2011 was a life changing year for me, making this cause I am fundraising for very close to my heart. Please take a few minutes to have a read of my extraordinary story……
To begin the story, I need to go back a few years where the story begins with my father and his 4 other siblings.
Over the course of their life, 4 out of 5 of the siblings (including my father), all shared a shocking link of being diagnosed with stomach cancer. The first of the siblings to be diagnosed was in his 30's and fortunately, survived the ordeal. Years later my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer which was unfortunately late stage and after a courageous fight, lost his battle at age 56. Some 5 years later a third brother was also diagnosed with late stage stomach cancer and sadly lost his battle too, also aged in his 50’s. It was at this point that the surviving brother to cancer had the foresight to see that this had to be more than a tragic coincidence and through further research, found that the family did infact have a gene mutation called CDH1 which was causing hereditary diffuse gastric cancer in the family.
After this was discovered, a fourth sibling was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which was fortunately detected at an early stage.
This is the time when I come into the story! All family members were advised that if our parent had tested positive to this gene, then his/her children had a 50/50 chance of also testing positive. I therefore decided to go down the road of finding out if I was also positive. A blood test and an anxious 7 week wait revealed that I was a positive gene carrier of the CDH1 mutation. Testing positive meant that I now had an 83% risk of inheriting hereditary diffuse gastric cancer at some point in my life! The tricky part about stomach cancer, as seen with my father and his brother, is that it’s extremely hard to detect unless it is late stage and then unfortunately it is often too late. Basically, I had 2 options:
1 – Run with the risk (and anxiety!!) of testing and hope to catch the cancer early if it came, or
2 – Have a prophylactic total gastroectomy which is the technical term meaning to have my stomach removed which would reduce my risk of stomach cancer from 83% to 0%.
Given the track record in our family to date with stomach cancer, in my opinion, the surgery was the only decision worth taking, albeit a life changing one.
On November 14th, 2011, one day after my youngest son turned 2, I embarked on one of the most challenging journeys in my life and had my stomach removed. The surgery was major and took 6 hours to perform (by keyhole would you believe!!). With my stomach being completely removed, my oesophagus was then joined to my small intestine, creating a new and very small area for food to travel to. The first few months were fairly tough adjusting to my new “plumbing” and I experienced a lot of discomfort & nausea trying to eat. Due to only being able to eat very small amounts, I experienced rapid weight loss and have dropped around 10kg to date.
A few months after my surgery, I was informed that the pathology results showed a minute section of cancer found buried in the wall of my stomach. Although shocking, this news certainly validated my decision to have surgery.
These days….10 months on, life is pretty much back to a new kind of normal and I marvel each and every day how miraculous the human body is!
I am eating everything I was eating with a stomach, albeit smaller portions! I am back at work, going to the gym 2 days a week and looking after my very busy and energetic kids. Some things have been a bit weird like, getting used to never having the sensation of being hungry but knowing that I need to eat!
No Stomach for Cancer is a foundation that exists to raise awareness about stomach cancer and acts as a forum for those who have been affected by it to learn and connect with others. They have created a worldwide walk that will take place on November 3rd to raise awareness for stomach cancer and raise much needed money for research.
November marks my 12 month anniversary of living without a stomach, so this is a great way to celebrate my milestone whilst raising money for a great cause. I will tribute my walk to those members in my family who have been affected by stomach cancer, with a special thought to my Dad.
So, now is the part when I ask for your help!! I would really appreciate if you would support me on my quest by donating to this great cause. I will be proudly wearing a "No Stomach for Cancer" T-shirt alongside my wonderfully supportive family on the day in honour of this event.
If you would like to join us on the day we will be at "The Tan", Botanical Gardens, Melbourne. Meeting place will be “Pilllars of Wisdom”, cnr Swan St Bridge & Alexandra Avenue @ 11am. You can register for the event via the No Stomach for Cancer website for $40 and receive a T-Shirt & pack or just simply turn up and come along for a walk!
Whether you donate to my fundraiser, walk with me on November the 3rd or simply pass my story onto other people to help raise awareness for stomach cancer, your support is appreciated and I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read my story.