It started on April 15 at 6:30 am. Cheryl Danna was unable to speak, and her entire right side was numb. She was immediately rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Doctors initially suspected that her symptoms were caused by a dip in potassium level, but follow up tests indicated a mass in Cheryl’s brain. This discovery led to brain surgery the next morning during which doctors ran a biopsy and confirmed Cheryl’s diagnosis - primary glioblastoma multiforme IV – terminal brain cancer. The diagnosis was quick and it was a shock.
Cheryl’s warrior spirit kicked in immediately after surgery. Doctors estimated that recovery would take 18 days in intensive rehab. Cheryl was out in just 8. During surgery, doctors warned Cheryl’s family and friends that she may never walk or talk again. 2 months later she and her husband walked in and completed the CrossFit R3 5k. Just recently she started participating in CrossFit classes again.
Cheryl has never been afraid of physical challenges - in fact, she welcomes them. That determination carries over into her fight against cancer. Cheryl’s husband, Sean, admires her resolve, “I have seen her recover from brain surgery with great spirit and determination fighting past immobility on her right side to full functionality. She has gone from unable to walk to participation in CrossFit.” Cheryl's remarkably quick physical recovery continues to amaze her doctors - they are astonished at how rapidly she is able to progress.
In addition to being an enthusiastic CrossFitter, Cheryl loves crafting and quilting, in particular. Her home is adorned with some of her beautiful quilts, and she has won numerous awards for her designs. She has spent hours quilting alongside her friend Mary Ann Smith. Mary says, “with Cheryl, you can count on a good, laughing time as she enjoys her life tremendously…being diagnosed with bran cancer is a scary and trying time, but Cheryl has chosen joy, faith in God and hope. She is an inspiration.”
This theme, of Cheryl being an enormous inspiration and being deeply filled with radiating joy, echoes through the many letters from those that love her. Her friend and coach at CrossFit R3, Deana Wyland notes that Cheryl is a little sassy and always positive, and that attitude will aid in the fight against the cancer. “[She’s] always smiling, always friendly to all of us…[we] can all rely on Cheryl’s positive energy and infectious smile.”
Those that know her best recognize that the diagnosis has only proven to deepen Cheryl’s spirit, it has only strengthened her will. Her friend Sue Enright says that Cheryl is totally rocking her new baldness, and that “[h]er loving heart and spirit are the same. She has not lost her drive and determination. In fact, I would say that this cancer has made her more purposed…[Cheryl] is MORE determined, bold, and resolute. She has come so much farther than the doctors thought she could.”
Cheryl’s support network is strong – she is loved by her deeply supportive husband, a recently married son, and Jennifer, her daughter that just gave birth to Cheryl’s first grandchild. For Cheryl, being a grandmother has given her a tremendous amount of will to fight against her cancer.
Jennifer loves and supports her mother deeply noting that she lives with a strong tendency toward forgiveness and generosity, she says, "When [my Mom] was able to talk after brain surgery, one of the first things she encouraged us to do was to still trust God and to forgive those who have hurt us because life is too short and unpredictable not to."
The strongest words of praise for Cheryl come from her husband, Sean. He says, "Cheryl has always been a beautiful person to me, but since we found out about her cancer, that beauty has only been amplified. The way she has chosen to deal with her cancer is truly inspirational, as she has allowed her inner beauty to be easily seen by those around her."