Paying it Forward
In a campaign to spread awareness about HDGC and the CDH1 mutation, Jessica MacKenzie began a charity called Beads for Bellies.
“Over the summer, when I was really anxious about testing for the mutation, we went to Michael’s and bought some beads and we made bracelets and gave them out to family and friends,” she said. “Then a lot of people saw them and thought they were pretty, so it kind of evolved into this charity.”
All proceeds from bracelet sales go to No Stomach for Cancer, an organization whose mission is to support research on stomach cancer and unite people who have been affected by it.
So far, MacKenzie has raised almost $7,000 for HDGC research.
“I didn’t expect it to get this big,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s mind-numbing to make the bracelets. It makes me forget about all this stuff going on.”
Raising awareness of HDGC and the CDH1 mutation is important to MacKenzie and her family because many people do not know anything about this particular form of cancer.
“I just really wanted to spread awareness about this because a lot of doctors don’t even know what it is,” MacKenzie said. “My dad went for a physical the week before his surgery and his doctor had no idea what the mutation was and he thought he was crazy for getting his stomach removed.”
The CDH1 mutation was discovered only about 15 years ago in New Zealand. Research and awareness of the mutation and HDGC are still growing.
“I’ve sold bracelets to hundreds of people, and now all those people know about the mutation,” she said. “Hopefully it will save lives.”
MacKenzie, currently an animal and poultry sciences major, plans to return to Tech next fall and study creative writing. For now, she is at home with her family in New York while she becomes accustomed to her new life without a stomach.