It was May 2003 when Bonny Diver-Hall, a well-known radio personality in Pittsburgh, fell off her horse Romeo and broke her shoulder. "We were jumping a fence and he stopped, but I didn't," she recalls. While examining her injury, Bonny was shocked to feel a lump the size of a robin's egg on her left breast. "I thought, What?" she says. "It was confusing, since I had a routine mammogram every year." The diagnosis — stage 2 breast cancer — forced Bonny to summon all her strength, courage, and faith. "I had to tell myself that cancer was not going to take me. I decided I'd be a warrior, not a victim.
The Decisive Moment
Bonny began talking about her illness on the air. Between playing sets of rock music, she described the lumpectomy and the side effects of chemo and radiation, the importance of self-exams and yearly mammograms. She found sharing with listeners therapeutic, even though privately she was terrified of losing her long brown hair. "I was angry at myself for being superficial, but the fear was powerful," she says. "So I threw a party and handed my horse clippers to my BFF. Shaving my head was a way of taking control, of making it my choice instead of the cancer deciding for me."
She clearly hit a nerve. Listeners who were also battling the disease began asking her to speak to their support groups. In 2003, while still undergoing chemo, Bonny started shopping for a wig. She was surprised to learn that they were typically priced at $300 and up — and were often not covered by insurance. "I thought, I can't cure cancer, but I can help others," says Bonny, who formed Hair Peace Charities the following year to cover part of the cost. Her first project was organizing a jazz and blues concert with volunteers from her church, Ingomar United Methodist.
Support and Comfort
Hair Peace, which provides $150 toward the purchase of a wig, has helped 800 cancer patients in southwestern Pennsylvania so far. Knowing the isolation that illness can bring, Bonny, now 57 and a radio traffic reporter, started hosting monthly support circles, offering words of advice and comfort. The nonprofit also hands out brightly hued lap blankets made with love by church volunteers and cancer survivors. "You rub your hands over the knots in the quilts, which are a reminder that a prayer is being said for you," she explains. Bonny's husband, Jamie, pitches in by writing thank-you letters to donors.
Bonny, who has been in remission for over a decade, credits not only her doctors but also her faith, friends, and family. "They made me feel surrounded by peace, so I could walk toward life instead of running away from death and fear," she says. Her goal this year is to raise $60,000, enough to benefit 400 women — and remind them they are not alone in their struggle. "I'm busy all the time, which often means there are dirty dishes in the sink, the house is dusty and I can't find anything to wear," she says. "That's okay. I know that Hair Peace is what I'm supposed to be doing."
Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.