CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — November is National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society says about 27,000 Americans will be diagnosed with stomach cancer this year.
The ACS said about 16,000 of those cases will be men and 10,000 will be women. Author Steve Melen, a 12-year survivor of the disease, shared with NewsNation what life without a stomach is like.
“Initially it was extremely difficult because you have to adjust to the new plumbing that you have,” Melen said. “It’s going straight down your throat into your small intestine. They also took out my splee, half of my pancreas and a third of my esophagus in that initial surgery almost 13 years ago.”
Melen said it took him a few years to adjust to the change and he even underwent chemotherapy and radiation. He says he now eats in small quantities, but his journey has been “really hard.”
Melen was 37 years old at the time of diagnosis. He said for six months he was unaware he had cancer. Doctors initially told him the pain he was experiencing in his esophagus and lower stomach were related to stress and anxiety.
Melen said 12 years later he’s “happy and skinny.” He says he can’t gain weight, but is doing well now.
Melen penned a memoir titled “Killer Grace” detailing his experience with stomach cancer. Melen advises anyone recently diagnosed with the disease to use all online resources.
“I am a mentor and board member of Debbie’s Dream Foundation. That is a great resource to find next steps,” Melen said. “That’s something I didn’t have when I first got diagnosed.”
Watch the full interview in the embedded player.