Diagnosis Makes Mother’s Day More Meaningful


Staff Report

About 12 percent of American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, or one in every eight women. Bayhealth provides programs on breast cancer prevention, early detection, imagery and diagnostic services, and advanced cancer treatment options.

Joanne Donovan, only 42 years old, had mammograms since age 40 which detected no abnormalities. In February 2016, Joanne found a lump in her breast and visited her primary care physician. Her physician ordered an immediate mammogram and tests, which confirmed not just one but three lumps in her breasts. Oncologist Kathrina Chua, MD, of Bayhealth Hematology / Oncology Associates worked with Joanne through her diagnosis and creating her specific cancer treatment plan at Bayhealth’s Cancer Center.

When Joanne told her husband Terry and daughters Brittney and Lauren of her diagnosis and upcoming treatments, their reaction was immediate and inspiring. Brittney, 20, has taken on the role as Joanne’s primary caregiver. She and Terry accompany Joanne to every appointment, and Brittney bakes cookies, cake pops, and cupcakes to hand out to Bayhealth staff and fellow medical oncology patients. Although Lauren, 18, is still in high school, she plays a major part in her mom’s recovery, serving as backup to attend appointments. Terry, Brittney, and Lauren tackle the cooking, cleaning, and laundry as a team.


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Joanne has also received overwhelming support from her mother, Marlyn Barr. The two share what Joanne calls “incredible closeness,” and Barr often brings covered dish dinners for the family or simply comes over to help out. “She’s always been really involved with our family,” said Joanne.

The family’s fellow members of Calvary Wesleyan Church in Harrington, DE, have also come forward to “lift us up,” said Joanne. The Donovan family has led the kids’ worship services for several months, which they’ve promised to continue through Joanne’s illness. Together, they lead each worship service; Terry, Brittney, and Lauren filling in when Joanne feels tired.

For Joanne, this Mother’s Day will be very special. Her gift came early; she received genetic testing at Bayhealth showing that she does not carry the hereditary genetic risks. “It means my daughters won’t have an added risk for breast cancer,” she said, with emotion in her voice. “Their odds will be the same as everyone else.”

With a good prognosis and preventative surgery in her future, Donovan’s outlook is a positive one. “Dr. Chua says this cancer is totally beatable,” she said.

“My diagnosis has almost been a blessing,” said Joanne. “It’s changed our lives, kind of slowed our family down, and made us appreciate each other much more.”


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