Stomach Cancer Survivor Stories

You Are Not Alone! Read About Some Survivors and Share Your Story With Us!

Being diagnosed with stomach cancer is devastating enough without having the added burden of going through it alone and feeling like there is no hope. Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer is changing that. Read the stories below about some extraordinary people who have survived stomach cancer and are winning the battle. Getting involved with DDF and sharing your survivor story is another way to feel less alone and isolated. Call our PREP hotline at (855) 475-1200 for support and to be connected with a stomach cancer survivor.

Jennifer H3

Jennifer Higgins-Spiers

was diagnosed with stomach cancer by Accident when I was Twenty-six years old on July 27, 2009. I had been seeing doctors for lower abdominal pain and a generalized feeling of malaise-zero energy, and a sudden onset of terrible GERD. But the pain I experienced is what lead me to be seen. I was desperate for help.

While being treated for several deficiencies, I had a GI workup done. A polyp found in my UPPER stomach (so this did not give me an answer for my pain) by an upper GI and remove via Endoscopic ultrasound.

Given my age, my cancer diagnosis surprised everyone: stage One adenocarcinoma with signet ring cell features; poorly differentiated. I do not carry the CDH-1 gene. No family history of stomach cancer. No risk factors. Had I not seen the doctor for pain, my story would be different! The answer to my pain came two years later! I had a tumor-related to my Neurofibromatosis type 1-a condition that causes tumors to grow throughout my body. It creates a lot of issues, but it saved my life!

One month after diagnosis, I had a partial gastrectomy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I had a rough recovery with decreased esophageal motility, severe GERD, and lack of appetite. While recovery was rough, I accomplished a lot! I got my Master’s Degree in 2012, had a baby in 2014, and found a job in 2015 I enjoy.

While I was thankful to be cured, the complications from the PG lead me to get a TG on February 25, 2019, almost ten years later. This was not an easy decision, but my decision was made possible thanks to fellow survivors and a strong support network.

Initial recovery from the TG was not fun. Ten years of scar tissue forced my surgeon to excavate my remaining stomach from my fused liver and pancreas. Thanks to this, pancreatic enzymes flooded my chest cavity and collapsed my left lung. A tiny PE was then incidentally found in my right lung. I had a never-ending infection that didn’t even respond to vancomycin! I also failed my swallow test and was NPO a total of 45 days. My Jtube was my best frenemy. But I recovered!

I live a perfect life now (I work full time!), and I am very humbled and privileged to be a part of Debbie’s Dream Foundation. I am grateful for my husband, who has been my rock throughout all of this. I have the best support network of family and friends. And I have a fun-loving kid who makes my life better.

Steven Melen – California

My story begins in Spring 2007 with my first symptoms. I first started to feel an increased amount of fatigue and was having small amounts of pain while swallowing food. Occasional reflux sent me to my primary care physician where he initially diagnosed my symptoms as stress and gave me a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to help with the reflux.…

Read More

Angela Bosela – Ohio

In January 2007, at the age of 55, I discovered that I had stomach cancer. I had always been healthy, but I had some recurring chest pain for six months or so. I even told my husband I felt like I had a hole just below the sternum. (Who knew that the stomach is located so high?) In November 2006,…

Read More

Nelson Civello – Florida

April 1, 2015 After fighting prostate cancer it appeared that I would resume “the good life” of a retired executive playing golf and living on the beach in Florida with my wife of 42 years. On my 67th birthday we celebrated with a steak dinner. But cramping and distention on the right side of my abdomen was the result. My…

Read More

Rachael Cortez – California

I am Rachael Cortez from Lodi, California; I am 31 years old. I was diagnosed with stage 2 stomach cancer on June 20, 2014. “Why me?” I kept asking that day. I was so healthy. I have never had anything wrong. It was a complete shock to me and my husband of almost 15 years. We wondered about whom we…

Read More

Daniel Damian – Florida

My name is Daniel, and this is my cancer story. On Sunday morning, October 31, 1994, as soon as I got up I started getting heart palpitations every time I moved, and every time I tried to get up I got very dizzy. I decided to wait, thinking that maybe it would go away, but it didn’t. Later on in…

Read More

Gae Rogers – Maryland

This year I celebrated my 55th birthday. It’s a birthday I looked forward to celebrating, since it also marked my 5 year anniversary as a stomach cancer survivor. In July 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Gastric Cancer. It was a signet ring cell type which I was told was an extremely aggressive, fast growing cancer. I was shocked.…

Read More

Melani Vincelli – New Jersey

Like most woman today, I always put my health concerns last. So in January of 2009 when I noticed some pressure under my breastbone, I ignored it. I thought that I am too young for anything to be seriously wrong. I was only 49. I had a stressful job, I sold technology to businesses and with the recession in full…

Read More

Pat Campola – Florida

On September 20, 2012, my life changed but not for a good reason. That day I was diagnosed with gastric cancer and specifically a tumor in the upper part of the stomach near the esophagus. I have been in the health insurance field for 30 years and was acutely aware of the seriousness of my situation and did what I’m…

Read More

Randy Hillard – Michigan

I never really had any symptoms of stomach cancer. In 2010, I was a Professor at Michigan State University and was Provost for Health, responsible for the Medical and Nursing Colleges. I thought that I was in great health. I was at the Michigan State University Student Health Service Halloween Party in 2010, probably wearing some kind of silly mask.…

Read More

Millie McConnell – British Columbia, Canada

My name is Millie McConnell, and I am a twelve year stomach cancer survivor. I was diagnosed Nov 15, 2001 with Stage 3B Signet Ring Stomach Cancer and told to put my affairs in order. The hospital had me on morphine although it was on my record prior to surgery that I was very allergic to it. Following surgery I…

Read More

Alan Cohen – New Jersey

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 look into 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…

Read More

Victoria Soudaros – California

Victoria “Vatsany” Soudaros is an immigrant from Laos.  She loves to travel, eat, shop, and is a chef at heart.  She is half Laotian and Thai.  In 1979, Victoria’s family was sponsored for asylum as political refugees from Laos to the U.S. by a Lutheran Church.  Victoria has loved fashion and food since the age of 5.  She developed this…

Read More

Lisa Gardner – New Hampshire

My name is Lisa Gardner. I am a 46-year-old wife, mother, and special education para-educator. February 28, 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. The 10 cm tumor was growing in my upper stomach and into my esophagus. The cancer had spread to 4 major lymph nodes around my aorta, making my case inoperable. Doctors had very low…

Read More

Denise Leprine-New York

It all began in Oct 2016 when I was going for routine blood work every few months after being diagnosed with diabetes.  My blood work showed me extremely anemic even though I didn’t exhibit and signs or symptoms.  I ended up admitted to the hospital resulting in an 11-day stay. All the initial tests came back negative, but a biopsy came back…

Read More