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Cancer couldn’t keep her down


Jacki Donaldson

UF Alumna

Jacki Donaldson instinctively knew she had cancer the second she felt the pea-sized lump in her left breast in 2004. Eight days later, when her doctor confirmed it, the diagnosis was “terrifying but not shocking,” she said.

But the lump didn’t kill her. Instead it transformed the University of Florida graduate’s life by launching her on a career she never knew she wanted.

At the beginning of her treatment, Donaldson’s husband suggested she start a blog to keep friends and family updated on her health. It soon became therapeutic for her and a resource for other cancer survivors.

Eventually, editors began approaching the Gainesville resident to write for other cancer-related and health blogs such as She is most proud of her story in the October issue of Family Circle, which documents her journey. In the article, she mentions that she met her husband at UF.

She also volunteered to write a monthly column for the online publication Gainesville Parenting. She wanted to write about something unrelated to her health.

“It’s tiring to write about cancer all day, every day,” she said.

Donaldson, 38, graduated from the College of Education’s master’s program in 1995. Her husband is the associate director of the college’s information and instructional technology.

When Donaldson brings her family to Gator Gallop each Homecoming as part of her newfound devotion to exercising, she is not running away from cancer. She is running toward a healthier future for herself, her husband and their two sons, whom she credits with keeping her spirits high during her illness.

She said her husband, John, was willing to rush home at a moment’s notice and always believed she would be OK. Her sons, Joey and Danny, encouraged her and distracted her from the cancer.

When he saw how upset she was after shaving her head after losing most of her hair during chemotherapy, her 3-year-old told her not to let it bother her.

“You’re not going to die,” he said. “It’s only a haircut.”

One day, she will tell him he was right.

To learn more about Jacki Donaldson’s experience with breast cancer, visit her blog at

Photo credit: Ray Carson — University Photography

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