FORT MYERS

In some cases, it’s easy to understand what we inherited from our family, like mom’s smile or dad’s blue eyes.

But when it comes to a certain health condition, genetics can play a crucial role over several generations.

One large family with a genetic form of stomach cancer had to make a potentially life-saving decision that many members chose to make.

Beth Lambert, 54, comes from a large family.

She is one of five siblings, but in 2006 her brother Seve died of a rare form of stomach cancer.

“Just watching our brother go from someone who was full of life and he really was as much as he could be until the end,” Lambert said.

At the same time, their mother was battling colon cancer. Her cancer cells had the same unusual seal cell pattern as Steve’s.

An attentive doctor suggested a genetic test.

Kristen Shannon is a Certified Genetic Counselor.

She said the huge increase in the number of testing laboratories has brought about the latest dramatic changes in the field

“So in addition to bRCA1 and bRCA2, we can test for up to 80 different genes that are associated with cancer,” Shannon said.

One of these gene mutations is responsible for the aggressive stomach cancer that killed Lambert’s brother.

“My sister Katie tested positive. My brother Mike tested positive. Our brother Dave tested negative and then I tested positive,” Lambert said.

Since the cancer affected the lining of the stomach, prevention meant surgical removal of the stomach.

“You know, people often say, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know you could live without a stomach.’ This is so radical I can’t believe you would ever do it.
And we always say it’s a no-brainer for us,” Lambert said.

She and her brother, Mike, scheduled same-day surgeries. Then the focus shifted to the next generation.

Mike’s daughter, Shannon Walsh, tested positive for the CDH-1 gene in college.

She also decided to have her stomach removed.

“So you can wait as long as you want, within reason, so you really should think about it,” Walsh said.

The family eats small meals.

No food is off limits, but some are easier to process than others.

Despite the difficulties, Lambert is grateful to his mother, who gave them the path to identifying the genetic risk.

“You know, if she hadn’t done that, we’d be telling a very different story. Honestly, we probably wouldn’t be here to tell that story,” Lambert said.

The family takes supplements to compensate for foods they have difficulty processing.

In addition to Walsh, one of Lambert’s children and two of her brother’s children tested positive for the stomach cancer gene.

The family is involved with the nonprofit group Cancer Has No Stomach to raise awareness and money for research.

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