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Stomach Cancer Treatment - One man's experience.

GaryOlson
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2012

I was diagnosed with stage three stomach cancer in May of 2010. I have successfully completed treatment based on the Magic Trials. This involved nine weeks of chemo, a total gastrectomy, and a final nine week round of chemo. Treatment and recovery were challenging, to say the least, but I am through it now. I appear to be cured.

I maintained a blog through the entire process. People facing this diagnosis might find it helpful to read the blog to get a sense of what it was like to go through treatment. I have reformatted the blog so it starts with the beginning diagnosis and continues through the final round of chemo. I made it a point of maintaining a positive attitude through the whole thing, so the blog isn't particularly depressing.

If anyone wants to take a look at it, it can be found at,

http://garyolson.info

Buzzy523
Posts: 3
Joined: Jun 2012

Haven't read your blog, but I will. My husband was diagnosed in Feb.2012 with stomach cancer. Had 70% of his stomach removed. Now he will face chemo/radiation at the end of this month. Only two lymph nodes were positive. We are far behind in the treatment (Macdonald Regime) due to a wound infection. Did you have radiation along with the chemo? Do you suffer from severe gas? My husband passes gas, horrible, every day. Also get stomach a lot more often now. I wish you good luck and continued good health. Any info you think might be helpful to us, is much appreciated.

GaryOlson
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2012

I did not have radiation. I had nine weeks of chemo, a total gastrectomy, and a final nine week round of chemo. Adjusting to no stomach has been a challenge. I have some gas pain but it is not too terrible. I use Gasex which helps.

sb14
Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2012

Hello Garry,

Reading your blog was really inspiring. Thank you! Since I was diagnosed (10 months ago with stage IIIB at the age of 32) I am looking on internet to find people beating this horrible disease. I'm glad you shared your experience. It's actually the only one with a happy ending I could find...

May I ask you few questions?

What exactly was your stage in TNM scale?
Was it done based on the pathology after the surgery?
What was the type of the tumor - diffuse or intestinal? If it was diffuse, how much of the stomach was affected?
How deep it was penetrating the stomach layers? How many lymph nodes were retrieved during the surgery and how many of them were positive?
What was the chemo regimen? You mantioned about the MAGIC trial, which if I am not mistaking consists of epirubicine, oxaliplatinum and xeloda...
Have you experienced peripheral neuropathy from the platinum based medication?
Have you experienced pain from the surgery itself months afterwards?
What was the folow-up in your case?
Do you remember which of the blood test parameters were out of range (in particular the GGT, which is connected to the liver function)? Are your blood tests back to normal a year after ending the chemo?
Have you experienced abdominal discomfort during and months after the chemo? How would you describe it - a tolerable or strong pain? Constant or related to the food? Burning or cramps-like?
Do you have some specific diet? Foods you do not tolerate? Foods your doctors told you to avoid?
Usually after gastrectomy one suffers from fat maldigestion, which makes the stools to be yellowish and to float on the water, because they contain more fat. Have you noticed such thing?
Can you give some more info about your weight: at the time of diagnosis, at the time of the surgery, after the chemotherapy, now...?
Are you feeling as active as before or there is still tiredness?

I hope you don't mind I am asking so much - I will really appreciate your input.

Keep well!
S.

GaryOlson
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2012

Here are quick answers to your questions.

What exactly was your stage in TNM scale?
Stage 3

Was it done based on the pathology after the surgery?
I had a second round of chemo, which was the plan all along.

What was the type of the tumor - diffuse or intestinal? If it was diffuse, how much of the stomach was affected?
I don't know.

How deep it was penetrating the stomach layers? How many lymph nodes were retrieved during the surgery and how many of them were positive?
I don't believe any of them were positive.

What was the chemo regimen? You mentioned about the MAGIC trial, which if I am not mistaking consists of epirubicine, oxaliplatinum and xeloda...
I had a chemo pump that gave me chemo 24/7. Every three weeks I got a super duper chemo that laid me low for awhile. I didn't follow the specific chemicals that closely because I didn't want that level of detail. I focused primarily on survival.

