It’s important to raise awareness about the urgent need for more research and clinical trials to create better treatment outcomes for stomach cancer.
In Australia, it’s estimated that 2,246 people will be diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2020. That’s 1,817 Australians already diagnosed this year. Stomach cancer is swift, fatal and claims two out of every three lives it affects.
Stomach cancer strikes down twice as many men as women, and the early symptoms, such as bloating, nausea, tiredness or heartburn, can be subtle and easy to ignore.
The Silly Hat for Matt challenge was set up in Matt’s name – to remember and honour a man who loved life and who embraced it with open arms. More so than most. Who fought tooth and nail with all that he had to survive the cancer that so unexpectedly took hold of his life. Who faced death with the same kind of mentality making sure he did as much as he could to leave something behind for those who would need it the most in years to come.
But he didn’t get his fair share of life. He didn’t get to witness his boys grow up. He didn’t get to live a long and happy life. And he had to endure more pain than any of you can possibly imagine.
Matt’s symptoms early on were easily ignored. They were symptoms which all of us feel from time to time. The occasional heartburn after a meal that was too fatty or spicy. Indigestion. Feeling bloated. These are not uncommon feelings but unfortunately also the reason why stomach cancer is often only discovered when it’s too late. When Matt started to lose weight, we didn’t pay too much notice to it as it was slow at first and he had always been very slim. But then the weight loss started to accelerate and the alarm bells started to ring. This would have been around March/April 2013. Matt started seeing a gastro specialist but he wasn’t diagnosed until October that same year. Fast forward a year, and he was transferred from hospital care to hospice care.
Matt was still there till the very end, but it was a shock for everyone who saw him for the first time since he got sick. Conversations were hard because what do you talk about to someone young whose body is being invaded by a cancer so vicious that it takes away the functioning of each of your organs one by one. Till you’re left with nothing but skin and bones, quite literally.
It is hard to look at photos but it is important to share what stomach cancer can do to an otherwise healthy young man.
I know that he would have given me his blessing to raise awareness by telling his story, our story. It is the cancer survivors that make you understand that research and new treatments do save lives that would otherwise not have had a chance.
But with stomach cancer and in particular with linitis plastica there are no one to tell their story. Instead they endure months of gruelling treatments and suffering and still in the end, most of them die without there being anyone none the wiser. This is why our fundraising is so very important. We need to tell this story. I have had people contact me from different parts of the world looking for answers to a cancer type where there seems to be no answers, only an ever-growing list of questions.
Coinciding with Stomach Cancer Awareness Month in November, the GI Cancer Institute offers the cutting-edge INTEGRATE IIb trial, which provides hope for improved quality of life and survival outcomes for people with stomach cancer.
For more information: www.gicancer.org.au
The Carousel would like to thank Trine Kirkegaard for her article.