Donna Dugan - Thriving after Breast Cancer
Donna Dugan is the first to say she used to be a hypochondriac. Until she got breast cancer. Then she figured one of her biggest fears actually happened and she's still standing. Not only is she still standing, she's stronger and more vibrant than ever.
Diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in her right breast in March 2011, Donna underwent a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy before having reconstructive surgery. Today, she proudly exercises in a T-shirt that proclaims, "Yes, they're fake. My real ones tried to kill me."Â
"I used to be in such a panic when I went for my mammograms but the day I was diagnosed I was calm for some reason,"Â Donna said. "Then I was numb. It was hard to wrap my head around the whole thing. But I had been helping one of my best friends who was getting treatment for breast cancer in the city and it was very impersonal. I knew I didn't want that."Â
Donna, who lives in Oradell, came to Holy Name Medical Center and met with Dr. Erika Brinkmann, the Director of Breast Surgery at Holy Name who immediately put her at ease. With her years of experience and advanced expertise, Dr. Brinkmann discussed Donna's disease and options with her and came up with a plan for treatment.
"Dr. Brinkmann is a very calming person and takes as much time with you as you need,"Â Donna said. "The whole staff was so supportive "â€œ the nurses were delightful. I felt so comfortable and cared for."Â
Now, five years from her diagnosis, Donna looks back and believes her ongoing exercise played a huge role in her recovery. She never stopped going to the gym during her treatment. She said she feels very lucky, though she did have some low points.
"Losing your hair has to be one of the worst things,"Â Donna said. "I asked my sister-in-law to shave my head but it's very traumatic seeing clumps of hair just fall out."Â
As for her surgery and treatment, they weren't easy "â€œ she couldn't sit up or lift her arms for a while and she had some days during chemo when she felt like she had the flu "â€œ but she feels her experience was better than many other breast cancer patients.
"Coming to Holy Name was like a breath of fresh air after some other women's experiences I've heard about,"Â Donna said. "Dr. Brinkmann and the other doctors answered all my questions and were so encouraging "â€œ they would talk to me on the phone as long as I needed."Â
About her hypochondria "â€œ she has stopped looking up any little ache to see if it's a symptom of some horrible disease. She figures she developed cancer and survived.
"I just don't worry like I used to,"Â Donna said. "And I think a big part of that is the way I was treated at Holy Name. I can't say enough good things about this hospital."Â