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Dana Gianfrancesco

Patients & Survivors Stage IV Colon Cancer New Jersey
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Dana's Story

I had been feeling "off" for about 18 months and had seen many doctors who all told me I had stress. I asked my PCP for a colonoscopy because something was just not right. I then had a poop test to see if there was blood in my stool, which there was. I had a colonoscopy to find out I was 90% blocked in my sigmoid and had mets to my liver (seven). 

I was stage IV with less than six months to live. I had a stent and port placed within 10 days, and on Halloween 2018 I started my fight for life. I had 12 rounds of Folfox and Avastin® and my oncologist tried to find me a liver surgeon, which they said was too far gone. Then Y90 (radioembolization) and again too far gone.

I then found Colontown and about the HAI pump. I found Dr. D'Angelica and had a meeting. He suggested the HAI. I also sent my information to NIH to ensure my oncologist could not complain about MSK, and they agreed with MSK. So I presented this to my oncologist who disagreed but was surprised I went to NIH also as backup.

I then switched to MSK, and in September 2019 I had the HAI pump implanted, gallbladder removed, 1 foot of my left side of my colon resected, four wedge resections of the left liver lobe, and one ablation in the mid-side of my left lobe. Then started Folfiri after some complications as I had a hole in my abdomen. 

Then in June 2020 I had a second resection. This time it was the right side of my liver. I had the other mini-surgeries we all have, and I had a blood clot at one point, which put me on blood thinners for life. I had the right lobe resection and went home. 

On July 4, 2020, I was back in the ICU for sepsis, partially collapsed right lung, lung infection, and liver infection. I was on death's door but wasn't giving up. I remember being in the ICU and begging a higher power to send me back because I was not through helping others. I needed more time.

After 14 rough days in the hospital I went back home because I refused to go to a rehab. COVID was at a peak then, and I knew if I went to a rehab I would die there, so they let me go home. This was because I had refused any other options. 

I was off work for three months and went back to work full time after three weeks of getting the liver drain removed. I had it for six weeks, maybe eight. I recovered but never fully. I have been on Xeloda® since as we found out, I can never be off any chemo. Right now we are testing if I have progression because my CEA is rising sadly. 

I told my oncologist I would be alive at least 10 years. She replied, “Honey, so sorry but that is not happening.” I replied “You will see.” I am not in great shape although I wake daily, work 50 hours a week—mostly from home—but still travel for work every six weeks.

I started my own in-person support group. I help online patient support groups, and I have even reached out to a local organization to assist them. 

I want to make my diagnosis something that helps others. I want to make a difference and show my two kids, ages 25 and 23, that what we do in life matters despite what the obstacles are. My heart is in helping others.

Cancer is a nightmare, but we can help those see it can also be a chronic disease where life does not stop. I had no one to help me understand my illness, and I never want anyone to cry as much as I did those first weeks. I have also offered to mentor anyone my first oncologist feels needs it. I also started a Caring Bridge page to let people in their own time read my story.

Dana's Advice

Be more afraid to not get checked than to get checked. The cleanse is not hard. You are releasing toxins from your body. It is super easy, and you only have to do it once every few years. It is not bad. I go every year, and I know it is a breeze.

This journey is not easy, but it can be done with grace and peace. We need each other to get through this because only we understand the PTSD that is created from hearing, "You have cancer." Each stage has its own issues. Find your people.

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