Borzi Belly Bash!

Thank you Gretchen and the Borzi family for your donation, and for sharing your story. We will be remembering Jeannie as we Walk this year for stomach cancer awareness. Looks like a fun event! Did anyone else notice something of interest in one of the photos? I love it! You need a sharp eye to catch it…

The Borzi Belly Bash 2012

My name is Gretchen Borzi and I have tested positive for the CDH1 gene mutation. I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my total gastrectomy. In celebration of reaching this milestone, having a successful recovery, and adjusting to my “new normal,” we held a backyard barbeque with family and friends – The Borzi Belly Bash.

In addition to the celebration, I also wanted to help raise awareness, raise money to benefit No Stomach For Cancer, and honor the memory of my dear cousin, Jeannie Vanni, who passed away from stomach cancer in January, 2012. So, we held a raffle with several cool prizes to raise money and donate the proceeds in memory of Jeannie. I am pleased to say that we raised $500.

Jeannie was first diagnosed with stomach cancer early in 2008. It was a major blow to everyone since her own mother passed away from breast cancer at the age of 48 and our grandmother had ultimately passed away from stomach cancer, but also battled breast cancer about 12 years before her death.

It seemed the “curse” of cancer had lingered through to another generation. At the time, none of us were aware of the possibility of a genetic mutation. It wasn’t until almost a year after enduring chemotherapy, surgery, then more chemotherapy, that we learned that Jeannie did carry the mutation in the CDH1 gene, and her cancer was actually HDGC. At that time, myself, and many other family members began to be tested for the mutation, and I soon discovered I was positive.

There wasn’t much of a shock knowing that I had an increased risk for cancer…I always felt that somehow my chances of having cancer someday were pretty high considering my family history. The shock came with realizing there was not much I could do about it other than have my stomach removed completely. What?! At the time, the idea seemed absurd and way too extreme! It took me two more years of major soul searching to finally decide that it was the best course of action for me.

In the meantime, Jeannie made a full recovery from stomach cancer and was living happily in remission for almost a full year when she started having other symptoms. After conducting many tests, the doctors determined that the cancer had moved to her intestines. They attempted surgery in early 2010 but quickly realized the cancer was too widespread to operate. They gave her about 6 months to live.

My cousin Jeannie was known throughout her life as a quiet, gentle, peaceful, and sweet person. There are some who may equate these qualities with weakness, but they’d be wrong in this case. Jeannie proved it so. She fought for her life for two more years with determination, tenacity, focus, and sheer will. I know that she was extremely proud of the fact that she was strong enough to last that long and spend more priceless moments with her two young sons and husband. I also know she was grateful that through the discovery of this genetic mutation in our family, she was an instrumental part in helping to save others lives, including my own. I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to have been able to thank Jeannie in person, while she was still alive. I still do so, everyday.

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