The sunset is beautiful beyond compare
but alas the evening is nigh!
Chinese verse

My name is Donna. I’m a fifth-generation Texan. The great thing about Texans is they embrace their dark sides. The awful thing about Texans is they embrace their dark sides.

I am a writer. I’ve worked as a journalist, opinion writer, editor and cartoonist. I’ve written fiction and poetry. I like to take pictures.

In 2001 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was stage III. How am I still here? Every morning I ask myself. Each day is like a little life all its own, with a beginning, middle and end. I hate going to bed. Despite my remission, I don’t assume there will be another day.

I am aging. Not gracefully, but gratefully.

I used to go to writers conferences. I used to foster kittens. There’s a whole list of things I used to do.

Some of my cancer writing: Everything Changed (Kansas City Star, 2002), Remember Me as a Writer, Not a Survivor (Newsweek, 2006), Trip of a Lifetime: Cancer Diagnosis Brings Two Friends Together (Kansas City Star, 2011). More cancer writing and cartoons appeared in Politics Daily and The Washington Post.

My short story “Fishbone” was first published in TriQuarterly in 1989. Since then it was anthologized in collections and dramatized by actors in Seattle and Dallas. Other stories and poems have appeared in North American Review, Poetry and other journals.

In 2008 Helicon Nine published my collection of poetry, What’s Right About What’s Wrong. The following year the book won the Thorpe Menn Award and was named one of the best books of the year by Slate.com.


13 Responses to About

  1. Linda says:

    Hey Donna, I was trying to track you down and found this website. Beautiful! You know, things happen, people get lost in daily trivialities, and then one day they wake up and realize too much time has passed. I hope this little note finds you and we reconnect–if not, I’ll keep trying.

  2. Julianne says:

    Hi Donna

    Just wanted to say hello from the Midwest- from one clear cell ovarian cancer survivor to another! (Yes, it is quite lonely out there, but I’ve met 3 of us in person.)

    I’ve read your posts on ACOR and your essay published in Newsweek. Now I look forward to reading your poems.

    When I get my website up again, I’ll let you know. It has been on my to do list. Your blog is inspiring.

    BTW: I want to be remembered as a photographer.

  3. Hi Julianne. Thank you for your kind words. Do let me know when your photos are up.

    WordPress has software for photo-bloggers. It’s called Cutline. If you click on Tabbie’s Garden on my bookmarks to the right, you can see an example. The format is nice and simple.

    Re remembered as a writer: And irony of ironies, if I’m remembered at all, it will probably be as a “cancer writer.” Ha!

    But I’m just thrilled to be alive. To the uninitiated: Clear cell is supposedly the most aggressive and most chemo-resistant of the roughly 35 subtypes of ovarian cancer.

    For the record, my oncologist never did agree with the experts on clear cell’s mean reputation. And today I am seven years out and, as far as we know, cancer free.

  4. Dear Donna Trussel

    We have read your story Fishbone in our english classes and we would like to know where you got your inspiration from?
    also we thought about why Wanda gives her baby such special names? (Fishbone, Logarithm and so)

    We have talked about for instance which “images”, symbols you have used and what they mean.
    At last we want you to know that it was a good and interesting text with a good message.

    We hope the hear from you

    Friendly regards
    – Mie, Kristine, Luna and Carina

  5. Hello students! Thank you for writing to me. See my blog post Looking for America:


  6. Kaylin Marie says:

    A great resource for a young writer with cancer- thank you!

  7. why u iterested in Iran?

  8. Re Iran: My heart goes out to the protesters. They want good government, and good relations with the rest of the world, and many are willing to die for that cause. What’s not to like?

  9. Diane says:


    I was wondering if you happen to be a DES daughter. I am, and the thought of getting clear cell cancer scares me. I am also a poet. I wish you all the best.


  10. Hi Diane. We’re not certain what my mother took for 5 months to prevent miscarriage. Her doctor later claimed it was progesterone, but as early as age 21, my gynecologist said it couldn’t have been progesterone, that only DES would cause the irregularities they saw.

    Although it’s true that clear cell has a horrible reputation, my oncologist does not agree. She thinks clear cell is no worse or better than any other ovarian cancer cell type.

    I have a good friend who is a 10-year survivor of clear cell, and she’s been in remission all that time. I’m 8 years out from my diagnosis, and I too have been in remission the entire time.

    Besides, not everyone exposed to DES gets cancer. Cancer is a complex disease, with many causes interacting. That’s why we see trim, fit non-smokers get cancer, and twinkie-loving, booze-swilling, 3-packs-a-day folks live into their 80s.

    We don’t yet understand cancer very well, which is one reason we we see so many superstitions and quackery surrounding this disease.

  11. Diane says:


    From my understandng, if your mother took anything (or received injections) to prevent a miscarriage, then you can be just about positive it was DES. That’s what my mother had (injections to prevent pregnancy loss). Even if it was something with a different name, it had the same kind of chemical effects on the fetus.

    Cancer runs really bad on my dad’s side of the family. I have a first cousin who died of ovarian cancer. Both of her sisters needed hysterectomys because of cancer. And none of them were DES daughters. We just have lots of cancer on that side of the family. Someone even had sinus cancer.

    One of my doctors described my uterus as a tickng time bomb. I wish had the guts to have my stuff taken out even though that’s tough too. Ignore my spelling as I haven’t been to bed yet. Well, enough about me. I think t’s due to the DES because that type of cancer is rare, isn’t it?

    Keep geeting better!


  12. How old are you, Diane?

  13. Diane says:

    Hey Donna,

    I’m 47. I sent you an e-mail a couple of days ago. If you didn’t get it, I can send it again.


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