Cancer survivor D.D. Gerdin on enjoying every day

Diane “D.D” Gerdin and her husband Victor were preparing for life as new retirees when the unimaginable happened. Victor was diagnosed with Hurthle cell carcinoma, a type of thyroid cancer that produced a seven-centimeter mass in his chest. Unbelievably, just weeks later, D.D. was afflicted with ascites, a condition where the abdominal cavity fills with fluid. After five liters were drained from D.D.’s abdomen, a biopsy found the fluid had malignant cells due to suspected uterine cancer. When doctors began surgery to locate the source of her cancer, they found it had spread to her abdominal wall. They could not locate a tumor, so she returned to Calaway-Young Cancer Center for chemotherapy.

“That’s when I met Dr. (Alexandra) Donovan and everyone at CYCC,” she says.

D.D. embarked on a six-session chemo treatment, spaced three weeks apart, to attack the cancer on her abdominal wall, beginning in June 2022.

“The first treatment didn’t go very well,” she recalls. “I had a reaction to the chemo. My blood pressure went sky high and I became flushed and nauseous. The nurse immediately stopped it, helped me calm down and gave me some Benadryl. She suggested I try it again and the second time it was perfect. I never had any adverse reactions again.”

During treatment, D.D. worked with the Calaway-Young Cancer Center’s integrative therapies to incorporate massage and acupuncture into her treatment plan. After the chemotherapy treatment was complete, she scheduled surgery for a hysterectomy and to see if the abdominal wall cancer had improved. But first she and her husband hoped to attend a once-in-a-lifetime black-tie event in Los Angeles. “Dr. Donovan told me, ‘Go live!’”

When she returned for surgery, a week before Thanksgiving doctors, found that D.D. had no remaining signs of cancer. “That was a good day,” she recalls. “I wanted two things: to spend a family Thanksgiving altogether – it had been years – and the second was to go to my favorite beach on St. John island, called Cinnamon Bay. Those were my two wishes.” Both came true.

D.D. was previously a chef at the Carbondale Rocky Mountain School, teaches water aerobics and has a small business called BeadyDD where she creates various beadwork. After her successful treatment, D.D. made special wrap bracelets for her oncology team which included Dr. Alexandra Donovan and Diane Heald. She also donated her wrap bracelets to Marianne’s Gift Shop at Valley View to raise money for integrative therapies, “for all they did,” she says.

Today D.D. takes a daily chemotherapy pill and will continue to do so for another year and a half to eradicate any formulation of cancer cells at the cellular level, preventing the cancer from returning.

“Cancer changes your priorities and your perspective,” she says. “Enjoy today because you have no idea what tomorrow is going to bring.”