Friends fundraise to raise awareness about rare stomach cancer

A group of friends are hosting a charity dinner in Fulham this September to raise awareness about Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) and in memory of a wife and mother.

The team of six, led by Bella Noakes, is hosting a fundraising dinner in aid of Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust on 3 September to raise awareness about HDGC and in memory of Bella’s mother, Vicky Gammon, who passed away from the disease in November 2019.

HDGC is an inherited cancer syndrome caused by a gene mutation which leads to an increased risk of developing diffuse gastric cancer and lobular breast cancer at a young age.

Bella, 27, from Wandsworth, said: “Mum had a real passion for life and everyone in it, she was completely and utterly gorgeous, and showed nothing but kindness and generosity throughout her life.

“This dinner is exactly what mum loved, bringing lots of people together to enjoy themselves and have a giggle over a glass of Prosecco.

“After her diagnosis mum was incredibly sick, her illness consumed us all for a long time, she went through so much and I am determined to help raise awareness and support for other families like ours.

“I miss her every day and I am overwhelmed by the friends, family and businesses who have made this event possible with all their generous donations and support.”

IN LOVING MEMORY: Vicky, beloved wife of Ant, and mum to Bella, Ollie and Sam, was just 51 when she passed away from HDGC. Credit: Bella Noakes

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, which is part of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is a specialist centre for HDGC.

It runs clinical research programmes which look into the best surveillance techniques for the cancer and into the specifics around the gene mutation and why cancer develops and supports families affected by HDGC.

The familial gastric cancer study aims to identify people who fit the criteria for HDGC and provide support, treatment and management for them.

The event

The dinner will be held at Il Pagliaccio on Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, and is already fully booked with 65 people attending and there is a waiting list.

There is a raffle which anyone can enter, costing £5 for one ticket, £12 for three tickets, and there will be a live auction on the night. 

Prizes include everything from fitness classes, to bumper hampers and luxury weekends away.

GET YOUR RAFFLE ON: Friends, family and local businesses have donated some incredible prizes. Credit: Team Vicky Gammon

One of the organisers, Isabel Cummins, 26 and from Lambeth, who is in charge of the restaurant liaison commented: “We have been really blown away by the generosity of the people and businesses who have donated.

“It means the world to all of us that people are willing to donate and get involved and to raise awareness about this cruel disease which can affect people at such a young age.

“Vicky was such an amazing woman so we wanted to do as much as we could to fundraise and support the cause, but also to have something really positive to put our energy into and to celebrate Vicky’s memory.”

The team first came up with the idea in January 2020 to carry on Vicky’s zest for life and to support other people in the same situation.

Last year the team organised a fundraising dinner in March 2020 and raised £8,423 for Cancer Research, which was ring-fenced into a fund for rare stomach cancers.

RUN FOR VICKY: Team Vicky Gammon ran the Bath Half Marathon virtually in March 2020 and raised over £33,000 for Cancer Research UK. Credit: Bella Noakes

The disease

HDGC is caused by a mutation of the CDH1 gene which can be inherited from either parent.

Those at risk are given a blood test to identify if they have the gene mutation.

The survival rate depends on detection but HDGC is often not picked up early so most cases of diffuse gastric cancer are diagnosed at late stages (III or IV).

If someone is at a high risk of HDGC, doctors may advise them to get their stomach removed.

Professor of Medical Genetics and NHS consultant Marc Tischkowitz explained: “The idea of someone choosing to remove their stomach as a voluntary thing based on the info we give them is a big deal.

“It is traumatic, it changes your lifestyle, but it is amazing how people adapt to it and how they can live a relatively normal life 

“One of the big challenges is that we know someone is going to cancer at some point but we don’t know when.

“There is lots that is still unknown about this condition.”

Marc added that sometimes people with the gene get stomach cancer and no breast cancer, or breast cancer but no stomach cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, it is estimated that only between 1% and 3% of all cases of gastric cancer are HDGC.

LATE STAGE: Many stomach cancers are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. Credit: Cancer Research UK

The restaurant owner

Teo Catino, 56, set up il Pagliaccio in 1992 after migrating to the UK from Italy aged just 16 in 1982.

He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2012, after a friend spotted Teo was in pain and asked him to come to Italy for some examinations.

Following an endoscopy, doctors strongly advised him to have his stomach removed in order to prevent the cancer from spreading.

During the operation the doctor had to remove more than what he had initially thought and Teo had both his stomach and spleen removed.

ANNUAL EVENT: Last year’s dinner was also held at Il Pagliaccio and the restaurant donated £5 per person to Cancer Research Credit: Bella Noakes

Teo, who lives in Parsons Green, said: “I was really lucky.

“It took a couple of years for me to recover but I am here and I am stronger.

“I eat little and often, and I run a successful and wonderful restaurant in the heart of Fulham.”

Il Pagliaccio will donate £5 per person from every ticket sold to the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust which will be presented via cheque on the night of the dinner.

Teo added: “We love what we do and we enjoy it and it is my pleasure to give something back to this charity.”

To buy a raffle ticket or make a donation please contact Team Vicky Gammon on Instagram or make a donation direct to the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust via

Featured image credit: Bella Noakes

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