Within the last few years, I’ve lost two close family members to stomach cancer. In 2008, I lost my cousin Rajen Sankar at age 37. In January 2012, I lost my other cousin, Sandra Sankar Poukkula (Rajen’s younger sister) at age 39. Rajen and Sandra were like an older brother and sister to me.
Back in the 90s, I also lost my aunt (my mom’s sister) of stomach cancer. This was before we knew anything about HDGC.
In Spring 2011, it was discovered that my family carries a mutation in the CDH1 gene, causing hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC). Four years ago, when Rajen died, we never knew about any of this. It was my cousin, Sandra who became proactive in stomach cancer awareness and research. I followed her lead without hesitation. She yearned to find answers after she herself was diagnosed with gastric cancer in 2011 and did the ultimate action to fight. She removed her entire stomach to prevent the cancer from spreading. Unfortunately, this drastic action was not enough and the cancer metastasized in other parts of her body Christmas 2011. We lost her a few weeks later, January 13, 2012. See Sandra’s story below. (February 2011)
More recently (May 2012) and with a heavy heart, my mom (age 59) has been diagnosed with diffuse gastric cancer as well. I am writing this blog to document the journey before me. As hard as it will be to write, I think it is important to share this experience and promote awareness of HDGC. Knowledge is power.