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Her Life

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May 12, 2012

More chapters will be here soon.

May 12, 2012

The Really Big C

Donna Marie Weaver first received her breast cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2009. While it was devastating news, hope sprang eternal as the prognosis seemed to be it was detected early. But soon she learned this was no ordinary disease, but instead a rare type of breast cancer known as “triple negative.” It’s a hormone-negative cancer that commonly attacks younger women and one that does not respond to the common hormone-positive chemotherapies that often turn breast-cancer patients into survivors. She then learned in 2010 that the cancer had spread, and the devastating news it was now incurable.

From the onset of her diagnosis, Donna faced the disease head on. She evaluated treatment regimes and weighed them against quality-of-life issues. Her family stood by her decisions and supported her through very aggressive intravenous chemotherapies that helped to extend her life. They would make her sick, but she had bigger goals in mind.

Through it all, Donna held her spirits up, which helped bolster her family. She wanted nothing to do with a “bucket list.” She was content to live each day to its fullest and embrace the time left being with her husband Johnie, family and friends.

With her hair falling out, she sought the help of her life-long hairdresser and friend, Laurie, who invited Donna and Johnie to her home. There, in the privacy of her garage, she shaved Donna's head. In another defiance to not let the disease get the best of her, Donna threw a “Chemotherapy Party” before beginning her treatments. Donna’s friend Kim gave tarot-card readings that day as friends and family came together to support Donna.

Her family was her focus. Donna’s priority early on was to get her affairs in order to reduce the burden on Johnie, and do all she could to help her family deal with her terminal illness and eventual passing. She pushed forward to make everyday count, and to help her survivors survive.

Despite her battle with the disease, there were many good days when she felt well and took the time to enjoy her otherwise idyllic life. In her final years, she and Johnie took several getaway weekend trips, often with friends and family. They enjoyed two final trips to Hawaii, a regular holiday destination during their 21-year marriage. Donna got to attend her niece Jamie’s high-school graduation ceremony and celebration; threw a party for her nephew Mathew’s 21st birthday; spent countless hours playing with her two-year-old nephew Davis; and got to see baby Chloe, her newborn niece and namesake: Chloe Donnamarie Weaver.

Those special occasions included celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary in 2010 at the Wine and Roses Hotel & Spa in Lodi, Calif., a gift from family members Mike and Celines Weaver. Donna and Johnie bought a beautiful purple vase as a keepsake from the trip after deciding to collect mementos from their trips; things that would remind Johnie of these final journeys together, and the special moments he and Donna shared.

Also that year, Donna reveled in being at the senior prom event where her niece Jamie was crowned Homecoming Queen, and later enjoyed a trip to Maui with her sister Therea's family. On that trip, they all relished a snorkeling cruise, where even Donna ventured in the water to snorkel despite limitations caused by her illness. Lounging by the pool and wonderful meals with sunset views were some of her favorite activities when visiting the Hawaiian Islands. It would not be her last trip to her favorite vacation spot.

In 2011, Donna and Johnie flew first class (a first for both of them) to Hawaii’s Big Island. They were joined on the trip with family members, Troy, Nicole and two-year-old Davis, and friends Kevin, Christine and their son Wilder. It would be Donna’s last big vacation, but it was filled with fond memories and good times, including a helicopter ride to see the island’s active volcano. Donna and Johnie purchased a beautiful frog figurine as a keepsake for the trip.

Also in 2011, Donna and Johnie went with family members Theresa and Carl Snyder to Pacific Grove. Johnie and Carl embarked on wine tasting while Donna and Theresa enjoyed a favorite pastime: shopping. During the trip, they found a bakery with the world’s best cinnamon rolls, one of Donna’s favorite treats. Donna and Johnie also went on trips to St. Helena and to Sunol for a train ride at Christmas, where Donna was delighted with photos of her and Johnie sticking their heads out of the train (Donna didn’t know Johnie was poking his head out too, as the photo was taken).

Donna’s last outing was in February 2012. It was a trip to Murphy, Calif. together with her sisters’ and brothers’ families. Good food, including a wonderfully memorable dinner at Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen, and roaming the tiny shops were highlights. Donna, who was not drinking because of her illness, was very good-natured about being the designated driver during the trip. It’s a weekend her family will never forget.

In the end, Donna understood she could not alter the outcome of her fight, but she did what she could to not let it run her life. Her attitude and strength allowed her to savor special times with her husband, brother and sister, nieces and nephews, in-laws and dearest friends.