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Donna Timmer

Find Your New Normal

Holy Name Cancer Patient stories - Donna Timmer

As people across the country learn to adapt to a new normal within the coronavirus pandemic, Donna Timmer may be slightly ahead of everyone else. Donna, a beach-loving optimist, settled into what is her "new normal" a few years ago. Her advice "deal with the hand you've been given and keep going."

Donna, 65, has always done just that – but at no time in her life more than in the recent past. Needing an infusion of Keytruda – a drug found to help the immune system fight cancer cells – in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donna goes to Holy Name Medical Center every three weeks to keep her cancer from recurring. It's what she needs to do and she doesn't hesitate to keep her appointments.

This chapter of her life started in December 2015, when Donna was diagnosed with uterine cancer, advanced and aggressive. Her gynecologist recommended Dr. Sharyn Lewin, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Holy Name Medical Center. Dr. Lewin performed a full hysterectomy, followed by seven rounds of chemotherapy and 31 days of radiation treatment.

"From day one – Dr. Lewin, the nurses, technicians, everyone – has been absolutely great," Donna said. "There's not a bad thing I can say about Holy Name. They really take good care of you."

Although Donna, from Elmwood Park, quickly made peace with her illness, she still has days when she's incredulous about this turn in her life.

"I was really shocked when I was diagnosed because I had no symptoms except some constipation and diarrhea," Donna said. "Even to this day, I have some days when I can't believe this happened to me. But you just have to deal with it – the way we all have to deal with anything that comes along."

One of her adaptations was to work from home. The title search company where she does the billing allowed her to transition to work from home after her first round of treatment, though she only missed the days when she went for chemotherapy. By all measures, she continued living her life, taking care of her 93-year-old mother and buying a co-op with a friend near the beach.

"I love walking on the boardwalk, smelling the salty air – just the whole thing about being down the shore," Donna said. "These days it's a little harder to actually go on the beach because of my health but I still go down when I can and walk the boardwalk."

Donna's activities are limited somewhat, due to the side effects of treatment after having a couple of recurrences and needing additional chemotherapy. But she's still looking at what she has in her life, rather than the hardships.

"I still get around and function," Donna said. "There are a lot more people who have it worse than me. Hey, I could have been dead four years ago. I'm not. I'm here and still living life."

Part of her lifestyle now includes the Keytruda infusion. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Donna didn't hesitate about going to Holy Name for her treatment.

"I had no reservations about going to the hospital," Donna said. "If Dr. Lewin felt it wouldn't be a good thing to do, she would have told me not to come. Everyone was wearing a mask and you have your own cubicle in the infusion center. All of the staff were very careful – they take your temperature when you get there and keep you away from other patients. I felt very safe. Getting cancer is the last thing I expected – no one in my family, including my mom and her eight siblings had cancer – but this is what I've been dealt," Donna said. "It's a new normal and I'm still kicking it."

Learn more about Donna's ObGyn Physician at Holy Name