BENEFITING: No Stomach For Cancer
EVENT DATE: Nov 02, 2013
Simone Busija wrote -
Michelle Lykokapis & Simone Busija have both been touched by stomach cancer in their own ways. Together they unite in a common goal to help raise awareness and money to go towards research to hopefully one day find a cure!
Please take a moment to read their individual stories about how stomach cancer has affected their lives.
If you would like to help support the cause you can do so in a number of ways....1. donate to this fundraising page 2. You can register for a walk pack via No Stomach for Cancer where proceeds go towards research for stomach cancer -( registration link below): 3. . Do one of the above and join Michelle & Simone on the day of the worldwide walk which will be held on Sat Nov 2nd. We will meet @ 10am at the start of The Tan running track (also known as Pillars of Wisdom) Botanical Gardens Melbourne - (cnr Swan St Bridge & Alexandra Avenue.).
At 39 years old, I was on top of the world. With two teenage stepdaughters and two sons, my children ranged from 3-15 years – I was a stay at home mom. With my 3 year old about to head off to preschool, I was looking forward to some well deserved “me time” to indulge in biking, one of my favorite pastimes – and, as I edged towards my 40th birthday, my thoughts turned towards planning a huge birthday bash… but all my plans soon came to a crashing halt.
In October 2010, I began experiencing problems with indigestion – thinking it was nothing, I bought some over the counter medicine and didn’t think too much about it. But when the symptoms didn’t go away and started to affect my eating, I went to a doctor. In March 2011, I had a gastroscopy, which confirmed the presence of a large ulcer at the top of my stomach near my esophagus and a growth behind the ulcer. The biopsy results, received two days later, revealed I had a gastric carcinoma.
I was referred to a surgeon, who explained the steps they would need to take in order to determine where the cancer was and how they would tackle it. I was then put on a course of chemotherapy for three months to try and reduce the size of the tumor prior surgery. Unfortunately, the chemo did not reduce the size of the tumor and I had a total gastrectomy (complete removal of my stomach) on July 19, 2011. I also had 1/3rd of my pancreas, my spleen, and 36 lymph nodes removed. There was also a diaphragm repair, as my stomach had swelled so much that it had adhered to it. Six weeks after surgery, I went round two with chemotherapy and radiation, which was completed in November 2011.
Turning 40 I was at a point in my life where I wondered why I was here and what my life’s purpose was – but I knew that everything happens for a reason. I took my diagnosis not as a victim but as an opportunity for accelerated growth. It was a chance for me to release any fear, anger and resentment. I had to bring about a new understanding of myself, a new strength I never knew I was capable of and a new me at the end of it all, no matter what the final outcome was going to be.
From a medical perspective, I have now been cancer free for 2 years (July 2013), and hope to live a long and healthy life.
I support 'No Stomach For Cancer' as it is important to me that there is a raised awareness around the symptoms of stomach cancer. If I had ignored mine then Christmas 2011 would have been my last.
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.
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.
I am now almost 2 years post surgery and apart from a few daily adjustments such as lower energy & never really being hungry but needing to eat, 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, exercising several days a week and looking after my very busy and energetic kids.
I am a huge advocate for The No Stomach for Cancer foundation as they aide in the vital role of raising awareness about stomach cancer whilst acting as a forum for those who have been affected by it to learn and connect with others.
Whether you donate to our fundraiser, walk with us on November the 2nd 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.