It’s truly amazing to win a battle against cancer, especially in your early 20s, but that’s exactly what Alyson Rod did. When she was 11 years old, doctors discovered a tumor under her knee, but after months and months of treatment, Rod has been in remission for nearly 14 years.
She remained positive throughout the ordeal, but the terrible disease is once again hitting the Moanalua High School Spanish teacher. This past summer, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
“This one is unrelated to the first one.
It’s not a relapse or a reoccurrence,” she explains. She has beaten cancer once and plans to do it again. She also has made it her mission to educate people in the community to keep an eye on their health.
“The symptoms I had were not normal symptoms (of stomach cancer),” she explains. “I was just getting full fast. I was eating less, and when I overate I felt bloated.”
Rod dealt with the “symptoms,” which seemed like normal effects of eating. But then she started losing a lot of weight and decided to go to the doctor.
“I had to go to the hospital for dehydration,” she says. Doctors discovered that her stomach was not emptying out the food she was eating and recommended surgery to remove the supposed blockage.
“We were just going to have a small surgery to remove a part of my stomach where the exit was,” Rod says. “I went in and did the surgery, and when I woke up, I had no stomach.” Doctors had to remove her stomach in its entirety because it was filled with stage 4 cancer. Rod is slowly getting used to the aftereffects. But more than the physical difficulty of having to eat very slowly and in small amounts, the real frustration for Rod comes from realizing that “this is my life now.”
“It was a really long process getting back to eating just (solid) food,” she recalls. “And it was hard because, in my mind, I’m craving a poi malasada and a cheeseburger, but I couldn’t eat those things. The idea of it is harder than actually doing it.”
She wants to let others know that being proactive is the best prevention. Rod conducted research on her own and discovered that stomach cancer is extremely rare in people under age 60. “But it can happen to anyone,” she adds. “Awareness is really important. We experience different things like bloating, getting full faster and we just shrug it off. No one thinks to go to the doctor for that.”
Rod no longer is undergoing chemotherapy, but she plans to travel to the Mainland to find alternative treatment options. “Most oncologists here haven’t had experiences with anyone young (with stomach cancer),” she says. She’s hoping that information she can find on the Mainland will not only help her, but also help someone else down the line. To help further her cause, check out her fundraising page, gofundme.com/arodvscancer.