Brian Matise – Aurora I am a caregiver and advocate for my wife, Kathy Matise. On August 22, 2019, our lives were changed forever when Kathy learned she likely had cancer. We were both in our early 60’s and were looking forward to an active retirement in a few years. Kathy was an esthetician and sales representative for a skincare line for the Colorado territory. Her business was finally taking off. She lived a healthy lifestyle, exercised, kept her weight down, and lived a healthy lifestyle. She seemed in perfect health. But about a year and a half earlier, in February 2018, she started experiencing random episodes of sudden nausea and vomiting. At first, it was only every couple of months. Then it grew more frequent. She told her internal medicine primary care doctor about this in the spring of 2018, but he said it was only anxiety and prescribed anti-anxiety medicine. When she complained it was not getting better, he raised the dose. That still did not help. She suggested perhaps getting an endoscopy to determine the problem but was told that insurance wouldn’t cover it. At one visit, she was seen by a physician’s assistant who tested her for h-pylori. The test was positive. She asked if she might have stomach cancer because h-pylori is a major cause of stomach cancer. Still, the physician’s assistant said she did not have to worry about it because stomach cancer only affected Asians. She was treated for h-pylori, which killed the bacteria. But she still had nausea and vomiting. She called her doctor again and asked for an endoscopy to see whether the h-pylori had caused any damage. Again, she was told she did not need it, and the insurance would not pay for it. Finally, I called her doctor’s office and literally demanded that she get further tests because something was seriously wrong. The doctor ordered a CT scan and endoscopy. The CT scan was scheduled for ten days later, on August 22. The day before the CT scan, the insurance company said they could not approve it without more information from the doctor. The doctor called and provided the information, but the insurance insisted we cancel the scan because they needed 72 hours to get approval. After an hour of arguing on the phone with the insurer and insisting I be transferred to two levels of supervisors, they agreed to do an expedited review and eventually approved the CT scan. The CT scan showed a large ovarian tumor, and smaller peritoneal thickening, which we later found out were secondary to primary stomach cancer, gastric adenocarcinoma. Because my wife now has Stage 4 metastatic cancer, her prognosis is far worse than it would have been if it were detected earlier. She must undergo exhaustive chemotherapy for at least six months and may need more surgery later (if she is lucky). She is on a clinical immunotherapy trial. Unfortunately, stomach cancer immunotherapy is often a “hand me down” of medications that were first developed to treat other cancers, and there are few clinical trials of immunotherapies developed primarily to treat stomach cancer. I am advocating for Kathy and all other past, present, and future stomach cancer patients to raise awareness so that it can be detected earlier and not dismissed as a “rare” disease (it is not that rare, and millions of Americans will have stomach cancer in their lifetime). Simple tests such as for h-pylori, followed up by an endoscopy when she tested positive, could have detected Kathy’s cancer earlier. In Japan and South Korea, where there is greater awareness and testing, stomach cancer is usually detected earlier (at stages 1-2 when it is curable instead of stage 4). Similarly, suppose stomach cancer research was funded at even a fraction of the level of other cancers such as breast, blood, and lung cancers. In that case, we could expect immunotherapy and other breakthroughs like the successes against these other cancers. Do not forget my wife and the nearly 30,000 Americans each year with this horrible disease or dismiss it as a “rare” disease.
Jolinda Wilson – Greeley Farming in Northern Colorado was the joy of my life. But raising 4 boys was an even greater JOY and the memories of work, play and challenges are forever stamped on my heart. I had always worked outside of the farm as well as put in my hours on the farm! But one thing I never compromised was my family time. Being a Realtor and owning a Marketing Company took people skills that came easy but with any competitive field, it comes with stress. Top that off with a tumultuous divorce and the stomach issues began. I was given anti-depressants and told that because I was a woman and emotions surfaced more than men the sickness and pain in my body was all psychological. My hair was falling out and I knew something was seriously wrong when 2 inches (no joke) of skin peeled off the bottom of my feet. I saw doctors in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Texas. All concurred, it was in my head! Through a friend I met with a Gastrointestinal Doctor in Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Laura Dakovich sat with me in her office for over an hour asking me question after question. Her very last question to me was” Do you ever have food get stuck?” Yes, I said, but I think it is because I eat on the run but lately, it felt dry down my throat. Did I mention I had gained 40 pounds? She scheduled an endoscopy the very next morning. September 11, 2013. I drove myself to the hospital and was alone in Iowa. I woke up after an endoscopy the very next morning, to this amazing lady with tears in her eyes, “JoLinda, you have cancer, this is serious, you need to get this taken care of immediately.” I flew back to Colorado the very next day and on October 29, 2013, through many appointments and fast decisions by my wonderful Oncologist, Dr. James Moore, my Gastrointestinal Dr. Michael Nosler, and my Surgeon Dr. Michael Roller, I had a Total Gastrectomy and the bottom 1/3 of my esophagus taken out. They took 29 Lymph nodes and throughout the surgery they did pathology. All nodes were clean! They did however find the cancer had penetrated through the sub-mucosa layer and was throughout my stomach. I sunk down to 98 pounds. Eating has become a chore, but I have gained back 40 pounds! I am so glad for the quick action of my doctors and their actions. I chose no Chemotherapy or Radiation. For 6 years, 2 months, and 10 days I am cancer free. On September 4, 2017, I received the call no mother ever wants. My 23-year-old son, Luke Lee Charles Wilson was killed in a tragic accident. He was the son that worked with us on the farm. He was the very core of my heart along with his three brothers. My biggest question is why did I survive this unforgiving cancer to lose my son? MY HEART ACHES DAILY and I do not know the answer to this and never will, but until I meet my sweet boy again, I will fight for early detection and push hard for the CURE for STOMACH CANCER.