To make an appointment for a haircut to help raise money to defray the costs of cancer treatment for Margaret Donaghue of Wilton, call 779-1157. Donaghue can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

FARMINGTON — A Wilton mother of two who is battling an aggressive form of breast cancer is getting a morale-booster from stylists at a downtown hair salon where she has been a patron for years.

Cheryl Howard, owner of In Town Hair Design on Pleasant Street in Farmington, said she and fellow stylist Yvonne Teele decided to do something to help longtime customer Margaret Donaghue who was diagnosed with cancer in November.

Donaghue has a form of breast cancer that grows rapidly and has a greater incidence of recurrence than other types, she said this week. It is found in only about 20 percent of breast cancer patients.

Howard said she and Teele came up with the idea of donating a portion of what they earn on Monday from hair and beauty treatments to help defray Donaghue’s rapidly mounting, out-of-pocket costs.

“Yvonne and I were talking about what we can do to help,” Howard said. “Something like this can happen to anyone, and we are really an extended family here.”

Donaghue, 48, the mother of two teenagers, lost her job in November. Ten days later, during a breast self-exam, she found something “that didn’t feel right.”

She immediately called her doctor at Franklin Memorial Hospital and tests confirmed the presence of tumors with HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which indicates a particularly aggressive form of cancer.

Donaghue had been getting mammograms every year, but there had been no sign of the disease in her latest X-ray — a sign of how fast it can grow, she said.

She was referred to the Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and is getting chemotherapy at Mercy Hospital in Portland, where she and her husband go every three weeks, she said. When the chemo is completed in April, she will undergo 33 daily radiation treatments at the Dempsey Center.

Donaghue said she is covered by health insurance through her husband, Tom, who works at the University of Maine at Farmington. But travel expenses, co-payments for medications and treatments, and other costs are mounting.

She estimated her family will spend more than 6,000 miles on the road going to and from medical appointments — about the equivalent of driving from Maine to California and back.

“I am very grateful to Cheryl and Yvonne for what they are doing,” Donaghue said. “One thing I am realizing through all this is how much people who know you and support you want to do something to help in some way.”

“As independent as I have been, this is a time to allow other people to help out,” she said. “I am so appreciative of all the heartfelt caring from so many who have reached out in so many unexpected ways.”

“We are going for the cure,” she said. “My doctor told me this is curable but that I should expect this to take up the next year of my life.”

“Treatments, managing the paperwork and keeping track of appointments and medications — dealing with cancer is really a full-time job,” she said.

On top of that is fatigue, loss of appetite and other side effects of the chemotherapy, in addition to the difficult emotional side of her cancer. She said she has been amazed to learn about the wealth of services, programs and support groups aimed at helping cancer victims and their families cope with the disease.

“I am determined to continue doing all I can do,” she said.

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