Lehigh Valley woman gets through ovarian cancer with help from her friends

- Battling cancer takes an incredible physical and emotional toll. But one Lehigh Valley woman found the best medicine has been the women in her Zumba exercise class.

Donna Barats has been a Zumba instructor at the Fitness Plaza in Fogelsville for just over six years. To say she loves what she does would be an understatement.    

But in January of 2016, Barats started feeling sick with abdominal pain and was having difficulty breathing.

“It was getting to the point I couldn’t even make it through the warm up of the Zumba class without holding my side, out of breath and all,” said Barats.

After countless trips to the doctor over the course of several months, Donna got the bad news: she had stage three ovarian cancer.

“I was stunned,” Barats said.

But the ladies in her Zumba class didn't miss a beat. Decked out in teal, the color for ovarian cancer, the group stepped up to the plate for their friend.

Four women in particular – Elise, Diane, Barbara and Gina – were Donna’s angels.

“All four of them stood next to me and said ‘We are going to walk this journey with you every step of the way,’ and they did,” explained Barats.

The women accompanied Barats to every doctor’s appointment at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and every chemo treatment.

“We wanted to be there,” said Diane Sackett.

“I’m the oldest one of the group who has been with her. That was in my heart that I had to do something,” said Barbara Atkins.

The women, who are retired, say it unfolded naturally.

“Our personalities are all so different, so every little thing that everyone brought made it what it was. That’s what made it special,” Gina Chassard said.

The women all have matching tattoos of a heart with the ovarian cancer ribbon, as does Barat's 27-year-old daughter, Lea.

Barats says she never had a chance to feel down. They laughed through it all.

“What did that mean to you?” asked FOX 29’s Dawn Timmeney.

“It was huge. Huge. I felt so lifted up by it all,” said Barats.

The mother of four has now been cancer free for two years. Her friends are happy she’s going strong.

“She made a difference in our lives and still does,” said Elise Ponte.

Barats is grateful to the gals in her Zumba class, so she decided to pay it forward. Now, she spearheads an ovarian cancer support group that meets once a month, saying she wanted to make sure others had the same loving support she did.

For more information on the Lehigh Valley Ovarian Cancer Support Group, see here.

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