Keeping the Faith after Metastatic Stomach Cancer: Christopher’s Story
Christopher Lynch is a teacher and football and baseball coach at Chaminade High School, in Mineola, New York. He is married with two adult children. Today, he has no evidence of disease after being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering for stomach cancer that spread to his brain.
- Soon after he found out he had stomach cancer, Christopher Lynch learned it had spread to his brain.
- At Memorial Sloan Kettering, Christopher’s care team — including specialists in medical oncology, radiation, and neurosurgery — worked together to seamlessly coordinate his care.
- After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, Christopher had no evidence of disease.
- He is very involved in his community and uses his story to help inspire others.
By Christopher Lynch and Meredith Begley
A portion of this story originally appeared in “Bridges,” MSK’s newsletter for cancer survivors. “Bridges” offers a forum in which patients and their families can share stories of inspiration and hope, and of the challenges that can accompany a cancer journey. Learn more about how to receive “Bridges” and how to submit your story here.
Below, Christopher describes his experience in his own words.
I had a headache leaving a Super Bowl party in January 2016. The next few weeks, I was having trouble eating. That was very different from the norm: I enjoy eating, believe me. Day by day, I started getting sick every time I tried to eat. My appetite was not that great. Around the same time, I started vomiting and having some difficulty with my balance.
My wife, Kristina, and I decided to get things checked out. We went to a hospital near our house on Long Island. I had an endoscopic procedure, and when I woke up, the doctor said, “Mr. Lynch, you have stomach cancer.” Wow. Talk about a punch in the gut.
I stayed in that hospital for a couple of days. Kristina and I then placed a call to Memorial Sloan Kettering and got in touch with surgeon Vivian Strong’s office. For my first appointment, I was in a wheelchair, and my balance was not very good. It was recommended that I get an MRI. When I came out of that, a neurologist, Elayna Reubens, told me I had a brain tumor. That was a real hit below the belt. I remember crying in my wife’s arms. I was only 51, with two kids, and happy. Until recently, I had been athletic and relatively healthy.
“Go Get It”
I met my team of neurologists and neurosurgeons. The surgery, I learned, would be led by Viviane Tabar. She is my angel here on earth. She said the tumor was fairly big and deep in my left cerebellum, and she told me she could get it. I said immediately, “Go get it.”
On March 1, 2016, I had a three-and-a-half-hour surgery. Afterward, Dr. Tabar came out and told Kristina, “I believe I got it all. I do not expect to be seeing you for surgery again.” She did recommend that I get radiation to the area to reduce the chance that the tumor would grow back.
At a follow-up appointment with Dr. Tabar, she was pleased with how I was doing. She showed me the scan of my head before surgery. I was amazed by her skill, professionalism, care, and concern. I felt blessed. We then met with medical oncologist Zoe Goldberg and Dr. Strong, who recommended that we treat the stomach cancer with chemotherapy. That was the beginning of a three-year-long journey. I had a port put in my chest and a total of 54 chemotherapy treatments. I also had five radiation treatments to my head to make sure the brain tumor was fully gone. Kristina was with me every second of the day. After doing all of this, I was told that I had no cancer remaining in my stomach or my head. These three talented women saved my life.
I am eternally blessed and grateful for the wonderful care I received at MSK. Everyone was friendly, kind, and professional, and they always did everything with a smile, down to the parking attendants who took our car every time we drove in.
Taking Time to Reflect
Working as a teacher and coach for the past 32 years, I am so grateful that I am still able to do what I enjoy. I strongly feel that the prayers and well wishes from my students and players, as well as the doctors and nurses at MSK, have allowed me to have no evidence of disease since January 2018.
I received wonderful support from the administration at the high school where I work, Chaminade in Mineola, New York. They broke the news about my initial diagnosis to the students. When I finally returned to school for a visit, I received a standing ovation from the student body. That love and support gave me the courage to battle my cancer. I continued to visit the school and use the weight room once or twice per week to try and keep up my strength. I also visited the chapel at school and thanked God for my family, faith, and friends.
Kristina and I have since celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. I saw the graduations of my son, Kyle, from Villanova University and my daughter, Cara, from Sacred Heart University.
I have been in remission for 18 months. I truly feel like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. The doctors did such a fantastic job with all their treatments. I feel in my heart that they have found a way to let me continue doing what I love: being a husband, father, teacher, and coach.
Hope for Others
People often think the worst when they’re diagnosed with cancer. My approach was to take one day at a time, do what I had to do, and continue to live life. I believe that God has a plan for each of us and truly does not give you what you cannot handle. Even though sometimes things are not what you expect, you have to continue to get up each and every day and try to do the best you can. I tell my students that sometimes things will not go their way. They will get knocked down. They will have to continue to get back up.