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Zoe Durant

Patients & Survivors Stage IV Rectal Cancer Hawaii
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Zoe's story

I had noticed I dropped a significant amount of weight within a few weeks out of nowhere. I felt achy and my abdomen felt completely constipated. I had little to no appetite and had been struggling with having bowels movements for years. I had gone to the emergency room years ago begging for answers for why my abdomen was distended, and they blamed it on me being skinny and constipated. They told me to try MiraLAX®.

I went to the doctor another time for having blood in my stool and hemorrhoids. They blamed it on having a baby and a low fiber diet. They told me to take some Benefiber® and PREPARATION H® .

Nothing ever worked. I have been in pain for years. I managed to just live with it. I would have bouts of irregular bowel movements and then have a big movement that would hurt and be loose enough to make my distention disappear for the time being.

After I had my second baby, my symptoms got worse. I started getting weaker and tired. I blamed it on having two young kids and just off-grid life. We live in the jungle and are fully off-grid. We built our house and homeschool our kids. It wasn’t until March 2023 where I felt like I was dying. I had a splitting headache, my abdomen was painful to the touch, and I couldn’t get out of bed.

My partner stayed home from work to take me to the ER. I was thinking it would be an enema at least or maybe a bowel obstruction. They ran my blood panels and a CT scan and that’s when they told me they see an abnormal image that appears to be cancerous. They ran an MRI shortly after and clearly saw the mass growing through my colon, into my fatty tissues and surrounding lymph nodes. They didn’t catch the spots on my liver until a second CT scan.

I waited in the hallway of the ER for my results for over eight hours. My partner had the kids in the waiting room because they wouldn’t let them in. It was the longest wait for the answers I was waiting for. I was alone. They told me they were going to rush me off to surgery, and I told them "no, I needed a second opinion and wanted to sleep in my own bed tonight."

They scheduled me a colonoscopy to get a confirmation biopsy and I went home. During the colonoscopy biopsy, the doctor ended up perforating my bowels without knowing and sent me home. I ended up going septic three days later on Easter of all days. They rushed me off to the ER, and I ended up with an ostomy bag.

I was checked in for about a week, and I went septic again from healing fluid left in my pelvis. I went back to the ER for another procedure where they drained the fluid, and I was there for another week. They gave me a port to get my chemotherapy and I was dropping weight like crazy. I went from 120 lbs to 100 lbs in this timeframe of a month.

The doctors were concerned I wouldn’t be able to handle the chemo with my weight loss, but my body was giving out from the cancer. They called it a race. I force fed myself 3,000 calories a day for about a month and finally gained enough weight to start my FOLFOX treatment.

I had to fly to a different island (Oahu) to get a PET scan done to correctly stage me. That’s when I found out I have stage IV cancer. They sent me to a genetic doctor to test me for specific mutations because I have two young children as well.

Now I’m halfway through my FOLFOX and can feel myself healing. I literally feel better while on chemotherapy. That was something I wasn’t expecting. I was dreading it because of the negativity surrounding it, but I can tell it’s doing what it needs to do.

My antigen levels are dropping significantly, and I feel healthier than I did when I found out. I’m able to keep up with our homestead and the kids, even with having a pump attached to me. I have a long road ahead of me but it’s all for a reason.

They are going to shrink the tumor first with chemo/radiation treatments and then attempt to surgically repair my bowels and remove the ostomy. They were going to also try ablation for my liver spots and remove the lymph nodes that were affected.

They told me in the hospital that my rectum was fused to my uterus with adhesions so they might have to remove that. I wasn’t sure why they mentioned that but it’s been on my mind. They told me my cervix felt immobile and that I needed that removed too. We will see what happens, but I might end up without a uterus, cervix, rectum if they don’t see another way.

I would obviously prefer to keep the parts of my body that aren’t affected by the cancer. I’m only 27.

I am hoping the surgery is only minimal and I have a long life ahead of me. I don’t want to lose the opportunity of having more babies, but I know that it’s a possibility from the surgery and/or chemotherapy.

I’ve heard miracles that people can wait a few years and have babies after healing from the chemotherapy. I’m grateful for the two angels I have earthside and will dedicate my healing to them.

They deserve a mom to be happy and healthy. I need to be here for them and will do whatever it takes to heal from this.

Symptoms

Symptoms included rectal bleeding or blood in stool, ongoing change in bowel habits, narrow stools, stomach cramps/bloating/fullness, unexplained sudden weight loss, fatigue, unable to have a bowel movement (bowel obstruction) or constipation.

Side effects

Side effects include fatigue, chemo brain, distress or mental health issues/illness.

Zoe's Advice

You are your only advocate against a silent killer. Keep going to the doctor and demand treatment. You know your body best. Don’t let them blame your symptoms on other things.

You are your best advocate. Are you more afraid of the medication or the monster inside you?

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