For most people, finding out they have cancer is one of the scariest things they can think of — a real sucker punch to the gut.
Donna Deegan, founder and president of the Donna Foundation, who has battled against breast cancer three times and is currently cancer-free, said dealing with it is largely a matter of attitude.
“You choose whether it is scary or not. You choose to deal with it or cower in fear,” Deegan said.
With Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Halloween occurring in the same month, Folio Weekly convinced Deegan to undergo a scary transformation to make a point about breast cancer.
Deegan said it’s OK to be afraid when confronted with a cancer diagnosis or while undergoing chemotherapy, surgery or radiation treatments.
“You can’t let yourself freak out and feel bad for yourself. You’ve got to move on. Make it better instead of bitter,” Deegan said.
Deegan, a former television anchor who is married to First Coast News meteorologist Tim Deegan, was first diagnosed in 1999 at the age of 38 and again in 2002 and 2007.
“I am good and I’m healthy, thank God. I sincerely hope the third time is the charm,” Deegan said.
She began her Foundation in 2003 to assist local women battling breast cancer. To date, more than 5,500 First Coast women have been assisted by the Foundation.
Deegan said it sounds strange, but said there are advantages to fighting and beating cancer.
“It can make people better and stronger when you get yourself out of the worry mode. You can be a more effective human being,” she said.
More than ever, there are reasons to be hopeful. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and other scientists around the world are making discoveries and might someday find the treatments allowing breast cancer to be a thing of the past, Deegan said.
They are making tremendous breakthroughs in understanding the genes responsible for causing breast cancers and have been developing new and exciting treatments, she said.
Since 2008, the Donna Foundation has raised more than $3 million to fight breast cancer.
Seventy percent of the money raised by her signature race, the 26.2 with Donna, goes to the Mayo Clinic, and the remaining 30 percent to her foundation to help women battling breast cancer.