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New Jersey Camden County-GIST Ambassador


Camden, NJ

Contact Alan Cohen | Email | (856) 834-5200

I was having stomach pains for a while, and in 2015 I went to an oncologist who just monitored my bloodwork. I asked him a few times to please do an endoscopy to investigate my stomach, but he refused. As I had more bloodwork done, my chromogranin, a tumor marker, kept rising. A normal chromogranin reading is 90 and below. Mine was going up, and the pain was getting worse. I later learned that my doctor had written, “Alan was not made aware that he has stomach cancer,” in his notes.  At that point, I switched to another doctor who referred me to another oncologist. I had more bloodwork done and learned that my tumor marker was fluctuating between 777 to nearly 800. I was getting bloodwork done every three months, and in February 2017, I had a partial gastrectomy. My sample biopsy was sent to the pathologist a few times since the doctors wanted to make sure that it was the proper diagnosis.

On April 17, 2017, I was given the diagnosis that crushed my world—stage 2-3 stomach cancer. I had never smoked, and I was devastated not knowing if I would survive what was ahead of me.

In May of 2017, I was started on a chemo medication called Gleevec, taking 400mg or one pill a day for three months. It was called the miracle drug since it was said to have had excellent results. At the end of the three months, I went for a CT scan, and the medicine had not worked. The tumor was the same size and had not shrunk.  The oncologist sent me to a surgeon whom I knew from the hospital where I had worked. I was told that I would need surgery to remove the cancer.

On Sept 15, 2017, I had 95% of my stomach removed in a five-hour operation, and I was in the hospital for six days after the surgery. I was told that the cancer was becoming aggressive and if I had not had the surgery, I would have died three months later. I was forced to retire in March 2018, after working 39 years in the medical profession due to the pain, fatigue, and nausea I was having every day and still have.

I have been fighting for disability since March of 2018 and was finally approved.  When I told my daughter, 11 at the time, about my diagnosis, she was crushed as expected. My ex-wife and her family have been very supportive and helpful since I live alone. I am scared that the cancer could come back. I often travel to give motivational speeches to provide hope and inspiration to people going through cancer and other diseases. (Covid halted my speeches in person for now). Cancer is not something I ever imagined I would have. In spite of all the surgeries and other medical issues I’ve had, I am a fighter and will continue to fight. My hope is that stomach cancer will eventually be cured. I recently lost a few good friends to stomach cancer, and I don’t want to lose anyone else from cancer. I lost my mom from pancreatic cancer at age 52 in 1982.  My Chromogranin A blood test went up 11 points since Dec. 2020. I take one day at a time. That is all I can do. My 5-year mark is Sept 2022. I hope I make it to ring that bell and tell cancer to go to hell!

I am on Facebook (and Instagram alancohen 318) if you would like to follow my journey.  I also host cancer zoom meetings bimonthly where we talk about ideas, suggestions, nutrition, and meet people who are going through what we are. It’s a great way to make friends.