Meet Barb Pitts – National Liver Champion of the American Liver Foundation (ALF) 2022 Liver Life Walks. Barb was diagnosed with liver disease in 1999 at age 44. Initially, her symptoms aligned with PBC, a chronic liver disease resulting from progressive destruction of bile ducts in the liver – but – after extensive testing revealed a lack of PBC markers, the mystery ensued. Bard said, “At that point they could not diagnose me so my doctor and I jokingly called it “BPD” - Barb Pitts Disease.”
No one plans to develop liver disease. Barb said, “It never occurred to me that I could die and I was the last person anyone ever expected to get a liver disease. I barely drank alcohol and I never did anything that put me at risk.” Liver disease can go undetected for years and often, people only find out after it is too late. Barb said, “It did not really affect me until doctors told me I would need a transplant someday to survive. That terrified me and I became involved with ALF immediately.”
Barbara’s first interaction with ALF was at the Liver Life Walk in Washington D.C. 1999. Barb said, “That first year I raised $100 but was determined to do more. Since then, I have been to every Liver Life Walk and have raised over $55,000 for ALF. I am truly honored to be this year’s National Liver Champion and I feel blessed to have ALF in my life – they have always been there to support and encourage me.”
“Someday” came in 2020 when Barb was diagnosed with liver cancer and told those four gut-wrenching words, “you need a transplant”. Barb said, “Thankfully, on July 9, 2021, I had my liver transplant. I was lucky enough to have the support of ALF and a close friend and fellow transplant recipient to help prepare me. When I woke up from my transplant, I made a promise to my donor that I would spend the rest of my life honoring their amazing gift to me and pay it forward. I want to support others, share my story and bring awareness to liver disease.”
ALF offers several opportunities to get involved and many ways to connect with others affected by liver disease. Barb said, “Your diagnosis is not a death sentence – you can get through this! Join a support group, find a mentor, share your feelings with friends and remember it is okay to cry. Just know you do not have to do this alone.” ALF is the largest nonprofit focused on liver health and wellness. With hundreds of resources for patients, families, caregivers and physicians, ALF has been the trusted voice in the liver community for the past 45 years and counting.
Thank you for sharing your liver journey with us, Barb! You are an inspiration to all who meet you and we are lucky to have you on our side. Join Barb for the upcoming Virtual Liver Life Walk being held Saturday, November 12th. To learn more or register, visit our website.