CT of Fatty Liver Disease

Tony Villiotti: Hard Learned Lessons About NASH

I come from a large Italian family where eating, and lots of it, was a priority. In college, I was very active and my weight was under control. Once I graduated, and especially after marriage and kids, my weight skyrocketed and I was clearly developing obesity. My love of eating and my weight led to my contracting diabetes in my early forties. But I had no idea that I was on my way to something called NASH.

From that point forward, I saw my general practitioner on a regular basis for my diabetes. In 2005, about 15 years after my diabetes diagnosis, the same doctor told me that my liver enzymes were high and that I had a fatty liver. Lose some weight he said, but didn’t make a big deal of it. I had heard the “lose weight” sermon at every doctor’s appointment, so I left his office concerned about my diabetes, but not even thinking about fatty liver. Other than the “lose weight” message, I received no real care for obesity in that appointment or any other.

Progression to NASH and Cirrhosis

In 2014, after bloodwork and an MRI, the doctor called me and said I had NASH and probably cirrhosis. What is NASH? That is the day I first heard of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). It’s a condition where the liver swells due to fat building up in it. Okay, but cirrhosis? I rarely drank alcohol. Isn’t that a drinker’s disease? My wife and I both thought he had me confused with another patient. Not the case. I learned that day that even non-drinkers can get cirrhosis. Unfortunately, far too few people know that.

My cirrhosis continued to worsen and by early 2017 I had developed liver cancer and underwent radiation therapy intended to stop the growth of my tumor and prevent its spread. Shortly thereafter, following extensive testing, I was went on the transplant list and received my transplant in early 2018.

Looking back at my experience it became evident to me that I had as many as nine years (2005 to 2014) where I could have reversed my liver disease through lifestyle changes. Bariatric surgery should also have been an option. It also became evident to me that my lack of knowledge was the rule and not the exception. Having received the gift of life through my transplant, I felt an obligation to increase public awareness of nonalcoholic liver disease and, aside from family, that is now the principal focus in my life.

We thank Tony Villiotti for today’s guest post and for his outstanding work in founding NASH kNOWledge. We admire his commitment to bringing something good to everyone from his personal experience with NASH and liver failure.

CT of Fatty Liver Disease, image by James Heilman, MD / Wikimedia Commons

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October 3, 2019

One Response to “Tony Villiotti: Hard Learned Lessons About NASH”

  1. October 03, 2019 at 7:35 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Thank you Tony for your hard work and dedication to enlightening all of us about NASH. I’m so sorry what you went through, but very happy you are healthy now.