Survivor Story: Dawn Gandy Durski

Posted by | April 16, 2014 | Stories - Survivor Stories | 33 Comments

I am my parent’s youngest child with two older brothers. I am a single mom of three children, my favorite thing in life! I sold real estate in my hometown for 25 years working for my mom, my mentor, and my hero. When diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer my mom and I both retired, me at age 45 and her at 69.  The focus was on the huge battle ahead, but more importantly the stability of my children, doing our best that their lives stay some what the same.

Dawn Gandy Durski Jamesburg, NJ

Dawn Gandy Durski
Jamesburg, NJ

My father was diagnosed ay 76 with colon cancer, two years after me. His mom died at 76 of cancer (not sure of the kind). My father lost his niece at age 13 and brother at age 69 of leukemia. No cancer on my mom’s side.

I was having bathroom issues for about a year, nothing crazy, some cramps, constipation, diarrhea, nothing that I didn’t have an excuse for. My period, maybe menopause, something I ate; you get it. Six months prior to being diagnosed, it got worse I was doubled over in pain, exploding from both ends. Three times I went to ER and three times I was sent home with a stomach virus. Finally I found a doctor who ordered a colonoscopy, sure enough cancer.

The colonoscopy showed cancer in the sigmoid colon, than the ultrasound found my ovaries were engulfed in cancer. The biopsy was positive for cancer in my liver. All spreading from the original sight; the colon. I received treatment at St. Peter’s  New Brunswick New Jersey from Dr. Sameer desai (oncologist ), Dr. Zinkin (colon surgeon), Dr. Ushma Patel (gynecology), Dr. Gribbons (radiologist), and many more to come.

I had a full hysterectomy, a colon resection, and RFA on my liver. My port was put in and chemo was started. I had 14 treatments and had one year of NED.

My family, friends, and entire community came to my aid. I was overcome with support, and as I am still fighting four years out, they are still here for me and especially my children. I had three reoccurrences that came with many more surgeries, chemo and radiation.

My life is good, but spent a lot at home. I don’t take many meds. I took pain killers after surgeries and nausea meds when needed. The only thing missing was the ability to make an income like I used to. I am only collecting social security, I am grateful, but $1350.00 a month is not much, but with the support from family and friends we squeak by.

The biggest challenge is the financial burden. Hospital bills, well heck let me just say cancer is expensive and limits you from making money, at least in my case. Also keeping that strong face, never allowing fear in my children’s face. Hiding my fear.

My words of wisdom for others is “Hope”, doctors can do so much. Your positive attitude is part of the battle. Educate yourself about the disease; talk to people, like support groups you will learn a lot. Surround yourself with happy people. No stress. Always spending as much good time with my children. When I am not feeling so well, the kids are always kept busy, they see some of the suffering but at a minimal.

 

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33 Comments

  • Kristi Olsen says:

    Dawn, what a story. You are one woman who has had to endure much. Thank you for sharing them. CANCER has effected do many lives in multiple ways. What a strong influence you are to me of strength and dedication. I’m one lucky gal to have support from you. I look up to you and pray for you often. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t give us what we can’t handle. I’m so very blessed with knowing he loves me. I have been taught so much while going through my breast cancer. How blessed we are. We are strong women. I’m privileged to know a bit about you. Thank you friend. LOVE, Kristi Olsen

  • Sharon says:

    I would like to say thank you to Dawn if it was not for her updates I would be in the same boat. The day after Thanksgiving I landed in RWJ hospital with diavitulites went for a colonoscopy only to find that I had 2 masses in the upper colon and diavitulites in my Sigmoid colon . This past Thursday I had a 6 1/2 hour surgery and am happy to report I am home resting . But because of your updates I new to go to the hospital and for that my friend I Thank you . Sharon Horvath

    • Sara says:

      Thank you all for sharing your stories! I know it takes a lot to come out and discuss such events to strangers. I propose a question, if anyone could provide me with help, it would be much appreciated! My mother, age 53, went for her first routine colonoscopy (with a family history of colon cancer) and the doctor discovered two large size polyps; which he removed. After biopsy results; the larger polyp came back positive for cancer; a villa adenocarcinoma. The only follow up her doctor recommended since he removed the polyp was a repeat colonoscopy in 6 months. After doing research, it shows after a cancerous diagnosis most doctors recommend further testing. Labs, scans, etc. to rule out any other malignant diagnosis. I just feel iffy with the doctors follow up recommendations and am seeking advice from those who have personally gone through similar diagnosis. Like I said, any provided information would greatly be appreciated! I don’t want to trust a 6 month follow up is all that is needed and something else show up in 6 months, or it be to late. Thank you guys!

      • Zehra says:

        Hi Sara!
        Please confirm whether she want a chemotherapy or Radiation because my father has the same problem. Last year he had surgery and the polyp was removed but we’ve neglected chemo and radiation and the doctor also didn’t tell us how chemo was important for him and now because of cancer recurrence he had gone through another major surgery and now the cancer is in advanced stage. We are so much worried about him but hopefully he’ll be fine doctors are also hopeful.

