Dona HalterMy husband Pete is my rock. He’s a Sheriff’s Officer in Salem, NJ, and I work for a company that manufactures mechanical seals. Together Pete and I have two wonderful children — both teenagers. Like most families we spend a lot time with our family and friends and are very involved in our children’s sports and activities.

My cancer story begins with my father. He was involved in a horrible auto accident and was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital. Around that time I started to develop gastrointestinal issues. I thought it might be something like irritable bowel disease brought on by the worry and stress surrounding my father’s injuries and recovery. But as months went on and things calmed down with my dad, my symptoms didn’t get any better. So I called the Cooper Digestive Health Institute and made an appointment to see Dr. Christopher Deitch, a gastroenterologist.

Fast Action

Dr. Deitch scheduled me for both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy to see what was going on. When I woke up Dr. Deitch gave me the news — he found a mass in my colon. He called his colleague, Dr. Steven McClane, a colorectal cancer surgeon at MD Anderson Cooper, and got me an appointment with Dr. McClane for the next day. I had surgery the following week. I went from diagnosis to surgery within a week. My life turned upside down. All I could think of was my kids, and how I was going to get through this.

I started 12 weeks of chemotherapy, given every other week, after recovering from surgery. I had infusions at MD Anderson Cooper in Camden and went home with an infusion pump that pushed chemo into my system for 46 hours. I felt good during the early days of chemo but it hit me hard about halfway through. It got progressively difficult to tolerate, and I wanted to quit. I wanted to keep life “normal” and was determined not to have my cancer or treatment interfere with the lives of my husband and children. But I persevered through the chemo, knowing that I would later regret quitting and that continuing with the treatment was the best chance for me to keep the cancer from coming back.

Feeling Great

My husband, children, and my entire family were amazing. I couldn’t have gotten through this without them. My company and my co-workers were incredibly supportive throughout my treatment and enabled me to take time off work when I needed to.

I feel great now and things are back to normal — I’m even back to coaching my daughter’s championship softball team! I go back to see Dr. Alexander Hageboutros, my medical oncologist, every three months and have blood work and occasional scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. I still get a knot in the pit of my stomach when I get those tests done — I worry that I’ll have to hear them say that the cancer is back.

Cancer has changed my life. It has brought me and Pete closer together, we appreciate the small moments in life more, and I know now that no matter what might come our way, we can get through it relying on each other.