Survivor shares trials in dealing with disease

‘WE HAD MANY FRIENDS…but still felt alone,” said Cavan McMahon, a professional photographer, who took this image of wife, Donna, 41, who survived her battle with aggressive breast cancer.

By Lisa Treiber-Walter —

“Cancer has not defined me — it has refined me.”

That is Fredericksburg resident Donna McMahon’s perspective after she fought against breast cancer for 18 months with multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy and is now six-and-a-half-years cancer free.

“The experience has tuned me in to life one more level,” she said.

Her story could have played out very differently and that’s why she reaches out to others now to offer her support, her experience and to help create awareness.

The news that she had “invasive ductal carcinoma” came as something of a shock.

Several years ago, she and her husband, Cavan, had sold their business, bought a sailboat and were destined to sail the Caribbean.

“Since we had good insurance, we had our battery of tests done because we were about to leave the country. Everything was good,” she said.

When the couple returned from their extended outing, it had been about a year and she had another routine mammogram to screen for breast cancer “just like every woman should do their yearly checkups.”

There wasn’t any indication of a growing problem, she said.

“Let’s come back in six months, we want to watch it? No, there wasn’t any of that,” she said. “It was full on ‘You’re fine. Move on. See you next year.’”

Then her older sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Once she was finished with treatment, she told her doctors that she had three sisters and asked, “What do they need to do?”

With a list in hand, Donna was faced with more tests.

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