In April 2008, Debbie Zelman was enjoying a successful life. At age 40, she was an attorney with a law firm, married to a physician, and had three children. Then she was hit with calamity. Zelman found out she had Stage IV stomach cancer. This cancer was considered incurable, and Zelman was told she had little time to live. She was told that about four percent of people with stomach cancer survived longer than five years.
Debbie began a long and difficult treatment process. She educated herself about stomach cancer and sought the best treatment possible. She has survived but has had eight recurrences and continues with treatment for this difficult disease. November is Curing Stomach Cancer Month and Debbie is working hard to fight this terrible disease.
In 2009, she founded the Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer based in Plantation and is working to help others with stomach cancer. The goals of the Foundation include raising funds for research into innovative, progressive and innovative treatments for this disease; to raise awareness about stomach cancer; and to provide information and assistance to stomach cancer patients and their families and caregivers. In January 2012, Debbie appeared on the Dr. Oz show in a segment on stomach cancer.
“We offer peer to peer support programs where we match patients and caregivers using disease specific criteria,” said Mary-Margaret Killmeyer, program director for the Foundation. “We offer educational opportunities such as symposiums and webinars. We encourage patients with stomach cancer to educate themselves about treatments. We want them to find supportive people who have gone through this disease and can help them by sharing their own experiences.”
Killmeyer said that 26,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year in the U.S. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men worldwide, and the fourth form of cancer death for women worldwide.
There are things people should be aware of regarding stomach cancer.
Gastric cancers – those that begin in the stomach, esophagus or the junctions of these two organs, result in about 37,600 new cancer cases in the U.S. each year and about 25,150 deaths.
Some primary risk factors for stomach cancer include: infection with a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), which is associated with gastric and duodenal ulcers, and chronic indigestion.
Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease in which the stomach does not produce the protein necessary for Vitamin B-12 absorption. This condition has been linked to stomach cancer.
Those who have diets heavy in salt, smoked or preserved foods, or low in fruits and vegetables may be at higher risk of stomach cancer. Those who smoke may be at higher risk. Older people are also at greater risk.
The Foundation is encouraging to people to participate in Denim for Debbie on November 2nd. People can speak to their boss, co-workers, friends, etc. to get permission to wear denim/jeans for $5 per person. You collect the proceeds and send them to Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer at Two South University Drive Suite 326, Plantation, Florida 33324.