My name is Terence and I am an Internal Medicine specialist in Toronto.
My symptoms first started in the spring of 2018, when I noticed that I was burping more than usual. It was as if I constantly had gas in my stomach that needed to be relieved. At first, I didn't make a big of deal of it, as burping seemed innocuous to me. Gradually, without realizing it, I had to burp before every meal in order to "clear" the stomach, otherwise I would get hiccups when eating. I should have noticed that there was something wrong at that time, but I reassured myself that excessive burping can be caused by mostly benign reasons.
Stomach cancer was never even entertained.
The problem with stomach cancer is its insidious nature. You don't get symptoms until it has become advanced enough to cause symptoms in the form of swallowing difficulty, pain, or bleeding in the stool. Being relatively young at age 30, with no family history and with non-classic symptoms meant that I was much more likely to have other stomach problems such as ulcers, gastritis, an H. Pylori infection, or simply stress. Working in the medical field allows me to get an endless number of informal opinions from colleagues and mentors. Despite being surrounded by experts, the second, third, and fourth informal opinions that I obtained all lead to one unifying conclusion: it's probably nothing to worry about.
As I persisted to look for an answer, I eventually had an upper endoscopy done, and a large tumor mass was discovered at the junction between the esophagus and stomach, as well as in the esophagus itself. After a CT scan, PET scan, an endoscopic ultrasound and a diagnostic laparoscopy, I was found to have Stage III stomach cancer.
This was quite a shock initially. I was in disbelief, among with family, friends and colleagues who have followed me closely. In a way, I was fortunate to have "stumbled" upon the tumor by chance, as my symptoms were non-specific, and the tumor would likely have grown much larger before I developed "classic" symptoms.
I'm currently being treated at the University Health Network in Toronto by a fabulous team. I have received 4 cycles of chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Hospital over 2 months. I'm now waiting for surgery to remove my stomach and part of my esophagus. More chemotherapy awaits me after surgery.
I'm thankful to have found My Gut Feeling. The support group makes you feel less of an anomaly. It allows me to connect with those that have gone through treatment and are now living without a stomach. Knowing what to expect makes the journey far easier. The more I share my story, the more people reciprocate with their own stories, and the more I realize that cancer touches more of us than we may know. If you are going through a similar journey, know that you're not alone, and that we are here rooting for you.
Never give up.