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Dana Salem-McCarthy

Travel Fairy

When Dana got the call that there was some abnormality in her breast exam, she didn’t panic. The plan was simply to come back in six months instead of waiting a year. While sitting with her daughter one day, her German Shepherd, Tasha, began furiously sniffing at her left breast. This went on for days, with Tasha becoming more and more persistent to the point of pawing at her. Many people would never connect the dots, but Dana knew something was wrong. Instead of six months, she found herself getting a second exam just a few short weeks from her previous visit. That exam uncovered two extremely malignant lumps that had metastasized in a matter of weeks. Had she waited the full six months, it’s uncertain she would be around to share her story today.

It was scary, but I never once thought why me. I always thought, why not me? This can happen to anyone.

Dana went through two years of battling extremely aggressive cancer, with her family — including Tasha — supporting her every step of the way. Surprisingly, Dana always kept a positive mindset, never straying down the dark path of pity and despair. It was difficult for her family, but after months of watching her greet each new challenge with a laugh or a joke, her outlook was contagious.

Positivity is everything. I truly believe it’s the biggest key to survival.

Dana calls her cancer the gift that keeps on giving. But true to form, she’s found the brightest side of anything cancer could throw her way. On the one hand, insurmountable medical debt is overwhelming. But for Dana, it was an opportunity. She and her husband traded in their large home for a one-room tiny home on several acres of natural wonder. The experience, she says, was cathartic. She feels freer than she ever has and that is a gift.

It sounds cliché, but you realize with crystal-clear vision what’s important, and nothing is more important than your loved ones – especially the furry, four-legged ones.

Dana and her husband live in Jefferson, Ohio, in their tiny cottage with two of their furry friends, Cooper and Max. She spends most of her time doing what she loves, which is creating magical vacation experiences for others. And in case you’re wondering, Tasha is alive and well and living with Dana’s daughter and husband after their recent marriage. For Dana, positivity is what keeps her going #beyondstrong.

The Donna Foundation

Through a continued partnership with Dream Vacations and Celebrity Cruises, we came together to create limited edition #BEYONDSTRONG tees for both women and men. Ninety-five percent of proceeds support The Donna Foundation, a nonprofit organization funding groundbreaking research in tandem with the Mayo Clinic and providing economic assistance and emotional support to individuals living with breast cancer.