When Anders Johnson tested positive for a rare gene that caused both his mother’s and grandfather’s deaths, he knew he needed to take action.
After the 41-year-old pharmacist discovered he had the CDH1 gene, Anders decided to get his stomach removed – so he could plan his future with his kids.
This is because the rare gene increases the chances of developing Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC).
Anders, from Montana, USA, said: ‘My maternal grandfather died of HDGC when he was 50, and my mother was diagnosed with HDGC, which spread to esophageal cancer when she was 48.
‘Since HDGC hides in the stomach lining, her death was preceded by her diagnosis just a few months prior.
‘Genetic counseling facilitated testing specifically for CDH1. My wife and I had to undergo genetic counseling before getting tested.
‘Our five children have a 50% chance of inheriting the CDH1 gene mutation.’
Doctors urged Andres to have a full gastrectomy, removing the whole stomach organ.
He explained: ‘The decision was always a given to get the gastrectomy. With five children, I wanted to be around to watch them grow up, have a family of their own, and grow old with my beautiful wife.
‘I was already at the age at which the cancer manifests itself – 40 plus years old – so there was also a sense of urgency.’
But – despite initial concerns – the pharmacist went through with it.
However, the three years following the operation were pretty challenging as Andres’ body got used to a new way of digesting food and nutrition.
At first he wasn’t able to get the complete nutrition his body needed, which was exacerbated by Dumping Syndrome – which occurs when sugary and starchy foods move too fast into the small intestine.
This led him to losing 30% of his body weight.
However, the procedure also had a mental toll on Andres, who experienced suicidal thoughts following it.
Anders added: ‘Between the loss of weight, pain, energy, and just the connection between nutritional absorption and emotional neurochemicals, there is a true physiological reason for depression, in addition to the circumstances surrounding the whole procedure.’
But now, seven years on, Andres is in a much better place and says he’s ‘healthier than he was before the procedure.’
He’s also cherishing time with his kids and looks forward to welcoming grandchildren one day.
Anders’ wife Jennifer says: ‘He is so strong. We’re seven years post-op and spend our summers hiking, fly-fishing, and living a very active lifestyle with our five teenagers.
‘He works out at 5:00am every morning and is in better shape than when we met 29 years ago.
‘His family is so proud of him and everything he has pushed through.
‘He’s victorious and such a beautiful example of strength and victory for our kids.’
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