PHOENIX - The American Liver Foundation held its 12th Annual Liver Life 5K Walk at Steele Indian School Park in downtown Phoenix. The goal of the walk is to raise awareness of liver diseases.
Retired LAFD firefighter Cesar Alvarez, who now lives in the valley, says he was diagnosed with liver cancer back in 2009. He said he rarely drinks, but for two years prior to his diagnosis, he took a good amount of pain medication following an injury while on-duty. He found out about his condition during a trip to the emergency room. He eventually got a transplant in 2010 at the Mayo Clinic.
"I just felt tired all the time. I wanted to sleep all the time,” said Alvarez, describing how he felt prior to the transplant. “It just wasn't me…I was totally a different person."
According to the American Liver Foundation, about 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year. The foundation also says 60 percent of those who suffer from liver disease are like Cesar and the cases are non-alcohol related.
"Liver disease is not known as a sexy disease, it's not a lot of movement behind it, and that's why we're here to get the word out,” said Hamilton Baiden with the American Liver Foundation.
Cesar says the transplant saved his life and now he’s back to his normal, upbeat self once again. He hopes his story will encourage people to get treatment if they don’t feel right.
"As long as I can, I'm going to keep doing this and keep getting people motivated and educated on what they need to do if they need a liver transplant,” said Alvarez.
Today’s walk raised more than $135,000, with proceeds going toward education and clinical research for the treatment of liver diseases.