Ovarian Cancer Survivor
Donna’s family is one of the things that keeps her going in life. But curiously, it was the family dog who actually saved her life.
Donna was sleeping with her pug, who suddenly began resting its head on the side of her lower abdomen. After a few weeks of this, she began to feel pain and decided to see her doctor. A CT scan revealed a large mass—in the exact spot her dog’s head had been resting. In hindsight, she jokes that it was her personal “petscan.”
But the mass was ovarian cancer. And things were urgent. Her doctor sent her to Moffitt Cancer Center. But the urgency of needing surgery bumped up against an upcoming family priority: Donna’s son was getting married in three weeks. “I’m not missing that wedding,” she told her surgeon, Dr. Shahzad. “I am dancing with my son at his wedding.”
Unable to wait for three weeks, Dr. Shahzad quickly rearranged schedules so her surgery would occur before the wedding. “That’s what gave me courage,” Donna says, “to know they were there, not just for the medical part, but for me as a person.”
Donna danced at her son’s wedding—slightly hunched over due to the stitches, but dancing nonetheless. Her son says it was one of the bravest things he ever saw.
Now a retired teacher, Donna says the support of her husband, kids and grandkids during difficult times was matched only by the support of her “Women Warriors” who prayed for her through her journey. This was the name she gave to her five friends who bonded as teachers at the same school years ago. She recalls how they would send her silly gifts and other surprises when she was feeling low. It never failed to lift her spirits. “We’ve always been there for each other,” she says. “They are extremely important as part of my circle of life.”
Donna is quick to add that her Moffitt infusion nurses were also crucial to her recovery and peace of mind, at one point asking them, “Do you have to go through special training at Moffitt? Because you are all so amazing.” She adds, “Once you were part of the Moffitt family, you never felt alone.”