A story by Mahathi V.
A lot can happen in a year. You can receive life-changing news, go from healthy to hospital-bound, and make new connections that will stay with you for a lifetime.
For me, 2022 was a year I could have never imagined. In February, I was diagnosed with gastric cancer. In March, I had surgery. In the summer, chemo. The winter, immunotherapy.
As a PhD student studying epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health and research coordinator in NYU Langone Health’s Department of Population Health, I was used to viewing health in terms of statistics and scientific research, so when my diagnosis came in, I was scared about my own health and future—and where I would land among the numbers.
The challenges piled up from there, and during each setback and success, I had supporters by my side: my husband and parents, but also my surgeon, my gastroenterologist, my oncologist, nurses, technicians, therapists, and staff in all corners of NYU Langone and its Perlmutter Cancer Center.
I found it was the people in my life—old and new—that got me through the toughest moments.
It started as heartburn.
At least I thought it was. Like most early 30-somethings, I was hopeful Tums and some light diet changes would solve my issues. Everyone gets heartburn. Why would an otherwise healthy young person need to see a doctor about it?
But when my heartburn transformed into debilitating stomach pains, my family urged me to seek help. After an emergency room visit and appointments with different doctors, I ended up at NYU Langone with GI specialist Bart Kummer, MD.
My first endoscopy revealed a large peptic ulcer. A follow-up uncovered something more drastic: behind the ulcer was a cancerous tumor.
From there, Dr. Kummer and a team of other outstanding specialists helped me navigate my immediate future. Paul Oberstein, MD, met with me about my cancer outlook, Elizabeth Fino, MD, consulted with me about my husband’s and my family planning, and Paresh Shah, MD, met with me to discuss my surgery options. About a week after my initial diagnosis, we had a plan in place for my next steps.
My surgeon became like an uncle to me.
From Day 1, I felt very connected to Dr. Paresh Shah. He seemed like an incredibly kind person, and I trusted him immediately. I think that’s critical for a patient, especially for someone who’s never had surgery before in her life.