Colon and Kidney Cancer Survivor
“Cancer definitely does change you. It tests your patience and your will, but I survived and am going strong,” says Randy Grudle of Sidney, Iowa. A favorite spot is his 1,700-acre farm outside Sidney, Iowa, with the love of his life, wife Debbie, beside him. Next best is pretty much anyplace on the planet where he can put a smile on someone’s face by telling a story or cracking a joke. The couple, married 37 years, have one son, Eric, who farms with them. Randy’s parental pride shines brightly when he explains, “Our son had to grow up and became a farmer real quick when I got cancer — twice.”
In late 2003, Randy was 49 and feeling fit. He had just one symptom that brought him back to his doctor’s office. “For a couple of years, I’d been passing blood in my stool,” Randy explains. “I thought no big deal. It was just in the spring and fall when I’m on the tractor so much.” Randy’s doctor had diagnosed a bleeding hemorrhoid. Over time, the bleeding became brighter, heavier. “So we decided to do a colonoscopy to be safe,” Randy explains. “I was almost 50, the magic number, anyway.” The colonoscopy revealed multiple polyps, one large enough to block the scope’s view of the colon. Surgery was scheduled at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital.
Eric Bendorf, MD, performed the necessary surgery — a colon resection, removing eight inches of Randy’s colon and nine lymph nodes. Randy’s cancer treatment began at Heartland Oncology at Methodist Jennie Edmundson, and Debbie remembers feeling reassured by the staff’s compassion and helpfulness from their first visit.
Randy was scheduled to receive chemotherapy five consecutive days a month for six months. “Chemo was rough,” Randy admits. “The side effects of treatment seemed worse than the cancer.” From the start, Randy wrestled with mouth sores, intestinal upsets, dehydration and an ominous white count that required him to be hospitalized.
During his year of chemotherapy, Randy was eager to finish treatment and get on with life, yet he realized he wanted to live life in a new way. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Randy was ready to make some changes. It was a hard-fought battle, and Randy had won. At least he had won the first round.
At his check-up with Oncologist Robert Warner, MD, the Grudles were given good news and bad news. “Doc told us, yep, your colon cancer is fine. It’s gone. You don’t have to worry about that. We’ll just keep doing checkups,” Randy remembers. “But, by the way, we’ve also been watching a spot on your kidney.” The spot had grown, and Randy’s blood work showed elevated tumor markers. Randy had cancer in his kidney.
To Randy’s relief, he did not need chemotherapy or radiation therapy. “But here we go again!” Randy says. “I lost the second spring in a row to surgery.” Still, he considered himself lucky, saying, “I was fortunate to find both cancers early.”
Randy readily admits that cancer has inspired him to take time to smell the proverbial roses, to do things he might never have done and to find even more fun in life. “When you get cancer, you kind of join a club,” Randy explains. “It’s not a club you plan to join, but once you’re in it, it’s good.”