2016-10-12 / Local News

Cancer survivor using her experience to help others


RESIDENCE: Cherry Hill

FAMILY: Husband Rick, daughters Lindsay, 26, Karly, 22, and Sydney, 20

SYNAGOGUE: Cong. Beth El

HEROES: Medical staff at Cooper, and Susan Bass Levin for her commitment to Pink Roses, Teal Magnolias event

It’s impossible to miss her amazing spirit and zest. Donna Forman seems to spread vitality wherever she is. And yes, even on the phone.

This Cherry Hill native insists that she was actually a rather quiet child and a serious student. But these days, the wife of Rick Forman of Forman Mills, the mother of three daughters and a community leader is definitely not on the sidelines.

One of her major concerns is the upcoming event that puts the focus on breast cancer awareness—she herself is a survivor—as well as attention to gynecologic cancers.

On Sunday, Oct. 30 at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, hundreds will gather for a brunch event, “Pink Roses/Teal Magnolias,” and this year, Donna Forman is co-chair of this annual awareness-raising afternoon sponsored by the Cooper Foundation.

“There is so much emotion in that room as survivors gather with their families, and as we unite in helping a cause that has affected us all,” said the indefatigable Forman. “We know that the proceeds go to benefit research programs of MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, and that we’re actually helping our neighbors and friends.”

Donna doesn’t hesitate to tell her own story of breast cancer. As with so many other women, she shares it as a cautionary tale.

This is a woman who always has put family first. Their welfare and concerns sometimes eclipse her own, and there’s a special circumstance in her case.

Her daughter Sydney, 20, has some developmental delays that involve speech, and Donna has always been her cheerleader and champion—and to her great advantage, is a speech pathologist.

She has been involved in programs like Open Hearts/Open Doors at the JCC Camps at Medford, and also in Project Lev at Cong. Beth El, even seeing to it that Sydney had a remarkable bat mitzvah there using communication devices.

So yes, her attention has often been occupied. But on a day in 2010, that attention was inescapably focused on a lump in her breast she discovered herself. “I think I knew then and there what it was,” she recalled. “And foolishly, I had not put myself on the ‘to do’ list, and had gotten off my mammogram schedule.

Forman’s self-diagnosis turned out to be correct. She had breast cancer, and began the journey that so many women have taken.

“At first, you’re numb, and then you begin to deal with it. I’m a very private person, so initially sharing my diagnosis was hard for me.”

But through the amazing support from her husband, daughters, and from the caring staff at Cooper, including Dr. Generosa Grana and Dr. Kristin Brill, she got through treatment, learned that she did not have the BRCA gene, and went on with her life.

But not as the same person she was before her diagnosis.

“I learned to let myself lean on other people when I needed to lean, and to get through what for me was quite traumatic—losing my hair. And yes, now I value every day.”

This “shy” woman also has become a confident and admired speaker for the Cooper research cause, and was one of the keynote speakers at a Pink Roses/Teal Magnolias brunch several years ago.

She has much to look forward to these days, including the wedding next year of her oldest daughter, Lindsay.

“Cancer taught me that life goes on, and it can be an even more meaningful life, and yes, that it’s also important to put yourself on the ‘To Do’ list!” 

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