Sometimes life deals us an unfair hand but people like Donna Penny are testament to the power of the human spirit. Despite a terminal cancer diagnosis, this courageous woman is kicking major goals including a new business venture with her two best friends. This is her story.
Forty-two-year-old mother-of-two, Donna Penny looks the picture of health, but behind her piercing blue eyes and warm smile is a story of immense bravery and courage.
This is a woman who, despite receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis just 18 months ago still manages to get up every day, put a smile on her face, run a business and be a mother to her two sons.
Diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2008 at the age of 35, Donna responded well to initial treatment and after a double mastectomy was believed to be clear of the disease.
It wasn’t until she returned to her doctor with persistent niggling back pain in 2013 that she received the devastating news.
“It was the first time I had seen my husband break down,” says Donna. “I knew as soon as the doctor walked in with my scans the news wasn’t good. She told me the cancer had metastasized to my bones and there was no cure.
“Unfortunately about 30 per cent of women who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer go on to have secondary or advancedbreast cancer.”
But despite her diagnosis, Donna says she is taking every day as it comes and has had wonderful support from her family and friends.
“I have great friends, we do so much together,” she says. “I’ve made peace with my illness, the only thing that bothers me is leaving my husband and two children behind, my youngest is only nine.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I have my bad days,” she says. “It’s the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning and the last thing I think of before I close my eyes at night.”
“I don’t take anything for granted and I live each day to the fullest.”
But there is a silver lining to this story and it’s in the form of a lifelong dream to own and run a hair salon with her two best friends of 16 years, Donna Jankiwskyj and Rellie Dooley, both of whom have been an amazing support team to Donna since her diagnosis – even getting matching tattoos to cement their amazing bond.
Five months ago, the plucky trio jumped at the opportunity to buy a hairdressing salon in Mountain Creek, which they have since renamed Relish and they are loving every minute of it.
“We were having a coffee one day when we heard the Mountain Creek salon was going into liquidation and we looked at each other and said ‘let’s do it’. Two days later we were in the salon,” says Donna.
“I know people often say don’t mix friends and work but we have managed really well. We are not hairdressers but we have a team of highly qualified hairdressers and nail technicians. It’s wonderful because it offers us flexible hours to spend time with our families.”
Fortunately, Donna’s super fund recently paid out her terminal illness insurance, allowing her to pay off a sizeable portion of her mortgage and invest in the business, taking pressure off her family’s finances and allowing her to spend her days doing what she loves.
“I really want this salon to be successful,” says Donna. “A portion is going straight into a trust fund for my two boys, it’s my way of leaving something for them.”
Donna Penny is not the only one of the trio affected by the insidious disease. Mother-of-two Donna Jankiwskyj’s eyes fill with tears and her voice wavers as she recalls her mother’s recent breast cancer diagnosis. At the time of this interview, the incredibly strong woman is also just days away from donating a kidney to a family member. Talk about an inspiring bunch!
I left Relish that day feeling both humbled and inspired by these incredible women who are so positive in the face of adversity. But in true Donna style, the bubbly blonde sums up her attitude perfectly in her parting words.
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me Ingrid, I want people to feel inspired that you can still be positive and have goals and dreams even if you have been handed a death sentence. No one can tell you when you are going to die. I don’t take anything for granted and I live each day to the fullest.”
Relish Hair / Mountain Creek Salon
Shop 4, 93 Karawatha Dve, Moutain Creek
Relish Hair Mountain Creek Salon – MCS
Phone: 5444 7644