20 years ago, I heard the words that would change the direction of my life. “Donna, it’s cancer.”
I was only 38, I had two small kids and the job that had been my dream since high school, anchoring the evening news in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.
I remember thinking I really don’t have time for this. I’ll make the chemo an appointment on my calendar and I’ll be done and on with my life.
I told my doctor I had no intention of being the poster child for this disease. I had things to do.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to my well-planned life. As is so often the case when we have it all figured out, God had a different idea.
Two years later the cancer was back. Not wanting to make by bald head the topic of the nightly news, I started a blog that connected with other cancer patients in our community. I began hearing stories of women who were traveling the same road, only they were trying to decide between putting food on the table for their kids or saving their lives. I still remember one of the first letters I received from a woman named Robin. She was denied surgery because her husband, a construction worker had to buy a used truck when his broke down. That somehow threw them off Medicaid and she was out of luck. I was floored.
I knew I needed to use the megaphone that was attached to my mouth to do something bigger than myself and The Donna Foundation was born.
Our mission, to provide financial assistance to families facing a breast cancer diagnosis, was transformational. Not just for the thousands of families we helped but for me.
I felt a deep sense of empathy for these families and a sense of purpose unlike anything I’ve ever known. I learned the most satisfying accomplishment I could achieve was to serve others. To see their pain and do all in my power to make it right.
Five years later I was diagnosed a third time. The cancer had gone to my left lung. I remember turning to my husband and telling him he was going to have to help me learn how to live without fear. That whatever time I had left, I wasn’t going to spend it looking over my shoulder.
It is only by the grace of God and against all odds that I am standing here today, 12 years later. Cancer free and ready to take my service to a new level.
Cancer has taught my family many lessons. That fear only divides. It never brings healing. Never gets us what we want. That love, kindness, compassion and empathy are not weakness, but true strength. That we are here for just a blink so what are we waiting for? Be bold, show up, do the work, and have no regrets.
People are exhausted by the chaos, the distraction and the absolute insanity of our current political discourse and they are frustrated with those who enable it. Most of us want the same things. We want our families to be healthy and safe. We want to leave our children a better world than the one we have.
We are not going to get those things with any sort of permanency by tearing each other down.
As a journalist I was never afraid to speak truth the power and I will always do that. But sometimes you miss a story altogether if you fail to listen.
I’ve been listening to my community for a long time. I hear the quiet voices. Those who are drowned out by the shouting. Our underserved community and the thousands of people living paycheck to paycheck who often feel like they are left entirely out of the conversation.
Those are the people whose voices I want to amplify.
It is my absolute belief that healthcare should be a right for every American. We can make that happen and lower costs for families and if I’m elected, I will make that my top priority.
It’s time to put people over politics and reason over rhetoric.
That’s why I’m running.
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