Centennial High School teen takes on liver cancer and wins

Come spring 2017, northwest Las Vegas resident Jordyn Preston, 16, will have the chance to play tourist in London thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The group is granting her wish trip, which will include her parents and three other family members, after she underwent liver transplant surgery in September 2015.

It was after seeing the movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” that the Centennial High School student chose her destination.

“I always wanted to travel to Europe, but I really got into it after the movie (was released),” she said.

Krystal Bane, community development manager for Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada, said Jordyn’s case struck her immediately.

“When I spoke to her mom, she was very moving when she spoke about her daughter. There was that close bond as a family,” she said. “Mom ended up breaking down in tears, talking about how inspiring Jordyn is because she’s just so strong. … and Jordyn’s personality is just inspiring.”

Jordyn’s health issues began in January 2015. Her symptoms were puzzling — sleepiness, a general feeling of discomfort and some pain in her upper abdomen.

A trip to the doctor determined her gall bladder was suspect, so it was removed that May. But during the surgery, the surgeon noticed a mass on her liver. Further tests revealed it was cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma with portal vein thrombosis.

“I wasn’t sad or angry, like most people are,” she said. “I was just, like, ‘OK, this is what I’ve been given, so let’s do what I have to do.’ ”

Her mother, Beverly, had a different reaction.

“You hear ‘cancer,’ and it’s scary,” said Beverly Preston, a romance novelist. “I’ve always hated that word all my life … We knew it was fast-growing. We knew it was the kind that didn’t respond to chemo. Panic set in.”

Dr. James Sanchez at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada had the family take her to Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in Los Angeles. They thought they were only going to be there overnight, but Jordyn was admitted right away.

They were there two weeks.

Doctors determined that the tumor was entwined in her liver and the organ had to be removed. Surgeries included two biopsies and radioembolization (Y90) treatment, which required a tube snaking up to administer medication to her tumor.

Most liver transplants are given to those in dire need, practically on their deathbed, but Jordyn’s liver numbers were good. The cause for concern was the tumor’s location and the fact that it would grow. Her doctor went to bat for her, asking colleagues from across the globe to write exception letters.

Jordyn was approved and moved up the transplant list. She got a new liver about three weeks later.

The then-15-year-old surprised her doctors with knowing a lot about her disease. But then, she’s always had an idea to pursue the medical field. She investigated her condition and learned her options and what to expect from the transplant.

“She completely (knew) everything they were talking about,” Beverly said. “The surgeon joked to (his team), and said, ‘This is our up-and-coming transplant surgeon.’ ”

Jordyn underwent surgery Sept. 3, 2015. Although her specific type of cancer didn’t respond to chemotherapy, she still had to take other medications to combat it. A port was put in her chest wall to administer medications.

An oral pill, a type of chemotherapy, was also prescribed. It meant she didn’t lose her hair, but there were definite reactions: At one point, she was covered in blisters.

“My doctors said, ‘Within six months, you’ll be feeling great,’ but that was not the case for me,” Jordyn said. “I still felt very tired, and I had a lot of different problems, so it was, like, here I am, getting poked and prodded, and yet I’m not getting any better. Around eight months afterwards, I started feeling more normal.”

The teen now takes 40 daily medications, some to deal with the possibility of the cancer returning and some to keep her body from rejecting the new liver. Her cellphone alerts her with tones every 20 or 30 minutes when she’s supposed to take a pill.

The trip to England has the family checking out possible places to visit and the viability of going to Scotland. The delay of the trip, which was announced in August, is due to waiting until Jordyn can handle extensive walking.

“This will give Jordyn time where she can step,” said Beverly, who paused to swallow back her emotions. “We’re still searching for our new normal. This takes us out of thinking about (her condition) all the time.”

Due to the immune-suppressant drugs she takes, Jordyn is limited to two classes at her school but is looking to return as a full-time student next year.

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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