    • Victoria says:

      Your story sounds like my fiance 38 years old he was recently diagnosed with two masses one in the colon and one in the upper intestin. colon is about 1cm diameter the other is large 6cm diameter still waiting for the surgeon to call him for surgery in standford cancer hospital so far there was no cancer in his liver Dr said it looked to be stabled my God I pray it stays that way tell he can have treatments. We just had our 4th baby 10 month’s ago I can’t imagine living my life without him. I’m trying so hard to stay calm be positive about this but how do you? I hold back so much fear and sadness I know it will be a long road but if I can still have him hear living breathing watch his children grow up i won’t give up hope for him to recover. I never experienced this kinda hurt in my life so scared. What was your thoughts when the Dr told you that you had cc. Did you think it was over for you? I need to learn how to cope.

  • Dawn durski says:

    Sharon I did not know that you were going through this. I am hoping you are doing well and that they chey caught whatever it is , early. If you need me please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Dawn

  • Linda says:

    You’re truly inspiring.

  • My Homepage says:

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  • Jessica M says:

    Thank you for sharing Dawn, God bless you you’ve not had it easy, hang in there, I’ll be thinking of you x

  • Christina varecka says:

    Just diagnosed with colon cancer.. First consult tomorrow with Sloan.. I’m sure to be very educated on what is going to happen… Looking for a support group for info and inspiring stories.. I can’t search the internet anymore because all I keep reading is horrible stories…

    • Steve says:

      Give me a shout. Same as you.

    • Ruth says:

      no no there’s lots of support out there, its terrifying to be told you have cancer. Cry scream get mad punch a pillow because you are in for a awful ride, chemo hurts ALOT radiation isnt painful, when I was told I havd cancer someone told me you will gat surgery , chemo and it will be horrible painful BUT it can save your life. God is with us through it all, find a support group get numbers alert you family and friends you will need every one of them, don’t be scared get prepared. You will make it if you fight, you can email me murryruth@yahoo.com.Be strong.

    • Steve says:

      Just wondering how you are doing…went to Sloan the other day for the same thing…

  • Christina varecka says:

    Also… By the way I am a 39 y/o female.. Married.. 3 beautiful boys… Trying to stay positive and keep this from my kids until I know what’s going on…

  • Marian H. says:

    I’m 77 years old and 3 weeks post surgery. I live alone an am home awaiting the next step. It has been recommended by my Oncologist that I take oral chemo (Xeloda) and My children and I are in agreement about doing just that. I have been diagnosed as Stage III because 2 lymph nodes out of 13 were involved. I have hope and determination and I want to live significantly longer to be with my daughters and to watch my granddaughter grow up. All of this came 3 years after a uterine cancer diagnosis and hysterectomy and therefore came as a shock because it has been determined that this cancer is a second primary cancer and is not relate to the uterine cancer at all.

    • Michelle D. says:

      Marian, how age treatments going for you? I too took Xeloda and underwent radiation at the same time. I hope you are doing as well as can be expected.

  • Ravikumar says:

    Hi, I am experiencing symptoms of colon cancer for the past one week.
    Iam 29 years old, male
    1. Stomach bloating
    2. Constipation
    3. Blood in stool
    4. narrow stools and very low volume

    I have been taking laxatives and no effect what so ever. I occasionally have blood in my stool since child hood and once a doctor told me that its due to body heat.I have given some blood tests and hope my general physician would recommend me to GI.

    I am from India and I have my engagement in a weeks to come and marriage in next 6 months.

    Looks like my life is doomed.

    • Erin Peterson says:

      Please be sure to advocate for yourself with your physician. Ask for a referral if you aren’t given one. Good luck! You’re in our thoughts.

    • Hi.I am 47;year old female.diagnosed stage 2 colorectal cancer.only symptom was blood in the stool.very small amounts.as soon as I saw that I went to the GI Dr.were he did a colonoacopy.there he found a tumor.two days later at surgeon cat scan MRI.two fays later I had surgery.recovering now.no need for chemo orvradiation.no spread to nodes.Go to the Dr.the rarlyvyou catch up the better your prognosis. Go! It will Dave your life. Theresa Caputo 47 yr old mom of 4.

    • Steve says:

      Give me a shout

    • Felix Paul says:

      Hi
      Consult an oncologist and have a colonoscopy done. I wish it’s not positive, but if it is, get it treated at once. There are types of colorectal cancer that are aggressive, so the sooner you get the process started, the better. If you think, medical help is more convenient in your home country, you can have it all done there. The treatment costs will be much less and you’ll have the advantage of being with those who love and care for you. Do tell your bride to be about your condition. I wish you a speedy recovery.

