Donna and her husband learned to laugh again!

“On our FPS Respite Vacation, we forgot about cancer, illness, fear and worry.”

Our Cancer Journey

“My doctor told me in March of 2015 that I have Stage IV Lung Cancer. I remember when he said he can not cure it but he can treat it.  I asked him how long I have to live. He wouldn’t answer. Too many variables. I googled it. 1/2 of the people with this disease die within 10 months and about 1% live 5 years.

I was sent to Penn Medicine to participate in a clinical trial. I had my first round of chemo on April 27th, 2015 and I will have chemo every three weeks for the rest of my life. In the first few months I was confused and scared and I thought I was dying. I still am all of those things.  It turns out, I probably am going to die from this someday but first I’m going to live with it. But as in all good stories, of course there is a twist.


My husband, Paul fell ill during one of my cancer treatments and spent 87 days in the hospital. There were days I came home (70 miles) to shower and change but mostly I just stayed there with him, afraid to miss what his doctors had to say regarding his treatment for the day, listening carefully and asking questions and learning. I slept in the chair by his bed most nights.

Once I was so tired, I slept through the entire admission of his new roommate.  I was afraid to leave. Afraid! That was my normal. On treatment days, I would leave him and walk across “the bridge” alone. The same bridge that connects HUP to the Cancer center also disconnected me from Zig.

Zig used to come with me for all of my treatments so that stupid bridge was just one more thing dividing us.

He worried about me and I worried about him. It became our normal too. Some of the staff that worked with him at the hospital knew of my illness but all of the staff who worked with me at the Perelman Center knew of his. Some came to visit him. Some gave us gift cards to help with gas and tolls and food. Some shared a cup of coffee with me and lent an ear or a shoulder. Everyone asked about him and there were days that I didn’t even know how to answer them. Days turned into months and my husband did get better. But we still needed to take a break from my cancer.”

Our Break From Cancer

“A member of my oncology team nominated me for a respite vacation, and we got to take that break from cancer! For Pete’s Sake took care of every detail. They planned the trip in between my treatments and got clearance from my doctor. And off we went to Punta Cana for 6 days.

Honestly, I worried I wouldn’t have the energy to be any fun on our trip but I vowed not to give cancer any of my days. After all, we were on a break from cancer.

We snorkeled with sharks and stingrays, swam with dolphins, went deep sea fishing, relaxed by one of the largest pools in the world and went to see a show each night. The food was delicious and plentiful and the sights were beautiful. The staff at Dreams Punta Cana and Apple Vacations treated us like family and we still think of them often and smile.

Most importantly, we forgot about cancer and illness and fear and worry. We just did what we were told and took a break from it. For Pete’s Sake taught us how to beat cancer one day at a time. Everyday we do something fun or normal is a day we didn’t give to cancer.

An amazing thing happened. We were able to reconnect and best of all we learned to laugh again. We didn’t even realize how much was missing between us. We had become each other’s caretakers and advocates and we hadn’t much time for laughing. We learned to relax again and we worry less.

Our story doesn’t end there. The people at For Pete’s Sake have been in touch regularly and we consider ourselves part of the family. They are such a caring group of people. We are so grateful for this gift and have been trying to help others take a break ever since!”

Thank you to our Travel Partner, Apple Vacations, for donating this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Donna and her husband!

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Our Stories

Our Travelers take a break from what life with cancer has become with doctor visits, surgery, tests and treatment. Through a unique gift of time together, they create priceless magical, memorable moments, experience immeasurable joy amidst devastating crisis, confront cancer hardships together and find emotional healing, hope and happiness during an uncertain and tumultuous time.


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