PENDLETON — Bill Hutton, principal at Pendleton Elementary School, tears up when he thinks about his wife, Donna, walking in a cancer survivor’s lap.

“The recognition she’s going to get from this is not something she worked to get,” Bill Hutton said.

Donna, 58, a teacher at East Elementary School in Pendleton, is one of the honorary co-chairs for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Madison County for 2006. The other honorary co-chair is Anderson Police Chief Frank Burrows.

Unlike many people participating in the Relay for Life, Donna has never been active in the organization. But, after working with the Madison County event this year, she is planning on participating and supporting the group.

“I think it’s good they are spreading it around,” Donna said. “They are getting more people involved.”

Donna will be walking in the Relay for Life survivors’ lap around the Pendleton Heights High School track Friday.

Twenty years ago, doctors found a pingpong-sized lump in her breast during a mammogram. The lump was medullary adenocarcinoma, a very rare kind of cancer.

Donna and Bill started researching the disease and after getting two recommendations to do so, she underwent a mastectomy to remove the cancer.

“It kind of throws you,” she said.

Donna Hutton said she felt betrayed by her body when she found out.

“Even when you’re in your 30s, you still feel invincible,” she said.

She prepared for the worst. She taught her two daughters, Heather and Deirdre, who were in elementary school at the time, to do laundry so that her husband would not have to in a worst-case scenario.

“I don’t think she trusted me to do the laundry,” he said.

But, after the surgery and a recurrence, Donna recovered and went back to work.

About 15 years later, during a mammogram, doctors found another lump, this time in the other breast.

“My first reaction was just ‘I don’t want to do this again,’” Donna said.

This time it was cruciform adenocarcinoma, another rare type of cancer.

“I guess I’ve always just been in the odd percentages,” Donna said.

But, because of her first experience and the research Donna and Bill did, they chose to go to a specialist, Dr. Thomas Schmidt, in Indianapolis and have a lumpectomy.

After two occurrences, the couple started wondering if the disease was from something they were doing.

“She didn’t have it in the family,” Bill said. “She didn’t smoke. She didn’t drink.”

A year later, doctors also found a patch of skin cancer on Donna’s scalp. It was also a rare type of cancer.

“I didn’t even want to tell my mom about the skin cancer,” Donna said.

She said after the third case, her mother made her start taking green tea tablets to boost her immune system.

“I don’t know if it boosts the immune system,” Donna said, “but it keeps her happy.”

Donna said she does not like to dwell on her story. However, she uses her experience and knowledge about breast cancer to help others.

“Lots of people have called over the years,” Bill said. “At first, she was a little self-conscious. Now she’s very confident. I don’t think there’s too much she can’t do if she sets her mind to it.”

The hardest thing for Bill Hutton will be watching Donna walk the survivors’ lap.

“To know all the pains she’s gone through and all the distractions she’s had in her life,” he said. “She thinks she’s an average person. She’s not. She’s a bright young lady.”

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