Making the Cure for Stomach Cancer a Reality!

“You have cancer.” These three words will forever resonate in my memory. I had been diagnosed with Stage IV advanced, incurable stomach cancer. It was April 2008, I was forty years old, the mother of three young children, married to a physician, and a practicing attorney with my own firm. Instead of having decades ahead of me, I only had weeks. I feared the worst – my three year old daughter would not remember me and my twins would be teenagers without a mother. Instead of giving in, I began the fight of my life. I immediately underwent very harsh chemotherapy treatments and spent years in bed, doctors’ office, and hospitals.

Soon after I started my chemo treatments, I began speaking with other stomach cancer patients. I refused to be a statistic and work needed to be done to raise awareness, fund research, and support patients, families and caregivers. I started activities to raise funds for stomach cancer research. It also became apparent that there was a great need for resources for stomach cancer patients, families, and caregivers all over the world. This was the beginning of Debbie’s Dream Foundation, the first organization dedicated to helping stomach cancer patients, raising money for research, and educating the public about stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and fourth among women worldwide. Each year nearly 930,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with stomach cancer, and approximately 700,000 die of the disease. Approximately 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with stomach cancer each year, and over 10,000 will die within a year. According to the American Cancer Society, the overall 5-year survival rate for people with stomach cancer in the United States is about 28%, and the 5-year survival rate for stage IV stomach cancer is 4%. Per cancer death, stomach cancer receives the least amount of federal funding of any cancer.

In parts of Asia where stomach cancer is highly prevalent, aggressive screening programs have had some success in detecting early cancers and improving the outcomes but in the United States there are no effective screening methods and no established programs for prevention or early detection. In addition, the symptoms of stomach cancer are not specific and are common to many gastric problems such as ulcers and gastritis. They include abdominal discomfort, indigestion, loss of appetite, occasional vomiting, and a feeling of fullness after eating small amounts of food. Up to 25% of patients will have a history of gastric ulcers.

Awareness of stomach cancer, its symptoms, and risk factors remains low despite the fact that it is one of the deadliest cancers and the number two cancer killer in the world. Physician and public awareness are critical for early diagnosis. If people are aware of the risk factors and symptoms, they can be diagnosed at an early stage, which dramatically increases the chance for a cure. Two of the most prevalent precursors to stomach and esophageal cancers are H. pylori and acid reflux. Bottom line – if you are having any type of gastrointestinal symptoms you must report them to your physician for evaluation.

How am I doing today? Most days are great except, to keep my cancer at bay, I still have Herceptin infusions every three weeks, every night I take the oral chemotherapy Tykerb, have regular doctor visits, and lots of scans and tests. I have a steadfast healthcare team and unwavering support from friends and family. They are with me in my journey to make a difference.

I am beating the odds. My pursuit is to make the cure for stomach cancer a reality – it’s my dream; my personal mission; my legacy. All people should have the right to early detection, intervention, and reliable treatment. Our health routine should include endoscopy exams and other screening techniques, increased resources, and proven treatments. No one should have to fight this disease alone or without appropriate options – we at Debbie’s Dream Foundation are making sure of it!

Debbie Zelman is a Stage IV stomach cancer survivor and founder of Debbie’s Dream Foundation which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about stomach cancer, advancing funding for research, and providing education and support internationally to patients, families, and caregivers. Debbie’s Dream Foundation seeks as its ultimate goal to make the cure for stomach cancer a reality. If you or someone you know is battling stomach cancer, you can find more information at http://debbiesdream.org or by calling their toll-free hotline at 855-475-1200.

 

Debbie Zelman

In April 2008, Debbie Zelman was forty years old when she learned she had stage IV stomach cancer and she would need chemotherapy for the rest of her life. Debbie received her Law Degree from the University of Miami and her Bachelor of Arts from Emory University. In addition, she had previous fundraising experience and business experience from running her own law practice for ten years. In 2009 Debbie started Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF) to aggressively and immediately fund research into innovative, progressive and cutting-edge treatments for stomach cancer to improve the diagnosis and treatment for this disease.She has now been the subject of many news stories and interviews. In January 2012 Debbie appeared on the Dr. Oz show in a segment about stomach cancer. On December 23, 2017 Debbie's journey ended. Debbie's legacy will live on here at Savor Health and we will continue to dream big for her, as we continue to provide patient support for those with cancer, and like her, strive to find a cure for cancer through our efforts.

33 Comments
  1. I was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in April 2014. I was browsing the web for more information and found this site. Thank you for bringing attention to a cancer that has gotten very little. Maybe, a cure will be available in the near future.

  2. Hi,
    Debbie. ..

    My bro underwent an stomach surgery last week 13 October 2014. He has been detected with gastric cancer. Now Drs. Have advised to go ahead with chemotherapy. He is in stage 3 c. Very much relaxed reading your story. Will hope for the best. Request your comment.

