No stomach? No problem!

As it turns out, you don’t really need a stomach. This is a stroke of good fortune for me, as in less than two weeks I will no longer have one. The events leading up to my no-stomach status make for a long story, but here’s the condensed version:

My mom died of stomach cancer last year, and because so many people in our family have died of the same disease, doctors decided there was a good chance it was hereditary, which is extremely rare for stomach cancer. They did some genetic testing and, sure enough, they found she had a mutant gene responsible for something called linitus plastica, or, in more modern parlance, hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. In a nutshell, it’s a cancer that forms within the walls of the stomach and is virtually undetectable by modern diagnostic technology until it becomes lethally large. I’ve been told only 100 families in the world have been diagnosed with it (mom always said we were special).

Once my mom was diagnosed, doctors determined that her mother (my grandmother) likely died of the same disease, which meant all of her sons and daughters, and their children, and their children’s children could potentially have the mutant gene. Genetic testing was recommended for all of us.

Here’s how it breaks down: If your mom or dad has the mutant gene, you have a 50/50 shot of having the gene yourself. Not great odds, but at least people can now learn whether they have the gene before it causes the cancer (something we couldn’t do ten years ago), and, if they choose, take action.

Which leads to the whole me-no-stomach thing. Turns out I carry the mutant gene (I’m pushing to be made an honorary X-Man), and the recommended preventative measure to ensure people like me never contract HDGC is a total gastrectomy, which essentially means snip the esophagus where it connects to tummy, snip the tube that connects the intestine to the tummy, remove the tummy, and sew up the remaining tubes. Obviously, it’s much more complex than I’ve just described (there’s some funky stuff to do with connecting the liver to the intestine a bit further down so that it can inject bile into food once it clears the esophagus), but that’s basically all I really know or want to know. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

The upshot is that I will no longer have a place to store food. It’ll go straight into my digestive tract. Consequently, I will eat smaller meals and much more often. If all goes well, the type of food I eat will remain essentially unchanged, save for an emphasis on protein. I’ll also need to drink around meals rather than during them to ensure my food doesn’t flow through me too quickly. And I’ll need to get a shot of vitamin B12 once in a while, since that’s the one nutrient that you need a stomach to absorb.

But that’s about it. Life should be more or less back to normal a couple of months down the road, assuming all goes well. And I’ve every reason to think that it will.

I’d write more, but I’m hungry. And since that’s a feeling my doctors tell me I will never again experience after the surgery, I’m going to take this opportunity to act on it. Mmmmm. McDonald’s.

More to come…

 

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10 thoughts on “No stomach? No problem!

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, but I’ve been watching what i eat since Christmas and it occurred to me that it would be kind of great to be able to eat what ever the hell you want. (leave out the fact that’s because you’re undergoing major surgery). I would eat a big mac every day. Snack like a maniac in front of the computer all night. I’d eat Cadbury cream eggs for breakfast. Friggin Pepsi and coke at every meal.man, you are SO lucky…

  2. Garry Tan says:

    Thanks for choosing Posterous to share your experience — I can tell this blog is going to be a remarkable and inspiring record. Best wishes, -Garry

  3. Barbara Glauser says:

    please email me at bglauser@shaw.ca so that I may get more information on how to be tested, who are the surgeons, etc. Live on Vancouver Island, BC. My husband was just diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer.

  4. Barbara Glauser says:

    please email me at bglauser@shaw.ca so that I may get more information on how to be tested, who are the surgeons, etc. Live on Vancouver Island, BC. My husband was just diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer.

  5. Geoff Eishold..facebook.. (Australia) says:

    My family also has the CDHI gene which was only detected after two of my brothers died within the last 12 years. At the age of 32, after feeling a bit off for months, l vomitted blood and was rushed to hospital where luckily enough a doctor/surgeon diagnosed the problem, and within days, my stomach and spleen were removed. I’m now 64, living proof that one doesn’t need a stomach to survive–although having one is better! So after my brothers died, l had my genes tested which came up positive. Unfortunately, there are others in the family who have been tested positive also. My sister was one and she decided early this year to have her stomach removed before it was too late. Also my neice has decided to do the same in 3 days time. I was lucky enough to have married a person who overroad my genes, so my daughters both tested negative. Although she has now passed, l still thank her every day. Best of luck to all………….

  6. Jess says:

    Its not that easy. I found out at 34 that I had diffuse signet ring cell cancer <Stomach>. They removed it 2mths later in Feb 28th 2011. I was a healthy active person weighing 100lbs at 4;10′. I now weigh 73lbs!!! No evergy, I get winding so fast and walking long requires a wheel chair.. Not to mention the Dumping Syndrom from eating and your either constipated or running to make it to the bathroom!! This is a nightmare. Youll never be the person you were and its a long recovery. Ontop of trial n error on eating.. I wish the best for you! But id rather of kept my stomach n went out the way I used to be me!! Luckily I dont have the gene, so my kids should be safer. But I have an unknown cancer gene.. Let me kno how your doing. I have alotta info on protein n calories. They dont help me tho.. lol.. Im unlucky.. xoGood Luck,Jess

  7. I HAD MY STOMACH REMOVED JUNE 2011. IM HAVING A HARD TIME WITH ALL OF THE NEW RULES.I CANT EAT MORE THAN TWO TIMES A DAY AND HAVE A HARD TIME EVEN DRINKING WATER.I STAY SICK MOST OF THE TIME.I GUESS BECAUSE I DONT EAT.I KEEP TRYING BECAUSE DEATH IS NOT AN OPTION. THANK GOD MINE WAS NOT CANCER YET.HYPO PLASTIC P.

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