Every year, nearly 2,200 Australians are diagnosed with stomach cancer. This Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Council SA Ambassador Letchemi Velautha shares her story to support others.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Eighteen months later in 2011 I was at a follow up appointment with my breast surgeon when my husband mentioned that I was having some gas, reflux and bloating. Knowing my history, my surgeon said that it was best to investigate with an endoscopy.
I didn’t think much of it, so was incredibly surprised when the scans showed a lesion on my stomach. He told me he thought it looked suspicious, so sent it off for further tests, which confirmed it was cancer. I went to have an ECG and blood tests and was booked in for an operation a couple of weeks later.
I was lucky as it wasn’t a secondary cancer—it was another primary, completely unrelated to my breast cancer, which meant that the original cancer hadn’t spread. I had an operation to remove a large part of my stomach and then underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment simultaneously for five weeks. I was really not very well during that time. I took a month off and then did another round of chemotherapy. It made me even sicker and I ended up in hospital with my husband by my side. My weight dropped to 35kgs.
I ended up having a blood transfusion and the oncologist decided to reduce my chemo sessions from six to five, with the last two at a lower dose because I had lost so much weight.
After treatment, I went back to work however only worked for a year—I still hadn’t been able to put on much weight and was feeling exhausted and unmotivated. I started seeing a dietitian, a nutritionist and a psychologist and took time off to look after me. I went for a cruise, read books and reflected and came back a different person.
It’s now seven years later and I’m doing really well. The cancer has gone and I’m up to 42kgs. My food intake is really different now, I eat small meals at intervals instead of larger ones. I try to eat lots of nutritious foods and also foods that I enjoy.
Based in regional South Australia, I stayed at the lodges during my treatment and it was during that time I became a Cancer Council SA Ambassador. I’m proud to still be an ambassador to this day, sharing my story and experience to help others. My message to anyone going through cancer is that you’re not alone. Reach out if you need it, there are people there to help you every step of the way.
For more information about Stomach Cancer visit our webpage.