WHEN Donna Penny was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and given just 24 months to live, she thought to herself: “Well, what can you do? You’ve just got to get on with it.”
The former Canberran’s positive spirit inspires everyone she meets, none more so than Bianca Parker, who met Donna this year through her younger sister.
When Bianca heard Donna had terminal cancer and was facing losing her family home, she “just had to do something”.
Donna, 40, says she wanted to spend her last precious moments with her husband Jason and their five children instead of at work, but when she contacted her superannuation fund, she was told she could not access terminal illness insurance until she had less than 12 months to live.
“With Jason on a low income at the moment, this meant we faced losing the home, which has a $3000-a-month mortgage,” she says.
Bianca and her husband Matt organised a fundraiser at their Downer home to go towards Donna’s mortgage, decorating their backyard with pink balloons and auctioning off prizes donated by local businesses.
With 60 guests, the fundraiser raised $8500.
“I couldn’t believe it… we would have been happy with $4000 but we doubled that, it blew me away,” says Bianca.
Donna, who moved from Canberra to the Sunshine Coast 13 years ago, flew down for the fundraiser and says she “couldn’t believe what Bianca had done”.
“I just started crying. I was surrounded by all these people I didn’t know, many of them Bianca’s friends, and by the end of the day they were like family to me,” she says.
“I had met Bianca once in my life before this, and it just is amazing what she had done, she’d been planning this since July.”
The money raised at Bianca’s fundraiser, together with another fundraiser to be held on the Sunshine Coast in October, will ensure the Penny family can pay their mortgage for another 12 months.
“We’ll then reassess our options after the 12 months in terms of the super, but we are just so incredibly grateful to still have our home,” Donna says.
“It’s been our home for so long and when I go, I didn’t want my family to be forced to move and rent somewhere, there’s so much of us in that house.”
Donna will spend the time she has left warning other young women diagnosed with hormone-receptive breast cancer – the most common form – to do what they can to stop their menstrual cycles.
“I strongly believe any woman who goes through hormone positive breast cancer and their cycle starts again needs to speak to an oncologist and doctor about ovarian suppression, as the cancer feeds off your hormones,” she says.
“It’s important for me to get out there and do what I can to educate women.”
Bianca says she and Donna are now “like family” and she is in awe of her friend’s attitude to life.
“Her willingness to just get out there and her strength, it just amazes me, and everyone she meets, really,” she says.
Candle retailer Red Bamboo has offered to donate 20 per cent of its sales to help Donna, visit redbamboo.com.au/ for more information.
Anyone seeking support for breast cancer should visit bosombuddies.com.au/