In the past year, Donna became more and more familiar with cancer. She started off the year modeling for the Cancer Resource Center and ended it with a champagne celebration for a good friend who had found out she did not have kidney cancer. The day after the party, she discovered an unusual spotting of blood in her underwear.
"First I thought it was a urine infection," said Donna. "But the bleeding didn't stop."
Donna went into see her OB-GYN for an exam and ultrasound. The results showed that she had a thickening of the uterus. She was then given the news that she had an aggressive form of uterine cancer.
"My doctor told me that my best chance of survival would be if they sent me to Sutter Cancer Center," said Donna. "So they referred me to the Gynecological Cancer Clinic and gynecological oncologist Dr. Susannah Mourton."
Even with the looming thought of her cancer diagnosis on her mind, Donna continued with her life and tried to stay positive by going on a pre-planned girls snowshoe trip. When she returned she got the call from Dr. Mourton's office to come in for an appointment.
"I immediately fell in love with Dr. Mourton," said Donna. "We exchanged stories about our dogs and hobbies and she immediately put me at ease. She was honest and didn't guarantee me any results. She told me to take things one step at a time."
Donna had a few more tests and a PET scan. The results showed that her cancer was contained in her uterus and Dr. Mourton gave her the good news that she was a candidate for da Vinci Robotic surgery.
The night before surgery Donna was surrounded by her husband and best friends. "When I went into pre-op at Sutter Memorial Hospital the anesthesiologist Charles Collins, M.D., was so relaxed and had a great sense of humor," said Donna. "And when they rolled me into surgery Dr. Mourton showed me the da Vinci machine and how it worked. I was surprisingly at ease."
Donna woke up a few hours after surgery. Her nurses explained that they would help her sit-up and eventually walk around. But when they left, Donna decided to try it on her own - and thanks to her strong core muscles from her yoga practice - she was able to support herself.
"The morning after surgery Dr. Mourton came to see me and asked how I was doing," said Donna. "I told her I was fabulous. And after she examined me, I was discharged to go home - I wasn't even in my hospital bed for 24 hours."
Donna returned home to the care of her husband. Within a few days she was grocery shopping. Soon after she asked Dr. Mourton when she could re-start her yoga and weight lifting.
"Dr. Mourton told me I could do yoga, but that I should listen to my body," said Donna. "I did learn the more rest I had, the faster I healed. So I slowed down a bit."
Donna is on the track to remission with sessions of chemotherapy. She has rejoined her Singing and Dancing Jazz Choir and walking routine. And in the spirit of her hair loss, her good friend shaved off all his hair and they decorated their heads with spray paint.
"I believe in living my life to the fullest," said Donna. "I have some great wigs and still love to be social and go out to parties. I am so thankful for Dr. Mourton. She definitely had the right touch. And I couldn't imagine having this treatment and what my limitations would be if I didn't have the option for minimally invasive surgery."
Learn more about da Vinci surgery for GYN cancer.