People We Help | Dawn

Situation: On December 24, 2008, Dawn welcomed her second child, a healthy baby girl named Daya. Less than 24 hours later, she would begin her first round of chemotherapy.


Dawn was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer in mid-December, eight months into her pregnancy. Finding out that she had breast cancer took her for an emotional roller coaster ride.

“That was a pretty dramatic moment for me. I remember breaking down in tears. I had no idea how much my world would change,” says Dawn.
The battle was only beginning for Dawn. Within the next year and a half, she would undergo radiation, a mastectomy and separation from her husband.

Dawn underwent six cycles of chemotherapy and spent a week in the hospital with meningitis during her bout with breast cancer. Through the whole ordeal, she was determined to stay strong for her two children.

“I never thought of not surviving; my only goal was to stay upbeat and healthy and to be their mom. It wasn’t an option for someone else to raise them.”

While spending most of her energy on battling cancer, Dawn’s family began to fall into financial hardships. With Dawn physically unable to work and her then husband laid off, Dawn faced another tough decision – taking her son Ricky out of day care.

“Financially I was broke. I had lost all my savings, the bills were piling up, and I was getting behind on my mortgage. It was at that point that I knew I needed help, and Cornerstone Center was able to give me that help.”

How United Way Helped: Dawn turned to a United Way partner agency, Cornerstone Center for Early Learning, to help her in her time of need. Thanks to United Way, they were able to give Dawn an academic scholarship so her son could once again attend day care. They also provided social support.

“My son could be a kid; he could be a two-year-old,” Dawn says. “He didn’t have to sit around the house with a mom who was going through chemo, and mastectomies and radiation. I wanted him to get out. I wanted him to be a kid. I knew they could do that for him, and also be a learning source.”

DawnandFamilyDawn Today: In June of 2011, a routine breast exam revealed a cyst on Dawn’s left breast. Since then she has had a left mastectomy but things are looking up for Dawn.

She has returned to work as a nurse and is doing well in her recovery. Her children are continuing to thrive at Cornerstone; they have been her rock through her battle with cancer.

“I have two beautiful kids. I love them; they keep me alive. It’s a blessing to see my kids playing and happy.

“To hear those words, ‘Mommy,’ is the best feeling ever.”

About Cornerstone Center for Early Learning: A United Way partner agency since 1974, Cornerstone Center aspires to strengthen low-income, high-risk families by providing a wide range of education and support services.

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