Today, March 7, used to be Donna Papa’s only birthday.
Life-saving cancer surgery last month changed that, her family said.
“I told her she has two birthdays now,” said Papa’s husband of 39 years, Tony. “February 21 is her second, her rebirth.”
The surgeon, Daniel Labow, removed her ovaries, appendix and spleen — and at least 20 pounds of cancerous tumors, her family said. Tony Papa said that Dr. Labow also gave his wife’s “belly a two-hour chemo bath.”
The family’s nickname for the surgeon is the “Angel Doctor.”
Donna Papa, 61, spent two weeks in the Manhattan hospital, bouncing back from the surgery. Tony Papa, also 61, who owns T.D.K. Heating & Irrigation in Sayville, never left Manhattan.
He slept at the Hudson Hotel around the corner from the hospital, and stayed by her side every day from 8 a.m. until the 10:30 p.m., when the hospital would give him the boot.
Donna Papa, who has worked in Sayville schools for 24 years, regained her strength enough to return home this week, in time for her birthday. She has said that one of her biggest motivations in her fight against cancer is “getting back to the kids” she mentors at the high school.
“She’s home resting, but very very weak,” said Tony Papa, who with his wife has four adult children and seven grandchildren.