Woman Chooses to Have Stomach Completely Removed after Disease Took Life of Mom & Grandpa


Heather Huus was weighed down by fear. A life-changing surgery not only resulted in losing physical body weight, but also the weight that was holding her back from living in peace.

Peace was difficult to achieve when she was living with an organ that would likely kill her. Gastric cancer killed her grandpa.

Huus’s mom was only 44 years old when she learned the same rare form of stomach cancer, hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, was killing her, too. Huus, at 19, witnessed her mom go through surgery to remove 80% of her stomach, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Her mom sadly passed away a year after the cancer diagnosis. Doctors advised Huus to undergo genetic testing to see if she had a CDH1 gene mutation.

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If a woman tests positive, the chance of her developing gastric cancer is somewhere between 56 percent and 83 percent. Approximately 12 years after Huus’s mother died from the cancer, Huus thought about her own young daughter, Paige.

She went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to get tested. It came back positive.

“If it had been inconclusive, I think I would have stayed worried my entire life. Instead, testing positive let me know where I stood in terms of the odds,” Huus told SELF.

On Aug. 16, 2016, her entire stomach was removed. Her stomach was biopsied after the total gastrectomy to make sure there were no cancer cells.

If cancer was detected in the stomach, it would mean it could have spread to other parts of the body. With a negative biopsy, Huus will never get the gastric cancer that took the life of her mom and grandpa.

In preparation for the rapid weight loss and restricted diet that occurred after the surgery, Huus had gained 60 pounds, putting her at a size 24 beforehand. After losing 125 pounds, she was a size 4 only six months after the surgery.

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Huus lost a significant amount of weight and no longer has a stomach. However, she also lost any fear that she could develop the rare stomach cancer.

She explained to SELF, “Maybe it sounds weird to say my life is better without a stomach. But it’s like a weight lifted.”

There are few benefits and drawbacks to living without a stomach. First, she never feels hungry or full; she relies on other physical cues to remind her to eat, such as shakiness and fatigue.

But it’s very easy for her to “forget to eat” and end up feeling sick. Rather than risk that, she has a regular schedule of eating small meals every two or three hours, making sure to chew thoroughly, since the food now goes directly into her intestines rather than being broken down in her non-existent stomach.

But the drawback is something called dumping syndrome, which is what happens when a large amount of processed or sugary foods are “dumped” directly into the intestines and thus the body flushes them with water. That water comes from the bloodstream, and so low blood pressure, and thus dizziness, fatigue, and weakness, can make her feel as if she’s drunk.

She said, though, “I guess I eat the way people are supposed to eat when they want to be healthy. Except that most people want to have that type of diet, and I have to. As funny as it sounds, I think everyone could benefit from living as if they don’t have a stomach.”

So maybe to lose those 10 pounds you’ve been thinking about, maybe try pretending you don’t have a stomach!

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Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College.
Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College. Carolyn's writing has been featured in both online and print media, including Just Between Us magazine. She resides in Phoenix with her husband and children.
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