"It’s not a club you want to join but I’m a big believer in God has a plan. I’m looking at treatment like it’s a triathlon, and I can happily say that I’m almost done with my swimming section."

 

darlaShe is the first one to admit she has the gift of gab, but when Darla Dodd was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 42, she was speechless.

A divorcee and single mom, Darla was well aware of her body’s tendency to produce cysts so when she discovered another during a self exam, she knew the drill. “Wait for my next cycle and see if anything changes,” she said.

When nothing changed she went to her doctor for her well woman visit. Again she was told, wait for the next cycle and if nothing changes, get a mammogram. But something inside her was telling her to stop waiting and do it immediately. “I came out of my doctor’s office and on the first floor is Florida Radiology Institute, and I don’t know what came over me, I walked into FRI and asked if I could make my appointment for a mammogram. They had a few dates available but I said let’s just do tomorrow. It was the day before my birthday,” she said.

The mammogram showed some irregularities so her doctor scheduled a biopsy for that following Monday. Just three days later she went in for her follow up thinking, “If it was important, they would have called.”

But they didn’t. So without much concern, Darla sat in a little room on March 6th flipping through a magazine anticipating the usual recommendation to aspirate what she expected to be another benign cyst. “I didn’t think anything of it. The nurse and doctor came in and I said, ‘Hi, how are you?’” she laughs. “And I was still in a daze, and then the nurse said the words. ‘I’m sorry but this is cancer.’ Everything changed from that moment on. My body started shaking and I fell into tears.”

What ensued was a tremendous array of doctors’ appointments and a treatment program that began with eight rounds of chemo, reconstructive surgery, radiation, and then more reconstructive surgery. And aside from the obvious worries and difficulties, as a single mom Darla’s biggest concern and priority was helping her three and a half year old daughter get through it. “It has been difficult for her. We used to do something fun every weekend—sea world or the beach, and mommy had a lot more energy, but during treatment it has been challenging for her because I just don’t have the stamina,” she said. “It’s also been a little different for her because our routine is changed—my sister or my cousins would stay with her and she didn’t understand why these people were in our house. Why is mommy in bed? Why is mommy not reading me my story?”

Additionally, when she went to work with her friend as a talent agent for artists a few years ago, she had changed her insurance plan. And despite maintaining a strict budget, being the only income source along with a cancer diagnosis and her high deductible threatened the very well being of her and her daughter.

But thanks to the Gina McReynolds Foundation, Darla at least had one less detail to worry about during her fight—the cost.

A good friend connected her to the Gina McReynolds Foundation and even though Darla admits it is hard for her to accept help, one week before the annual golf tournament, Will McReynolds called her and invited her to come. “My hair had just fallen out from my second round of chemo so I was feeling a little intimidated. But then I saw all these people who were there to support women and families like me. I figured I was there to ‘check them out’ but after the lunch Will and some other board members pulled me aside and presented me with a gift to help pay our medical bills,” she said. “It was extremely emotional. It is such a beautiful way for Will to remember his wife. To see the graciousness of people giving to women they’ve never met. My parents and I were just in awe.”

And her daughter? She was there, too. Darla hopes that while it is hard for Lilly now, in a year or two, this cancer thing will all be a light distant memory. “It’s not a club you want to join but I’m a big believer in God has a plan. I’m looking at treatment like it’s a triathlon, and I can happily say that I’m almost done with my swimming section.”

 

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