The Gift of Awareness: A gift that keeps on giving

Jennifer and Jamie Zambranaby Jamie Zambrana

What is on my mind…

As I sit here the day after my sister’s 2nd year passing anniversary; I can’t help but want to share with you a piece of her story, and the ultimate gift she gave me and her nephew, who she was able to meet & so immensely adored.

As you may know, Jennifer (my sister) passed of stage IV stomach cancer at the age of 28. She was given six months to live; yet she fought for three hard years wanting to “live, laugh and love” every moment of her life. While Jenni fought, she suggested my brother and I be tested for the familial stomach cancer gene she now knew was evident within our family (Jennifer [25, diagnosed], mother [31, deceased] and maternal grandfather [46, deceased]).

Because of Jennifer’s research and coordination, I was able to test, and did in fact test positive for the gene (CDH1 – a stomach cancer gene) carrying a 70% probability of developing into asymptomatic (no early detection) stomach cancer.

With my son being less than a year old, and the heartache my family just experienced losing my sister, I decided to have a total gastrectomy (removal of my stomach) to eliminate any possibility of cancer development.

Here is where my reality reminder sets in and proves to me that life is short and I/ we have limited control over it. Therefore, live every moment enjoying your family, and in the words of my father “don’t sweat the small stuff, and be a good person loving those who love you.”

My reality check: The results of my post surgical pathology report clearly states…I, in fact, had asymptomatic superficial cancer cells already growing in the lining of my stomach, 16 clusters to be exact (adenocarcinoma and carcinoma underlined on the report.) Another year, or at this exact moment, today, I would be living a completely different life; fighting to stay alive, and not living, laughing and loving my wife and two beautiful children, Sebastian (3 years) and Gabriela (12 weeks).

I write this to provide stomach cancer awareness on behalf of my sister and my savior, Jennifer Zambrana. It is because of her I AM alive today. And because of her, is why I can share and pass on the awareness. This is a fact!

I don’t need a comment, nor do I need like, I need you to share this verbally or through social media. I need people to be educated by visiting nostomachforcancer.org and debbiesdream.org, two organizations that provided me support and education.

I am extremely blessed, and I can say with the upmost sincerity…my life is amazing!!

My eating habits have not changed, other than eating a little less per meal. Yes, surgery and recovery were a challenge, but nothing that the mind and body isn’t prepared to handle. The key takeaways here are 1) Jennifer is a hero to others and (evidently) me. And 2) Awareness is the key!

Help someone become educated like I did, in that all familial cancer patterns must be researched and looked into.

Fact: Stomach cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths around the world.

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