By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
Durita Bagley has experienced the impact of cancer.
She lost her father and brother to the disease and her maternal grandmother died of breast cancer.
So she had decided if she was ever diagnosed with cancer, she would not undergo treatments.
That was before grandchildren.
On August 15, 2015, Durita received the news nobody wants to get.
“I was with the kids at the pool,” she recalled. “I brushed down my swimsuit and felt something. I immediately made an appointment. I had an ultrasound and 3D done and was told things didn’t look good.
“It was like a sucker punch,” Durita admitted. “The first thing I thought was I wasn’t going to make it. What I’ve seen in my family, the outcome has never been good. And I always said I would never seek treatments if I ever had cancer.”
But when Durita met with her family to explain the situation and discuss options, she wasn’t prepared for grandkids sitting on her sofa in tears, telling her how much they loved her.
That changed everything.
“I told them I would do everything I could,” she said. “I told them I would give it my best shot. And once I said that, my instinct to fight kicked in.”
Durita is 68 years old. She graduated from Altamont Community High School in 1966. She and Gary, her husband of 37 years, are now living back in Altamont. Due to Gary’s job in retail – working for companies like Ben Franklin, True Value and Do-It-Best – they moved a lot. Durita said they moved 25 times and have lived in eight states.
She has three children, although one died at birth. Her son, John Berg, lives in Altamont, and her daughter, Sara, lives in Charlotte, Michigan.
“The news that I had breast cancer just came from out of nowhere,” Durita said. “But cancer runs in my family.”
After the early tests, Durita met with Dr. Reuben Boyajian and Dr. Philip Dy.
“After talking with them, I realized things might not be as bleak as I initially thought,” she recalled. “I tell you. Dr. Boyajian and Dr. Dy are incredible. We are so fortunate to have them here.”
Dr. Boyajian did the biopsy and it came back positive. Durita had Triple Negative Stage 2B cancer. She then had a lumpectomy.
Dr. Dy took care of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“He’s very thorough,” Durita said. “He went over my options and made sure I understood what was going to happen. I felt very informed. It helped me make my decisions.”
Durita began chemo treatments on September 29 and finished March 16. The first round included four treatments over a 12-week period, followed by treatments every week for 12 more weeks. She then had 32 radiation treatments in 6½ weeks.
“My treatments could have been a lot worse,” she admitted. “Fatigue was my number one thing, but I didn’t have nausea.
“I did have meltdowns every now and then,” Durita added. “After my first treatment, I told Gary I couldn’t do it. But I did. I couldn’t have gotten through everything without Gary and God. Gary took over and took care of me.”
And Durita relied on her determination, despite how daunting everything appeared at the beginning.
And despite the fact she was still being a caretaker for her brother three days each week.
“When I went through chemo, I didn’t feel bad,” she said. “I was very fortunate. They gave me medicine for nausea, but I never had to take it.”
Durita also has neuropathy pretty bad. It affects her joints, bones and balance, making it difficult to get and down at times.
Her radiation treatments were finished May 16.
“Now it’s wait and see,” she said. “I haven’t been told I’m cancer free.
“But it’s not an issue. I don’t consciously think about it,” Durita added. “It’s in God’s hands. I just try to live every day to the fullest, realizing some days are harder than others.”
Durita said her support group was vital.
“You can’t do this alone. No way,” she stressed.
That support group also helped her get through the loss of her brother – Butch “Leonard” Rippetoe, who passed away September 8.
“The prayers, emails and texts from friends, neighbors, everybody, were overwhelming,” Durita admitted. “My support group has been huge.”
She also offered some advice.
“Prayer will help you find the inner-strength you never knew you had,” she said. “The No. 1 thread is your faith. Always hold onto it.
“And if this isn’t to be and cancer would take me, I’m going to a better place with no regrets,” Durita added. “My life has been full and happy; and I’m surrounded by the people I love. Hopefully it won’t come back. I want to spend as much time my friends and family as possible.”
Durita has learned to pace herself and not stress the small stuff. She accepts the fact she can’t do everything she used to.
“I have to rest some, which isn’t like me,” she explained. “I’m always on the go. But I have to have some energy for those grandkids. They make everything better.”