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Meet Jacki Donaldson

Throughout her treatment, Jacki Donaldson gained strength and inspiration from those who have gone down the same path. She now looks forward to sharing her voice with others.

Read Jacki's new article, Chemo Incognito, about finding the right wig after treatment.

I am not always a patient person. I like instant gratification. I like to see the fruits of my labors right away and I get frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. I am queen of the 20-minute project. I start something – a craft, a scrapbook project, a decorating feat – and I want it finished as quickly as possible and in good form too. I am also a bit of a whiner. I get crabby when I’m hungry and cranky when I’m hot and I really do not respond well to sleep deprivation. Those who know me well are aware of these well-developed character traits. They laugh about them. I do too. But in serious times, I tend to doubt my abilities to step up to the plate. My loved ones sometimes share this doubt. After I delivered my first son five years ago, my mom and sister – who were in the delivery room with me – revealed that they really weren’t sure I had the mental toughness to have a baby. Surprise. I was tough enough. I had a 10-pound, nine-ounce baby boy without a C-section and with the aid of a vacuum and a large episiotomy. I never screamed and shed only a few tears and even went on to have another big baby boy – 10 pounds and two ounces the second time around. So I’ve learned that I do have what it takes to conquer tough times. And I’ve decided that it’s the little things that rattle me. When the big things come my way, I rise to the occasion and leave my impatience and whining behind.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2004 at the age of 34 and have been in treatment ever since. I had a lumpectomy to remove one tumor (1.1 cm) and four lymph nodes (no spread was detected). I received four treatments of dose-dense chemotherapy (given every two weeks instead of three) with the drugs Adriamycin and Cytoxan. I was hospitalized twice after my last dose of chemo due to fever and low blood counts and received a blood transfusion while in the hospital the first time so that my blood could recover from its chemotherapy attack. Both times, I was secluded in a private hospital room where my bald head, masks, and traveling IV pole gave me the appearance of an alien – or so my son Joey told me. My next stop was radiation – every day for seven weeks – and then just as I thought I had traveled my entire treatment path, a new drug for Her2 positive women hit the scene and my trek continued. I began receiving every-three-week infusions of Herceptin in July 2005 and the last traces of this drug – that were administered over 52 weeks -- have successfully and uneventfully dripped through my veins. So the treatment leg of my journey is over. This is great -- and unsettling too. I’ve grown accustomed to the constant medical attention. I’ve been comforted – for almost two whole years -- by the active treatment of my cancer. How I will live as a survivor, on my own except for periodic check-ups, is uncertain.

But I know I can tackle this new adventure. I will continue with my counseling that helps me work through my anxieties and with my exercise routine that distracts me and makes me feel strong and with the precious times I have with my husband and children and with my writing – which really is the best therapy I have.

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