer Race in June 2003, racing against time. In six incredible weeks, they were ready. On August 3, the day of the race, he fired the starter's pistol and the runners were off. Eight days later, Adrian Elkins died at the age of 20 years old.

Adrian began life as an abandoned baby at a Calcutta orphanage. At three months, he was adopted by the Elkins family from McMinnville, Oregon. "He was the perfect little boy," his mother Judy recalled, and "we doted on him."

Although he appeared healthy, Adrian and his parents always knew he was a carrier of hepatitis B due to a blood transfusion he received as a premature infant in India. However, they never expected the disease to manifest itself as a rare type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). "Doctors said he was at little risk of problems because of the hepatitis B," his mother said.

Judy Elkins now wishes that they had been on the lookout for cancer, with regular screening and specialized medical care. But the possibility seemed so remote. "We heard what we wanted to hear," she said. "Now we know more than we wish we had to know."

On the first day of his sophomore year in college - Sept. 30, 2002 - Adrian awoke feeling funny. In retrospect, he realized that he had felt tired all summer. He had attributed his symptoms to his busy schedule of working and training for a major relay.

As he returned to his dorm room after breakfast, he began having a lot of pain and difficulty breathing. A friend drove him to the hospital emergency room, and at first, physicians thought Adrian was having a gallbladder attack. Then, an ultrasound test revealed that his liver was extremely enlarged. A liver biopsy was done.

Days later, the family learned that Adrian had hepatocellular carcinoma, or liver cancer. It was devastating news. Still, there was hope. Adrian was an excellent candidate for surgery to remove the cancer, since it appeared to involve only the right lobe of his liver. He started his first round of chemotherapy while waiting for surgery. 

Sadly, the operation brought more bad news. The cancer wasn't confined to the right lobe after all - the left lobe was affected, too. Worse, the cancer had also spread to his lungs. Adrian battled his disease for ten months.

Adrian's legacy is a gift to generations of patients in their fight against liver cancer. Thanks to the generous support of many, the Answer to Cancer Race 2003 raised $24,000 for three charities dedicated to liver cancer.

Adrian's final gift is the Answer to Cancer Race that will help generations of patients in their fight against liver cancer. He turned his passion for running into a legacy of caring that will endure. 

Editor's Note: We thank the Elkins family for sharing their story with the Hepatitis B Foundation and extend our admiration for Adrian's commitment and dedication to educating the public about liver cancer and hepatitis B. This article was excerpted from their emails and press releases on their Answer to Cancer Foundation at www.answertocancer.org.

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