    I am from India (Mumbai)

  3. Hi Debbie. I hope you and all other patients are doing well. Thank you for the work you’re doing for stomach cancer patients. My 68 yrs mother was diagnosed a month ago with a stage IV, after a whole month in the hospital undergoing all types of exams and procedures. Finally in an exploratory surgery the Dr. found the lesions and it had already spread to other organs. She begins chemotherapy on monday and although she is feeling like crap her attitude is incredible. She is very positive and full of faith. In terms of her nutrition, she is really eating what she desires including not very healthy food. What recommendations do you have?? I hope the best for all of you!!

  4. This diagnosis is stressful, and this is difficult to discuss for many people. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your doctor and health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns.

  5. Hello Debbie!
    I salute your spirit the way you came out of it… And happy that you are sharing your story.
    Actually Deb My Girlfriend of age 22 has recently diagnosed with stage 2 of Stomach Cancer and she is suffering from unbearable pain because of Peptic ulcers. She is quite healthy but internally she is getting weaker with chemotherapy. I am so much worried about her health because she is loosing all hopes of survival. Kindly help me please. so that I could do something for her. Please I don’t want to lose her.
    Gurmeet Bawa
    (India)

  6. My mother is diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer, she refuse to do chemo or any sort o medical treatment, I really hope to hear from you, what more i can do for her.

  7. Reading about you and others with stomach cancer has given me hope. I was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer this past January and I’ve been going through chemo treatments every two weeks. So far I’m doing better than my first three weeks. I lost about 40 lbs but I’ve stabilized around 175. My taste buds seemed to have left me; but I eat what I can and drink my Boost 3 times a day. Anyway, reading all the posts and comments has given me hope…thank you all!

  8. Hi everyone I try and read everybody’s comments it hurts me to see how many people go thru this, stomach cancer stage4 is not easy to see ,my sister is struggling, and all a can say to everyone is to keep your faith in God for some reason this disease is in our families, I believe it somehow unites us more and gives us stronger faith in god. I’ve notice everybody that goes thru cancer somehow have a heartwarming feeling about life, I believe in heaven and I think cancer pts have heaven in them, let’s not be scared let’s fight that is what god wants but let god lead the way, LOVE U All cancer pts are like angels on earth

  9. Hi everyone-

    My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer. Like everyone else, we feel hopeless and scared. My dad raised us 4 (myself and 3 brothers) as my mom passed away 10 years ago. He is all that we have. He is so strong. he manages to keep a smile on his face and is worried about us. We are worried about him. Waching someone you love go through this heart wrenching disease is crippling to the soul. He has lost 60 lbs since his diagnosis. He is not stable enough to have chemo right now as he is very thin. Does anyone have any advice on juicing or any liquid diet that can help? I pray for you all as I know that this is a dark time that is not easy for anyone. With God or spiritual guidance, anything is possible. Please keep positive.

  10. I have Stage 4 gastric cancer. Did you get any answer regarding diet and supplements that might be helpful?

    Hope you are doing better.

    Thanks,

    Jim

  11. I am from India ma mother had diagonised stomCh cancer at the age of 49 after I heard this m senseless n later on I decide I have to be strong n support ma family I just want to know what type of food I should give ma mom please help me

  12. Dear Debbie,
    Hi, my name’s Brittany. I’m a recently turned twenty two year old graduate from Johnson & Whales University. And today my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 gastric cancer. Like any completely irrational person I browsed the web late at night reading scientific explanations and horrifying statistics. I closed my lap top in horror and cried for my mother and myself.
    As far as my family it’s just my mother my 15 year old sister and I. I read through your story and as a parent you worry you’ll never get to see you’re children grow up. But as a child you worry; will I ever see my mother grow old, will she ever see me succeed in my career, get married, or have children? In my case will I be able to raise my teenage sister if I have too? Will I be able to support her financially and emotionally? Am I strong enough for this??
    I was at my wits end, emotionally drained, regretting I even opened my laptop. I decided if I could find one positive story, just one story of someone surviving then I could find hope. So I opened my laptop back up and what do you know within my first search I found your page. And my lost hope. Thank you for surviving, for living, and making your story known so people like me can find hope within it. Thank you for giving, for caring, and for trying your hardest to make a difference in the world.. because you do! Much luck and love to you and your family.
    -Brit xo

  13. I see people posting questions here, but is anyone getting any answers ?

    This post don’t give any details other than some cancer stats, what actually you did to make it this far ??

