From the moment I met Donna Penny three years ago, I was struck by her vivacious energy and zest for life. Her sparkling blue eyes and bubbly nature were not what I expected from someone who had been given a terminal cancer diagnoses 18 months prior.  Diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2008 at just 35 years of age, Donna initially responded well to treatment and after a double mastectomy was believed to be all clear of the disease.  However, just five years later she received the devastating blow that the cancer had returned and metastasized (spread) to her bones. There was no cure.  “I went back for the five-year check up and CT scan which showed that the cancer had spread throughout my bones and in my armpit,” says Donna. “I now have a big one in my adrenal gland and several lesions on my liver.” But despite her diagnosis, Donna has bravely fought the cancer for the past five years, enduring several gruelling rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.  “They give you treatments to keep it at bay for as long as they can, I have just had my sixth line of chemo treatment,” says Donna.  “Cancer is clever, so it changes all the time until eventually it won’t respond to treatment. The last treatment I was on made me incredibly sick. I have pretty much been in bed the whole time.”  Sadly, Donna recently received news from her doctors that the cancer was no longer responding to treatment.  “I had some scans and it showed the cancer in my liver has doubled in size and I have more lesions,” says Donna. “When we got the results, my oncologists said we could try another treatment but I decided I don’t want to be that sick again for a one per cent chance it is going to work. I want quality over quantity. “We stopped all treatment as of two weeks ago and I feel fantastic. I am going out again, I’m having lunch with my friends, I am spending time with my family.”  However, as Donna is quick to point out, just because she has stopped treatment, doesn’t mean she is going anywhere just yet! “I have been assigned a palliative care team who see you through to the end of your life, but it doesn’t mean you are dying now. It just means you have to have things put in place.  “I’m only 45, I don’t want to go anywhere but I am not scared of dying, I have had a great life. “It’s just my son, Kai, he is only 12. I want to see him grow up and become a man but I know I’m not going to.”   Always one to put a positive spin on things, Donna says she is so grateful to the doctors who have kept her alive and the friends and family who have been by her side throughout her journey. “Don’t get me wrong, when I found out I had no treatments left, there were tears. I remember driving home from that meeting, balling. I was swearing and banging on my steering wheel, I knew my time was now limited,” says Donna. “However, I got three years past my expiry date. I never thought I would get that long. The people of the Sunshine Coast and friends and family have helped me tick off many items on my bucket list and made my dreams come true, I have done lots of travelling, but I want to stay around home now. I’m very settled and it’s just about being with family.  “I guess I am hoping for a miracle. At the moment I just have to hold on to that hope.” 

Sadly Donna Penny passed away on the 26th of September 2019. She will be remembered always. RIP

Story by Ingrid Nelson

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