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 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 90% 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 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. When I told my daughter, 13, 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. 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 good friend 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. Enough is enough.