by Dennis Dalman
Amanda Stewart conquered colon cancer five years ago, and after a four-year respite during which she was cancer-free, she is now battling the disease again.
Friends, family and acquaintances will host a benefit for Stewart from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, July 21 at the Moose Lodge in Waite Park. The event will feature a barbecue dinner, dessert bar, silent auction and photo booth. A free-will offering will be accepted.
Stewart (maiden name Struzyk) grew up in Sartell and graduated from Sartell High School in 2005. She joined the Army National Guard and served a year in Iraq. After marrying Cody Stewart, also a Guard member, she gave birth to their son, Aiden, five years ago. In the months after the birth, she began to experience abdominal discomfort. She and her doctors figured it was the result of her having had a C-section for Aiden’s birth. But further tests and a colonoscopy, seven months after the birth, showed she was suffering from colon cancer. She had to endure a couple of surgeries, and part of her colon had to be removed because the tumor was so large. She also underwent a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
It was a great relief when all of it was over and Stewart received a clean bill of health, being in remission from the cancer.
Then, a bleak day came along last March when she learned cancer had returned with a vengeance, having spread to multiple organs. This time around, Stewart cannot receive any more radiation because she received what’s considered a “lifetime maximum” dose during her last treatments. Instead, doctors are trying to zap the cancer cells with rounds of chemotherapy at the Coborn Cancer Center in St. Cloud. She is now in her fifth round. At the center they infuse her intravenously with cancer-killing chemicals, then she has to wear a chemo pump-pack attached to her for two days after each treatment at the center.
“This second time having cancer is harder to swallow than the first time, that’s for sure,” Stewart said. “But I’m trying to live like I don’t have cancer. Just day to day. It’s hard to deal with the fatigue. My son, Aiden, is a lot of work. He doesn’t understand why mommy is so tired and not feeling good.”
Friends of Stewart, like her aunt Kris Mrosla of Sartell, are amazed by Stewart’s resilience and positive attitude.
“She is so positive about all of it that I just don’t know how she does it,” Mrosla said. “She’s doing just great.”
Recently, the Stewarts moved from Colorado back to Minnesota. Cody is working as a mechanic at Camp Ripley near Little Falls. The family is temporarily staying with her mother at her Swanville home.
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Amanda Stewart and some Iraqi boys gather in the shade for a picture. Stewart served for a year in that country doing mainly computer work as a member of the Army National Guard.
Amanda Stewart and son Aiden grin for a portrait taken in Rockey Mountain National Park.
Amanda Stewart is known by family and friends as having a “thumbs-up” attitude as she battles cancer day by day. In the photo above, she is receiving yet another round of chemotherapy at the Coborn Cancer Center.