My name is Rosie, and I live in Italy, near Rome. My story begins in 2004, at the age of 35, when I was busy working, traveling and seeing lots of concerts with friends. I did not even remotely imagine what storm my life was about to go through. A storm that would have changed it in many ways. It was pretty stressful, and I started having some digestive problems, but I was sure that it was superficial gastritis, so I wasted time before the gastroscopy. It was summer, and I also had concerts to see, The Cure and Morrissey, so I didn’t think about doing such an annoying exam.
Instead, I made a grave mistake because I could never have imagined stomach cancer causing me problems. I had to finally find myself unable to eat anymore to decide to go for a gastroscopy. The endoscopy revealed a reasonably large mass. I was hospitalized in July 2004 and had a total gastrectomy. Only later did I discover that it was a signet ring cell gastric cancer with plastic linitis. I went home and was quite shocked by the diagnosis received, the surgery, and the idea that soon I would have to go through 6 months of chemotherapy. I was discharged from the hospital with the only advice to eat little and often through the day, but the reality was different.
I realized that life without a stomach is not that simple. It is necessary to implement a series of strategies learned above all over time, reduce simple sugars, dairy products, keep dumping syndrome at bay, and vitamin and iron deficiencies under control. In this, sharing experiences and advice with other patients is beneficial. While I reached the 5th year after the surgery, I understood that my story, told from the beginning in a blog called Stories from the underground, could be helpful to people who emailed me. I thought it would be beneficial to create a support network for stomach cancer patients. So in 2009, I started a support group on Facebook for people who were having a gastrectomy and their caregivers. In 2012, through Google research, I found the No Stomach For Cancer website; when the first world awareness walk was launched, I decided to bring it to Italy, in Milan. We also did those of the following years, 2013 and 2014. I’m still managing a Facebook group dedicated to stomachless people because I have always been sure that comparing experiences is the best way to cope with this cancer. In 2016 I decided to write a book about my story. As a stomach cancer survivor, I received messages from many readers, even outside the Italian borders, who have found comfort and hope in my experience.
In July, I celebrated the 17th anniversary of my TG. So I can witness that not only life after stomach cancer is possible, but it can be full of beautiful things, of hope, of human warmth, and of many little things that make us feel good and that perhaps before we would not have even been able to appreciate.