  • Stephen Toward says:

    thanks for your story it gives me hope

  • Chrystal says:

    Hello. I am 36. Overweight mother of 1. I have had blood on my stool for about 8 years the last 2 years I have had diharea and more blood. I also sometimes pass only mucus and blood. I had a cat scan in August it was fine I had a stomach scope because I have tummy pain it was fine they upped my acid reflux medicine. That was about 3 years ago. For the past few days my stomach is very grumbly and acidic and I have had very watery stool with blood or simply mucus and blood. I went to er they said all my blood work is fine no anemia white count good. So they said just follow up for a colonoscopy with my doc who is very slow to make this appointment for me. I wanted to reach out I’m so very terrified I can’t sleep I can’t stay off the internet searching my symptoms I’m so very scared I have colon cancer and am going to die because I didn’t have the colonoscopy when I first noticed blood years ago because all the docs said oh its hemorrhoid. The er doc said he would be surprised if it was cancer but he can’t know for sure. Do my symptoms sound like anyone’s? I am so very scared.

    • Erin Peterson says:

      Chrystal – Your symptoms certainly sound very scary. While I can’t give you medical advice, I would suggest you continue to push your doctor to schedule that colonoscopy if nothing else but to put your mind at ease.

  • Innocent says:

    I had diarrhea and bloating constantly.was worried but no blood on my stool.i went to my Dr and complained. He did a cea test to rule out colon or rectal cancer.but am still worried because I still have some symptoms

  • Valerie Allwardt says:

    I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer on Feb. 4, 2015. By the grace of GOD, I am cancer free. I did 5 days a week for 6 weeks Radiation treatment with Xeloda pill twice a day. The doctors gave me a recovery period of 6 weeks before they did surgery. My body handled the radiation well but they still did surgery on June 15, 2015 they did the surgery to remove tissue around the mass and sent lymph nodes to be biopsied. Luckily, everything was well. I had a temporary ileostomy bag. From July 2015 to December 2015 I had to have the bag along with chemotherapy via a port. On December 3, 2015 they did a reversal ileostomy. My oncologist saw me every 3 months to do blood work. In June 2016 they removed my port. I just had a colonoscopy on Dec. 8th and all is well. I prayed everyday and still continue to pray. I trusted Jesus to get me through this very hard time in my life. When I think about what I have been through I think of “Footsteps”. My GOD carried me the whole time. It was not easy but I got up every day and did what I had to do. Stay positive and stay strong!!!

    • Aliscia says:

      Valerie thank you for your story. I was diagnosed in December of 2015 after a kid from school punched me in my stomach. I have two large tumors in my rectum and large intestine. I did a few rounds of full fox after I had Ostomy . After four rounds of full fox the scans showed little change in my tumors. Doctors in Clevland Clinc wanted me to get radiation with chemo pills. I did that for 6 weeks Monday through Friday … My dad and had to spend six weeks in Cleveland because local cancer hospital Roswell would not radaite me due to my coltis .. I went through radiation but got very sick from it and had to recover and be on nutritional support. Once I was recovered I was able to have the 9 hour surgery removing my rectum, my whole large intestine, a full hysterectomy band removal of both tumors by my amazing surgeron! He got all the cancer. I began to heal and gain weight and feel great and getting my life back . My first scan was Jan 3 and the ct showed a mass.. My tumor markers we going down and I was doing the best I had been doing in two years. My oncologists sent me for MRI and pet and he called today to say you have a recourrance . The tumor is large and in some lymph nodes. He said its aggressive because of how fast it came back . He also told me that it could take my life . Telling me this while I was in a car on the phone . I have great faith in Jesus and I believe that Jesus was the one who had that child punch me in the gut so I would find out. I have two daughters and a husband whom I adore and are gifts from God. I Believe in Jeus and I believe he will and has healed me.. Please pray for me Valerie and I will pray for you. Your story gave me hope as you said your God carried you through this. I’m praying that Jesus will continue to heal me. I will not succumb to this. I will fight to love and live on this earth.. Thank you for posting . You helped me tonight! Aliscia! My email is amkrecisz@gmail.com

    • Barbara steinmetz says:

      Hello Valerie,
      I was diagnosed with colon cancer stage 4 in January. I had surgery on my husband’s birthday.
      I have had such support from friends and family and have had my Faith with God to get me through. I am on my 7th chemo treatment and have made sure I am hydrated and get protein in my body. I have been exercising and meditating and trying to stay positive and hopeful. I have chemo treatment every third week. I feel best the week before chemo. My husband plans special things for us, like having our children here for a weekend. We see a chemo therapist too, she helps us with our emotions and giving us words to feelings we have.
      The year has been a complete blur for me. I am staying positive, savoring my time with my husband and children. I have had people come into my life that I know God has brought to me to help me. I feel blessed to have so many people that care and this gives me the courage and strength to keep fighting.
      God bless all those who are going through this cancer journey.
      Barbara

  • Hi,
    Thanks a lot for sharing. It seems it is very inspirational and will bring HOPE to the people who are going through that situations.

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