Have you experienced peripheral neuropathy from the platinum based medication?
Not that I know of.

Have you experienced pain from the surgery itself months afterwards?
No. There has never been any pain from the surgery.

What was the flow-up in your case?
I check in with my Oncologist every four months. I was doing regular CAT scats, but am probably going to discontinue them.

Do you remember which of the blood test parameters were out of range (in particular the GGT, which is connected to the liver function)? Are your blood tests back to normal a year after ending the chemo?
My blood tests are back to normal. I take B12 shots once a month. I tried doing the B12 orally, but that didn't work. I planning to trying it again with a different dosage.

Have you experienced abdominal discomfort during and months after the chemo? How would you describe it - a tolerable or strong pain? Constant or related to the food? Burning or cramps-like?
I have experienced no pain, though there is considerable discomfort around eating. Learning to adjust my diet to accommodate not having a stomach has been a challenge.

Do you have some specific diet? Foods you do not tolerate? Foods your doctors told you to avoid?
I can eat anything, however some foods have been a challenge. Right now chicken and salmon are a bit of a problem. Mostly it's a matter of eating certain foods at certain times of the day and pacing myself.

Usually after gastrectomy one suffers from fat maldigestion, which makes the stools to be yellowish and to float on the water, because they contain more fat. Have you noticed such thing?
No.

Can you give some more info about your weight: at the time of diagnosis, at the time of the surgery, after the chemotherapy, now...?
I weighed around 205 lbs before the surgery. I am maintaining a weight of 170 lbs now.

Are you feeling as active as before or there is still tiredness?
My energy has returned for the most part. I swim 30 minutes a day, do 60 pushups a day, and have started chin up and some weight training.

Hang in there, the treatment is difficult but you will get through it.

GaryOlson
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2012

sb14,

I'm glad you found reading my blog (garyolson.info) inspiring.

I'm a big believer in the benefits of a positive attitude, a healthy lifestyle, and a stubborn determination to survive. Those things don't always work, but I think they were contributing factors to my getting through this.

I didn't experience much pain, though there was considerable discomfort. The treatment process is definitely an ordeal that is very unpleasant. However, there is always something good about each day if you look hard enough.

Stomach cancer treatment does give you an appreciation for life. Once you've completed treatment, and the effects wear off, you are left with a new appreciation for what it is to be alive.

Cancer treatment is a growth experience I wouldn't wish on anyone, but it can leave you with a heightened appreciation for life.

Good luck in your journey.

Gary

sb14
Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2012

Thank you Garry! I wish it was easier for me to keep the same attitude, but every bit of pain or discomfort reminds me about the cancer. Apparently, only time can help. And people like you, who give hope that everything can be ok after such a nightmare.

Viperette
Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2012

I am just finding this website and have started reading your blog. I already have found your story inspiring. I am not dealing with stomach cancer, but my mom was just diagnosed 3 weeks ago and we found out today it is at least stage 3, maybe 4. She will have another test (PETscan) tomorrow to make sure it hasn't progressed. The endoscopic doctor today said that her tumor is inoperable in its current state as it has penetrated through the stomach and is into her esophogus. If you have any insight to what you would recommend as someone who has gone through this, I would be forever thankful. You can email me at alyssa_berg@hotmail.com, also.

GaryOlson
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2012

sb14 - The pain and discomfort come from the treatment, not the cancer. They are a reminder that you are doing what is necessary to get well. I know that it is difficult, but it is important to focus on the good things you have. It's appreciating the small things that makes enduring the ordeal managable. In an odd way I see my cancer as a gift. It has taught me to not take life for granted and to appreciate every day to the fullest.

Viperette - I am not going to offer medical advice because that is what the doctors are for. In my own case, I went through nine weeks of chemo first to shrink the tumor. The chemo was so effective the tumor was completely gone. They removed my stomach to make sure they got all the cancer. Then then they had me do another nine weeks of chemo to make really sure it was gone. The cancer hasn't returned and my prognosis is fairly good. There is hope.

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