Name: Dana Donofree
Where I live: Philadelphia, PA
How far out of active treatment?: Cancer treatment eight years, post-suppression ne year
I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage 1, Her2+ ER+, at the age of 27 in 2010. My fiance and I were in the final prep of our wedding that was due to happen in just two months, but unfortunately due to the aggressive nature of my diagnosis, our wedding would need to be postponed to not interfere with the required treatment and urgency needed.
What does the word 'survivor' or 'survivorship' mean to you?
Nothing. Surviving is not a word I can relate to. I am trying my best to live my life within the circumstances I was given, to survive is to have a choice. I dont have a choice, I can only live each day as it is my last and fill each day with love to make sure I make the most of this world while I get to live in it.
If you had to describe what survivorship feels like in three words, what would they be?
Just fucking living.
What's one thing you wished people outside of the cancer community understood about survivorship?
This is life now. There is no "end" to cancer, it doesn’t ever end (at least not for me).
What are some things that have helped you during this time?
Work. I know it sounds crazy, but I love my work (even before AnaOno). I felt keeping up with my passions was really important to me, and of course, meeting new friends. These have been some of the most incredible friendships of my entire life, I feel lucky to have been surrounded by such incredible people.
Biggest survivorship pet peeve?
"At least you caught it early" What they dont know is catching it early doesn't always count, that reoccurrence still happens to 1 of 3 early stagers.
What, if anything do you think should be done more in the cancer community in terms of survivorship?
I believe it really comes down to resources available. Your last day of treatment does not mean you are "all better." I felt like it was actually when cancer started. I felt alone, isolated, and unsure of what the future looked like. Balancing side affects from the harsh drugs for the rest of my life is a daily challenge, the unexpected side effects that no one warns you about (you know... that medically induced menopause will KILL your sex life), and pain caused from either the drugs or surgeries will last a life time. The lack of knowing this, and lack of knowing how to deal with it makes living your life tougher than it was before cancer.
What's your favorite swear word?
FUCK FUCK FUCK.
What's something you haven't said out loud about survivorship that you want to get off your chest? If there's nothing, that's ok.
I know I am going to die. I feel at peace with that, but I not knowing when is scary to me.
What's your theme song?
”Black Cat” by Janet Jackson.
Consider this a free space to say anything you want about this topic. Word vomit, away. No judgement. I want the realest of the real here.
Survivorship is bullshit. We started to celebrate "surviving" breast cancer WAY too soon! Our death rate hasn’t decreased in decades, yet, we tell the world that when your breast cancer treatment is over, you've done it—you've survived. You can adorn a pink boa and wear it proudly... until it comes back. Then you don't get to celebrate anymore, you don't get to cheer and jump up and down with a smile on your face.
We need real real change in this field. We need money for research and even though prolonging life is a win in some arenas, we need more than that. I don’t want to bury another friend because we aren't doing enough! Staying on my soap box.
Connect with Dana on her website.