Proud mum Donna makes every day count

Tue, 9th May 2017

Terminally ill Sunshine Coast mum and author of  children’s book Why My Mummy? will renew her wedding vows on June 1 thanks to My Wedding Wish.

How long have you lived here?
I moved to the Sunshine Coast in November 1999 from Canberra. Best decision of my life. My life started when I moved here. 

Why did you move here?
My dad lives here. I moved here due to a bad relationship which was going nowhere and to break the bad cycle I decided to pack up my five-year-old son Aiden and jump in my old bomb of a car which was a Mitsubishi Colt and only cost me $800.

What is your favourite place on the Sunshine Coast?
Probably Point Cartwright, as I got married there in 2009. Such a special memory for me. Often if I’m having a bad day, I’ll take a walk on our beach at Warana with my dogs and just breathe in the fresh sea air.

Where do you take visitors?
I love the One Up Bar in Mooloolaba. I love to take family and friends to Australia Zoo and up to Noosa or Mooloolaba. We have so many beautiful cafes and restaurants here to choose from. My girlfriends from high school come up to visit once a year and we do a girly weekend in Mooloolaba.

If you could change one thing about the Sunshine Coast, what would it be?
The amount of people who are relocating here, lol. The roads are crazy busy these days. But who wouldn’t want to live here? It’s the ultimate place to live and raise a family.

Best day of your life?
I have a few. Giving birth to my son Aiden who is now 22. I called him my little man as I raised him as a single mother for the first seven years of his life until I met my hubby Jason and we became a family of five, as Jason had three kids, I had Aiden, and then we had one together. The other best day of my life was having Kai with my beautiful husband. My wedding day was another. Jason and I are renewing our wedding vows on June 1 thanks to My Wedding Wish, which grants weddings to terminally ill people.

Can you nominate a day in your life that turned out to be a turning point?
Getting the news that I had breast cancer at 35 and going through six months of chemo and a double mastectomy followed by reconstruction. You don’t realise how strong you are until you’re put into a situation where you have no choice but to be brave. And just when I thought I had beat it, I get the news five years later that my cancer was back in my bones and liver and it was terminal. It has put my life into perspective and made me change my way of thinking, especially when you’re told you probably only have 24 months to live. I have managed to live 24 months past my expiry date, as I like to put it. Never put off to tomorrow what can be done today. Always tell the ones you love, that you love them.

Your great regret?
Getting cancer and having that feeling that I may never get to grow old with my hubby or watch my children grow up and get married. Not becoming a grandma. I have so many.

Your greatest achievement?
My children, both my own and my stepkids. Helping other women going through breast cancer and sharing my story with them. I get so many message from people thanking me for being so raw and honest about my illness. Becoming an author of Why My Mummy?, which is a beautiful children’s book helping families explain cancer to children in a very caring and non-threatening way.

Best advice you’ve been given?
I know this sounds like a cliché, but the best advice I’ve been given is to follow your dreams and not take a day for granted, which can be easier said than done. 

You are happiest when?
I’m surrounded by my family and friends having a wine on the beach watching the sunset. My gorgeous Bengal cat Lucy, my Maltese shih tzu Daisy and my old dog Rebel also make me happy when I’m having a bad day and they snuggle up with me on my bed.

What frustrates you the most?
People telling me they can cure my cancer. I know people mean well, but when you have been given a terminal diagnosis it’s really hard to understand it in my own head without people telling me if I juice or meditate or see a healer, I’ll be cured. I have watched many friends go down that path and not survive.

If you could tell your 18-year-old-self anything…
Study! Get a good job. Travel the world. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get credit cards.

Tea or coffee?
I drink both. White with one sugar.

NRL or AFL ?
AFL,the guys are way better looking than the NRL guys. We follow the Lions. Kai plays AFL and wants to be a Lion’s player. Kai Penny sounds like a good AFL player’s name to me.