EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 16, 2013

'I'm stronger than I thought I was'

Haverhill woman fights cancer for fourth time

When Donna Judge went to her doctor to find out the results of a biopsy in 2006, she told her husband, Rick, not to bother to go with her. Doctors had assured her there was a 90 percent chance she was perfectly healthy because mammograms and ultrasounds had turned up negative.

The doctors were wrong. She was diagnosed with breast cancer that day.

Judge called up her husband “crying hysterically to let him know the bad news.

“He said I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to die,’” Judge said. “I don’t remember that at all. I guess I blocked it out.”

Thus began Judge’s long battle with cancer. After the initial diagnosis, Judge went through eight rounds of chemotherapy and a mastectomy. Four years later, she was diagnosed again with breast cancer. She is now on her fourth diagnosis with the disease.

She has gone through chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries, including bone resection and chest wall and lymph node dissection. She is now in a clinical trial at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“It has been an interesting ride, for sure,” Judge said.

Judge, 44, is a teacher’s aide in the Haverhill public schools. She and her husband, 49, have been married since 1995 and have two sons, Dylan, 17, and Connor, 14.

Judge said when she found out the cancer had returned for the second time, it was the worst day of her life.

“It was awful. I didn’t know when I was going to die,” she said.

It took months, but she eventually fought through her depression with the support of her family and friends, she said.

“Everyone has been so encouraging. That has really helped,” Judge said. “My husband has been my rock.”

Losing her hair has become a recurring part of her life.

“The first couple of times, I didn’t even think about it. The first time I went through chemo, I didn’t even buy a wig,” Judge said.

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