WHAT TO EXPECT: There will be a break between chemo and surgery. This is to give your body time to get strong enough to handle the trauma of the surgery.

This is the time to prepare yourself physically and psychologically for what comes next. Get as healthy as you can through exercise and healthy eating. Psych yourself up to have an absolute commitment to doing everything it takes to survive, regardless of how difficult it becomes. You are heading into the most challenging part of treatment and you need to be prepared.

WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: Other than the anxiety surrounding the approach of surgery, this is a fairly positive time. Savor it.


Shop for a surgeon: Don’t let the medical establishment “assign” you a surgeon. Ask around, particularly of people you know in the medical field. Gary asked his primary care doctor to help. She talked to her colleagues and came up with the best surgeon available.

This is a life or death decision, and it is very important you get it right.

Consider robotic surgery: We highly recommend that you ask for a referral to a surgeon who is experienced in robotic surgery, also known as minimally-invasive surgery. Gary’s surgeon was a younger physician who specialized in robotic surgeries. He had done a number of gastrectomies this way.

The advantages of this type of surgery are less pain (Gary had virtually none), minimal scaring, and a shorter recovery time.

Make sure you have a personal advocate: Hospitals are very complex and very compartmentalized. There often isn’t anyone looking at the big picture.

You may already have someone who is totally involved in your treatment and can advocate for you while you are in the hospital. If not, it is important you ask a specific friend, neighbor, or relative, preferably with some health training, to be your advocate. You should let your surgeon know who has been designated to help you.

Your advocate should visit you every day to make sure everything is going the way it should. Any questions, problems, or concerns should be brought to the attention of your nurse or someone at the nurses’ station. If necessary, your advocate should call your surgeon’s office.

Make your last meal your best meal: The night before surgery have a special meal. It will be your last truly satisfying meal for a really long time. Enjoy it as much as possible.

Be extremely germ conscious: Some, though not all, hospitals have become very aggressive about preventing surgical infections through preventive means. There are really rigorous preparations you can go through the night before and the day of surgery that can dramatically reduce the risk of infections.

Learn what these are and do them.