She fought breast cancer and won
By Carrie A. Mizell
Statistics show that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her life.
In January 2007, Donna Hayes became a statistic when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 61.
“It was very scary to hear that I had cancer,” Hayes recalls. “Your mind just doesn’t want to wrap around the news.”
The cancer was detected while still in her sentinel lymph nodes during an annual exam.
Hayes underwent surgery in February 2007 and began five months of chemotherapy in March.
“It felt like every time I would almost get well during chemo it would be time for another treatment,” Hayes recalls.
With chemotherapy came flu-like symptoms, mouth sores, and the inevitable loss of her hair. Treatments were performed every three weeks at the Community Cancer Center in Gainesville, where Hayes was given a combination of three drugs. The day after undergoing a treatment, Hayes said she would get a shot to bring up her white blood cell count.
Donna Hayes and her husband, Mike, own Gilchrist Building Supply. While she was going through chemo, Hayes recalls waking up each morning, taking a shower and going in to work even if she could only stay an hour or two.
“Going in to work kept my brain working,” Hayes said.
Like so many diagnosed with cancer, Hayes had no family history of cancer.
A loving wife, mother and grandmother Hayes spent her days working prior to being diagnosed with cancer. In her free time, she enjoys quilting, gardening, reading knitting, and crocheting. She is also an active member of Trenton United Methodist Church and the Gilchrist County Women’s Club.
In the spring of 2007, Hayes attended her first Relay For Life, while undergoing her own battle with cancer.
“I wasn’t able to stay long, maybe an hour that first year,” Hayes said. “The heat just zapped me.”
After undergoing several surgeries, Hayes can now proudly say that she is a five year cancer survivor.
“I was optimistic from the start,” Hayes said. “I’m not a quitter!”
Today, Hayes is one of five cancer survivors on the Trenton United Methodist Church’s Relay For Life team. “Crossing Out Cancer” as the team of 40 members goes by, had raised $3,517 as of Tuesday for the 2012 Relay For Life.
“I think we will easily hit $4,000 this year,” Hayes said on Monday.
While she is looking forward to this weekend’s Relay For Life in Trenton, the event will be bittersweet.
“Wilbur Bush and I thought of the Relay as our annual meeting and we would always say that we made it another year,” Hayes said.
Bush passed away on June 8, 2011, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
As a cancer survivor, Hayes has a unique platform, one in which she can talk to others struggling with cancer.
“I can say, I’ve been through what you’re going through,” Hayes said. “Cancer survivors are a good support group for one another.”
If she sees someone wearing a pink bracelet, or with no hair, Hayes said she tries to strike up a conversation, knowing that they might just need an encouraging word from a friendly voice.