Forum Fall 2013 - page 4

Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation
When she sat down to begin writing
her book
His Mercy Endureth
Donna Hussey never imagined the
impact her story would have on
others facing adversity. Sharing
her story was an exercise to help
her deal with the many challenges
life had thrown her way, the loss of
numerous family members to cancer, the loss of her job
and her own personal battle with cutaneous lymphoma. She
hoped her story would inspire others, but never imagined
that it could change lives.
We often hear the phrase describing someone as a “walking
miracle.” In every sense of the phrase, this is Donna. She is
a living testament that even through the darkest hours, there
is hope. You can survive.
Donna was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, West Indies and
like most young girls, had dreams of a future that included
college, marriage, kids, a house in the suburbs, a nursing
career and more. As a child, she was nicknamed “Nerves”
because she didn’t respond well to stress. How ironic that
her life would be filled with more stress than most could
endure in ten lifetimes.
Facing the “Monster”
Just prior to her twin daughters’ 16th birthday, Donna
received the news that she had mycocis fungoides. Doctors
originally told her, with what they claimed was almost
100% certainty, that she had eczema. However, a biopsy
conducted when her skin would not respond to topical
treatments confirmed they had been wrong. She didn’t
understand how this was possible. She had spent most of
her life caring for others as a nurse. How was she now
going to become the patient? She had lost almost every
member of her immediate family to cancer, and now she
faced this monster that had claimed the lives of so many
near and dear to her. In her mind, this was a life-ending
diagnosis and immediately, Donna prayed to God to allow
her to survive long enough to see her daughters graduate
high school.
After taking the time to research more about her rare
disease, Donna tried to learn as much as she could. “I tried
not to be afraid of the symptoms and learned that being
educated on my disease was key.” And so, Donna tried
as best she could, to get back to some sense of normalcy.
She decided that she would try to face each challenge as it
presented itself.
Times I Couldn’t Even Pray
Normalcy for Donna was synonymous with loss. Not
long after her diagnosis, she lost several members of her
family. It was just becoming too much to bear. She felt so
alone and didn’t feel there was anyone to turn to. “There
were times that I couldn’t even pray.” As she focused
on all that was going on around her, Donna didn’t give
much attention to her own health and her own diagnosis.
It wasn’t until others started asking her if she was ok and
about the obvious hair loss she was experiencing. With all
of the stress she was under, Donna was at the beginning of
her own health crisis. Her disease quickly progressed, she
developed tumors on her face, chest and scalp. Her disease
was out of control.
Over the next few months, Donna would undergo total
skin electron beam radiation, IMRT radiation to deliver
high doses of radiation to isolated areas, chemotherapy
and ultimately on March 5, 2009 underwent a stem cell
transplant. Her only surviving sibling, her brother Dave,
was a perfect match. Finally, there was some good news.
At every stage of treatment, Donna faced many set-backs
and tragedy continued to find it’s way into her life. Her
husband Trevor was diagnosed with cancer and Donna
immediately focused her attention on his care. But again,
the stress became too much. She became fatigued and her
own health was again compromised. Over the following
months there were times both Trevor and Donna were
hospitalized in different states and their children travelled
back and forth taking care of their parents. Donna felt
alone, guilty that she could not care for her husband, and
most days, didn’t know how she would get through.
By the summer, and despite the stem cell transplant, Donna
had new symptoms, more tumors, and would again undergo
total body electron beam radiation and chemotherapy. In
April, 2011, Donna’s husband Trevor lost his battle with
cancer and the day following his funeral, Donna found
herself back in the hospital.
This time though, the treatments conquered the cancer. She
had survived. After so many year of bad news, and setbacks
with her treatments, Donna had survived.
A New Chapter
Donna defines this part of her life as her new chapter. “I
spent the first half of my life raising children and fighting
– fighting this disease and the loss in my life. Now, I am
living this life to it’s fullest. I’ve been able to do more in
the past two years than I have been for most of my life. I
have endured.”
Through all of the adversity, it’s amazing that although days
were dark, Donna found the strength to fight. Donna’s story
has become a source of strength and inspiration for others
who are facing life’s challenges. She has endured more loss
than any person should be faced with, but through it all,
My Personal Journey With Cutaneous Lymphoma
Donna Hussey
North Plainfield, NJ
My Personal Journey...continued on page 9
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