Nicole Ashmore, Branson MO- When I first heard of my father’s cancer diagnosis, my entire world came to a halt. Sounds became muffled, my fingers and legs went numb, and I felt like I was hit by a truck. I was scared, and I was nervous. When I received my cancer diagnosis, I was relieved. I knew my father wasn’t going to go through this alone. The difference was that he had stage 4 gastric cancer, and I had stage 1 gastric cancer. He battled through never ending rounds of chemo on top of clinical trials. He showed so much strength, character, and perseverance while going through a living hell. During his battle, I was preparing to remove my entire stomach- something he wished he could have done.
You see, after several improper cancer diagnosis’s we finally found out that he had a genetic mutation called CDH1 which revealed itself as a highly aggressive form of hereditary diffused gastric cancer. Cancer hides within the stomach lining and is difficult to detect until it reaches later cancer stages. I often wonder if more doctors knew about this gene. Perhaps, he would have been treated earlier and still be here. However, his diagnosis saved me. I was able to test for the gene, enroll in a clinical trial and have my stomach and cancer removed.
I lost my stomach in May of 2019 and my father in August of 2019. The unfortunate reality was that while I was trying to recover and learn how to live without a stomach, I watched my father die from same cancer. My entire life has changed now that I live without a stomach. It is something I must think about several times daily. Not because I want to, because my body always finds ways to remind me. While I may look fine on the outside, I face daily fatigue, suffer from malabsorption, constantly monitor my bloodwork, eat several times daily, and usually encounter discomfort from eating and dehydration. I am thankful to have my life, a wonderful medical team, and I look forward to creating a better future for myself through all of this. I hope that research and funding continue to grow and help spread knowledge and awareness about stomach cancer to save others from going through what I and many others have endured.