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Manteca woman waiting for call thatll save her life
Roseanna Criner a liver cancer survivor waiting for a transplant shares a laugh with her husband Dick while tying a purple ribbon on the tree in front of their Manteca home in preparation for the upcoming Relay for Life this weekend at Sierra High School. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL


• WHAT: Manteca 24-Hour Relay
• WHERE: Sierra High stadium
• WHEN: Saturday, April 28, from 9. a.m., to Sunday, April 29, at 10 a.m.
• MORE INFO: Visit, type Manteca in the search bar in the top right corner of the screen and click search.

Roseanna Criner loves her living room furniture.

Instead of reaching onto the side of her couch and love seat and pulling a lever to trigger the reclining mechanism, she pushes a button and it electronically slides back until she finds herself in a comfortable position.

Creature comfort yes, but the purchase was made as an investment for the recuperation period that she’ll be facing when she finally does get that phone call from Stanford University telling her that her name has made it to the top of the list.

That’s when Roseanna Criner will get a new liver.

More than three decades after she contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion, Criner – who was diagnosed with liver cancer in October as a byproduct of the disease – lives day-to-day in a four-hour window waiting for the call from the Palo Alto hospital that very well could end up saving her life.

And even though she has already undergone two rounds of chemotherapy that destroyed the tumors contained within her liver, the recent retiree can’t help but think about what could happen and how it’ll affect her family.

“Scared is the first word that comes to mind – I worry about what it’s going to do to him,” she said – pointing to her husband Dick. “I worry about what’s going to happen to him and my grandbabies.

“I’ve already gone and picked out my own coffin just in case. There are stages that you go through and right now I’m definitely fighting – I’m too ornery and I’m not going to give up.”

It was a cyst on Criner’s liver in 1979 that sent her to Stockton’s St. Joseph’s Medical Center for the procedure that would ultimately infect her with the asymptomatic virus.

It lay dormant in her system until a physical to determine her eligibility for life insurance detected in and set into motion a chain of events that led to the discovery of encapsulated tumors inside of her liver.

The Hepatitis C, doctors told Criner, was to blame for not only the cancer but also the cirrhosis that was discovered through sonograms. She has no history of alcohol or drug abuse. 

Without a transplant, they told her, she’d only have five years to live.

“I always thought that it would be colon cancer that I would end up with,” she said. “My mother died from it and so did my 28-year-old brother. I have another brother with lymphoma. I eventually found out that both of my grandfathers died of colon cancer as well, so I get annual colonoscopies.

“But liver cancer completely caught me off guard. I never even thought about it.”

Her husband Dick – a heavy equipment operator that now takes local jobs so that he’s never too far away from the house – says that the simplest things are the ones that he checks for when taking care of his wife.

He remembers coming home and seeing the pamphlet for the casket that she had picked out and how that put the situation into perspective. And as he nears retirement he says he wants to be able to travel with his companion and enjoy the little things.

“I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and look at her chest to see if she’s still breathing,” he said. “I’ll do the same thing when I come home and she’s sleeping on the couch. And I call her a lot throughout the day to see how she’s doing.”

But a new lease on life could be just around the corner.

Experts and Stanford tell Criner that she should be getting the phone call for the transplant sometime within the next year. She just recently cracked the top 10 on the waiting list that draws organs from throughout the Western United States.

She has four hours from the time the call comes in to make it to Stanford and prep for a seven- to nine-hour surgery.

And hers will be anything but routine.

Because of a weight-loss surgery she underwent back in the 1980s, doctors will have to widen her stomach to allow her to take the 40-plus anti-rejection pills required to improve the chances that her body will take to the new organ.

Because medical records are destroyed after a decade, they’ll be winging it once the surgery begins.

And while Criner went out of her way to buy brand new couches to make it easier to stay comfortable during her recovery, she’s going to have to spend six to eight weeks within blocks of the hospital so that she can be seen daily by doctors and medical staff.

Her whole life, she says, is about to change.

“I just feel like I lost control of my life,” she said. “I don’t want to end up in a one-room motel for three months – it’s not going to be an easy thing to do.

“But I believe in God and that he sent me to Stanford where these doctors are able to do the things that they’re able to do. I’m thankful that I’ll be able to live again after this.”