Donna Grosser is 56 years old, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is married and has been living in Winter Haven for the past 30 years. She has three daughters, works as a mental health therapist at her own practice and has no family history of breast cancer. She kept up on her routine mammograms. It was during a self exam when she found something that she knew wasn’t right. However, when she went to her regular doctor and even to her gynecologist with her concerns, they both gave her a clean bill of health. Donna had what she described as “indentations” on her breast, and knew it wasn’t normal. She continued to pursue it to find answers. She eventually went in for an ultrasound, a biopsy and an MRI only to find out she had two tumors growing. Donna was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer.
Her husband had lost his mother to breast cancer when he was only 25. Understanding the emotional weight, she waited until she got home to tell her daughters in person. She was in shock all weekend. Donna immediately thought of this as a death sentence. She pictured her funeral at the church. She wanted to see her daughters get married. She wanted to be a grandmother.
One way she could cope with such big news was to be proactive. She started talking to people, asking questions, reading everything she could about breast cancer. She studied so she could understand what was happening to her body.
Her husband, Dr. Jude Grosser was her biggest supporter. She explained, “He took everything off my plate. He did anything I needed. He canceled work trips, he cooked, cleaned, took care of insurance and went with me to all my appointments. He asked questions. He researched.” And even more important, he told her that you don’t need breasts to be a beautiful woman. Whatever she decided to do about reconstructive surgery, he would support her. That kind of love that shows itself at the darkest of times brings strength.
What has been the biggest change since then? “I don’t sweat the small stuff. I feel like the cancer could be back at anytime, I don’t want to waste any life.” Donna talks about one friend who passed away from cancer. She watched her struggle. “It’s a constant reminder that I’m blessed, to appreciate every single day.”
Donna encourages you to be your own advocate. She has dense breasts and feels like if she would’ve known that in the first place, she would’ve requested an MRI. She watches her diet, exercises and keeps a sense of humor about it all. She reflects that it was only nine months of her life, it’s done and now she can move on. Her silver lining is the amount of love and support she received. Friends would fly in to help around the house, cook dinners or clean. Her kids found support at school with cancer support groups. “Don’t forget to take care of the caregivers, too,” Donna added. Their life changes and they have to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s very hard on them, not only to see someone they love go through this, but to help keep life as normal as possible. Her husband now tries to reach out and help other caregivers with support or advice. If you know someone that is sick, just sending a card will help. Don’t feel bad or ignore them because it’s uncomfortable. Support them, be positive and love them.