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Montana colon cancer survivor shares her story

Samantha Duenas
Posted at 1:49 PM, Mar 27, 2023

BONNER – Samantha Duenas has beat colon cancer.

“I was diagnosed in 2020, and I had symptoms before that, like a few years before that. I went to three different doctors, and they all said it was hemorrhoids,” the Bonner resident recalled. “It was just hemorrhoid, take a bunch of fiber. And the third one I actually cried and begged her for a colonoscopy.”

Duenas likely saved her own life by insisting on a closer look.

Colon cancer isn’t limited to those older than 45. New studies show younger people are being diagnosed with colon cancer often before they’re even required to get a colonoscopy.

“I finally got the colonoscopy and that’s when they found that I was Stage 3 and I moved to Stage 4 after a little while,” Duenas said.

Due to complications from a month of radiation and eight rounds of chemo, Duenas had to have major surgery to repair damage to her body. Then, after a 12-hour surgery, Duenas was declared cancer free.

“I was really happy. I just cried and a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I had the best Doctors. Dr. Z and Dr. Kuntz did my surgery,” Duenas recalled. “It was a 12-hour surgery. My last one. And it took so long because they were trying to biopsy it and make sure that they got every single cell out. So they are the best doctors.”

Duenas was given low odds to beat a cancer that kills 55,000 people every year at the start of her journey. She's here today because she beat those odds.

“When I was diagnosed, I had a 17-28% chance of survival. So, I was looking at the world differently. So, I had to fight for my two boys and my mom was my biggest support,” Duenas told MTN News. “She was there for every appointment you know she waited in the car because she couldn’t come in because of COVID. My boys helped me a lot too.”

People who have any symptoms can advocate themselves to their doctor can be the difference between catching a polyp before it turns into cancer.

“Check it early because it is hard to get rid of. There’s a lot of side effects. My memory isn't the best after chemo. My fingers and my feet tingle all the time. I’m tired all the time,” Duenas said. “I just want people to know to catch it early and you wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”

Today, Duenas does her own fundraisers to raise money for colorectal cancer awareness and has made more than $2,000 for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

“I know that I’m a stronger person because of it, I knew I could get through that. My sense of humor is a lot better, I’m a lot more open about more stuff,” Duenas said. “I want to help people, I think that’s why I survived because I need to help people.”