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Donna Tally: Finding Purpose in Beating Cervical Cancer

Donna Tally

“I’m so thankful to Texas Oncology, that these doctors, radiologists, nurses, etc. give their lives to help people and do it with a smile on their face. They make the patient feel seen and understood.”

Donna Tally
Cervical Cancer

Donna Talley, 55, is a mother of four from Stephenville. A self-proclaimed go-getter and optimist, Donna says she “takes life by the horns and keeps going with it.” Between driving her two high schoolers back and forth to sporting activities, caring for her two adult daughters, and keeping the house up and running daily, she barely had time to acknowledge the unusual symptoms she was experiencing, which included abnormal pelvic pain.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘Oh, I’ll take some vitamins or something and it will go away.’ I ignored it for probably three years,” Donna says.

On May 15, 2019, the day of her 52nd birthday, Donna was diagnosed with cervical cancer that had spread to three lymph nodes in her pelvic area.

Donna saw Noelle Cloven, M.D., gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology–Fort Worth Cancer Center, and soon began radiation therapy. One of Donna’s daughters drove her to radiation treatment, five days a week for six weeks. After completing radiation, Donna underwent chemotherapy at Texas Oncology–Weatherford, every Monday for six weeks.

Donna expresses gratitude for the support of her family, including her sister and nephew, who had previously fought breast and brain cancer, respectively. She spent many months supporting them throughout their cancer treatment, so she knew the emotional strength required to keep her strong as she navigated her own journey.

Thankful for Her Treatment Team

Donna’s three-month and six-month post-therapy CAT scans detected no signs of cancer. However, her nine-month follow-up showed a new tumor in her stomach, as well as two new cancerous lymph nodes. Based on the appearance of these new tumors, Dr. Cloven suggested immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is treatment that uses a person's own immune system to fight cancer, boosting the natural defenses of a patient’s immune system so it works more effectively to find and attack cancer cells.

“Advances in treatment for cervical cancer such as immunotherapy have provided new options for patients like Donna,” says Dr. Cloven. "The clinical trials being conducted here at Texas Oncology have played an important role in advancing as well as providing new forms of targeted treatments to our patients statewide."

While fighting cancer, most people are likely thinking about their own treatment. But Donna spent more time praying for those taking care of her and the people with her in the waiting room or during treatment.

"I would pray the whole time I was on the radiation table for the people put on this earth who were smart enough to cure cancer,” says Donna. “I’m sure it is a job that pulls on your heartstrings every day. To see somebody at one of their most vulnerable times must be hard.”

Three months after starting immunotherapy, Donna received the good news that the cancer was no longer detected in her lymph nodes and stomach.

“I was scared, and hopeful, and everything all at once,” Donna says. “I wanted to be around to raise my twins to adulthood. I didn’t want my daughters to become parents to their younger siblings.”

Becoming an Advocate for Cancer Screenings

Donna spent time thinking about what her purpose was through her cancer survivorship and how she could bring good into the world through it. She declared her goal would be to tell women not to ignore the warning signs like she did.

“I like to visit and talk – I’ll talk to a fence post,” Donna says jokingly. “Now, I use that to my advantage to raise awareness for cancer screenings. I will walk up to people and ask them, ‘Have you had your yearly with your gynecologist yet?’”

“We all know no woman wants to make her yearly appointment, even if it is only two hours of her life,” she says. “But compared to having cancer, it is nothing. Please go get it done.”

Today, Donna continues to undergo immunotherapy treatment with Dr. Cloven in Fort Worth every six weeks. She enjoys interacting with the staff at Texas Oncology–Fort Worth Cancer Center. “I am thankful to Texas Oncology, and that these doctors, nurses, etc. give their lives to help people and do it with a smile on their face. They make the patient feel seen and understood. I am grateful to be alive.”

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.