  14. Hi Debbie,

    I have just read the above article and well done you for you making stomach cancer more aware. I was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in April and have just under gone 8 rounds of chemotherapy which I have just finished.
    Would love to talk to you and talk diet etc – i am already on a special diet and also I have a 5 year old and 3 year old so wanting to be around for as long as possible – I am very positive and have every fight in me possible.
    Many thanks

    Claire

  15. Hi Debbie, I just came across this page and was so excited reading your story and the fact that stage four stomach cancer patients can actually live years. I have been diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer that has spread all over, having been researching online I am getting confused as to how long can one live with this cancer, it’s been 3 months since I was diagnosed and currently going through chemo( third cycle), I am not sure what the future hold but I have been doing everything to try and improve life and push the diseas , I am doing really well, I eat so well and try to stay positive, I have a great family who support me with every little step of the way, but sometimes reality hits and I start thinking, can I really beat it??? The statistics are not encouraging at all as you know. What is exactly one should do or is there a programm I can follow, are there people who actually beat state 4 and spear stomach cancer, where can I get I touch with people who have at least beat the odds and lived longer than expected. I have just turned 40 yrs old and had so much to look forward to but now everything is sort of on hold until I guess find a way forward and know what to expect and what root to take. Any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Many many thanks. Abbas

  16. Hi,
    I am from India, My father is 57 years and has been diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer a week back. The major limitation for the treatment of my father is his health. He is extremely weak and has lost 30 pounds over the last 2 months. He is not able to eat because whatever he eats he vomits immediately. The tumor is blocking the GE junction. Please advise the best treatment for him and also his prognosis.

    Biopsy Finding: Poorly Differentiated Carcinoma.

  17. Hi Deb.
    I was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer stage 4. I am starting chemotherapy in 6 days time. Any information about how I can fight this. Any special food. I am already taking Ginseng and Ganoderma supplements from Greenworld .

  18. My husband of 19years, we have 4 children, recently diagnose with stomach cancer St 4, doctors gave him 1yr to live. He’s going thru chemo every other week and doing his best in every way. He is a figher, can you give me any suggestions on meals, juicing of any kind to keep him going. I would gladly appreciate it.

  19. Hi debbie, keep on fighting you are an inpiration to all. My husband has been diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer and is very stubborn about the importance of a healthy diet. Please give me some advise I try to be under standing but, I’m at the end of my rope every one is trying to help but he feels what he is doing is ok and his diet is not that important.

  20. Pinkyy- get a second opinion. my grandmother, 71 was just diagnosed stage 4 and is a breast cancer survivor. they are recommending chemo but can’t do it until she is stable which unfortunately now she is not 🙁 get a second opinion. the chemo may not cure stage 4 but it will prolong your father’s life a little.

  21. Hi Debbie, thanks for being a strong lady. I have a tree year old nephew who has been diagonised with cancer, i need your advice on the disease

  22. hii,
    my father 62, has been recently diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer.doctor didnt suggested any chemotherapy and discharged him from hospital and said he has max 1 yr.could yo please suggest somthing to increase hi lifespan.

  23. Do you reply to your emails? I did not get a reply to an earlier email……………….
    Please tell me about the meals for stomach cancer patients and also how to get involved in your cmapaign: Can’t Stomach this Cancer!

  24. Hi Nora,

    Thank you for your comment! I believe that we received your Resource Inquiry Form through our website and that you have been assigned a PREP Mentor. Please let our Patient Resource Coordinator Gina Couey know if there is anything you need. She can be reached at Patient.Resource@DebbiesDream.org.

    Also, we are developing Chapters all over the world so if you would like to get involved, let Gina know. We have 12 Chapters in the US with more in development, a Chapter in Canada, and are developing chapters in Germany, the UK, and other countries. We could certainly use a Chapter in Egypt!

    All the best to you and your brother!
    Debbie

  25. Hi Amber,

    Thank you for your comment. Congratulations on your success with this disease! I would really like to connect with you. Please email me so we can connect and set up a time to speak.

    All the best!
    Debbie Zelman

  26. Are you the founder or co founder of Meals to Heal? Are you using this service? Why are you linked to this web page? Do you recommend this service? My mom has stomach cancer stage 4 and I would LOVE more advice on nutrition, supplements, relaxation techniques, etc…….
    Sincerely,

    Beverly Burt

  27. Hi Debbie, love hearing your positive story, I was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer in Feb 2007 …..I’m still here, I’m now 38 yo with two children, I too have gone down the chemo and surgery road and although it is tough at times it is so worth it getting precious time with my family…..well done to you for sharing your story and raising awareness xxx

  28. Dear Debbie,
    I love your spirit and Im sure you will get totally cured one day , My brother just discovered he has a gastric cancer stage 2 after going thru an operation to remove the tumor, He’s 36 years old , and a father for a 7 months baby girl.
    We are from Egypt, intending to do his diagnosis in the united states either at Memorial sloan kattering New york or Md Anderson texas..I would like to let me know how can we deal with the case and the doctors ..please advise ..sent you my email .Would like to hear from you soon..
    Love
    Nora

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