Twenty Faces of Komen Columbus: Week 13

Since this May 19, 2012 will be the 20th Annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, for the 20 weeks leading up to the event we are  going to spotlight 20 individuals who have participated in the Race throughout the years. They come from all walks of life and may be survivors, volunteers, grantees, sponsors or advocates, but they’re all committed to the fight against breast cancer.

Week 13: The One Who Fights for Her Daughter
Guest Post by:
Dannyle D’Onofrio

For my entire life, I always knew my mom had breast cancer. She told me from a very young age that she had been diagnosed and treated for the disease before I was born.  I didn’t know full details of her treatment until recent years, but one thing I know for sure is that my mother is one of the strongest people I know and I have always been intrigued by her story. That is why I want to share my mother’s courageous and inspiring story. My hope is that her story will help women –even if it’s just one – to learn the benefits of early detection and prevention. With that, I give you, Yvonne D’Onofrio – a wife, mother and, most importantly, survivor.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 1983 at the age of 33. She had symptoms of what is called a “weeping nipple” for nearly six months before she went to her doctor to ask about her situation. The first doctor she went to told her she was “too young” for a mammogram and not to be alarmed. Then only one month after that visit, while playing with her two-year old son in her living room, she noticed that the front of her blouse was suddenly soaked with blood. She immediately went for a second opinion.

Her second doctor performed a biopsy on her right breast; she left the appointment feeling hopeful that she would finally get some answers. The very next day my mother received the call that would forever impact her life. The biopsy came back positive for breast cancer. Her mind went blank. There she was, a young mother who now was thinking about how she wouldn’t be able to see her son graduate or get married, let alone the fact that her own life that would be put on hold. She was terrified. Her doctor recommended that she have surgery as soon as possible. Three days later, my mother checked in to the hospital and was given a modified mastectomy on her right breast.  Her entire breast was removed as well as all of the lymph nodes in her right arm.

Life was a blur since she received the initial call, “Everything was moving too fast for me to keep up,” recalls my mom. She was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer faster than she was even able to comprehend the idea of having cancer at all. She says it hit her most after she came home from her surgery. That is when her grieving began. “You really grieve for a part of your body that’s now missing because you know you’ll never be able to get it back.”

Not only was she coping with having cancer and then having surgery to treat that cancer, but now, getting used to a completely new body. The first year was the hardest to cope with, though she knew how incredibly fortunate she was to have survived and to constantly remind herself of that fact. She credits nearly all of her success and recovery to her best friend, her husband and his unconditional and unyielding support through every step of her journey.

Since my moms’ surgery, she has continued her work as a Registered Nurse, raised two great kids (one pretty fabulous daughter, if I do say so myself!) and has been cancer free for almost 30 years. As I mentioned earlier, my family has always been a big supporter of Susan G. Komen for Cure. While my mother remembers the first Race for the Cure here in Columbus, she didn’t become involved in the walk until 2006. In fact, for her first walk, she signed up and went down to the starting line by herself to walk. She quickly discovered she was not alone. She felt truly inspired, empowered and self-affirmed. The faces that she saw and the women that she met touched her life unlike anyone else before them. She began crying the moment she crossed the start line and to her surprise another woman in a survivor t-shirt grabbed her hand and they walked the entire course together.

The Komen Columbus Race for a Cure means so much to her because of the impact that first race had on her. Komen Columbus truly creates a bond and a community of women and supporters who are instantly connected on a level that many of us simply cannot understand. She is amazed every year how the number of survivors keeps growing and growing at the Race. “That’s how you know Komen is doing good work. Women are getting the message. They’re getting checked earlier and asking questions to their doctors so that they will be more educated. That is truly the mission of Komen and that is why it makes me so proud to be a part of it all.”

While breast cancer may have surprised my mom, it did not defeat her. Most importantly, it did not define her either. And thanks to the efforts of Komen Columbus, more and more women every year will continue to conquer this disease too.

Join Yvonne and Dannyle on the course this year and register today!