Editorís note: The Post and Courier asked readers to share their stories of women who are battling or have battled breast cancer. This is the first to appear in October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This story originally was written June 17, 2010, the day after the authorís wife died. Donna Howard Brumley grew up on Sullivanís Island and her mother and one sister still live there. The ďthirdĒ brother in the story is Danny Howard, Sullivanís Island chief of police.

BY William J. Brumley

Special to The Post and Courier

Donna Howard Brumley

July 23, 1950-June 16, 2010

Having already undergone two mastectomies, the first in 1996 and the second in 2007, Donna had been diagnosed with breast cancer metastases to both the lung and brain. She had recently completed whole brain radiation and was currently undergoing chemotherapy. We were both aware of a poor long-term prognosis, but her spirit could not be dampened.

Although tired and weak, and suffering balance problems from the brain lesions, she would not be denied the opportunity, perhaps her last, to again paddle the Ichetucknee River in northern Florida. We both believe this is one of the most beautiful places on the face of this Earth.

The air temp that January morning was 30 degrees. The spring-fed river temperature is a constant 72 degrees. The warm water and cool temps will often lead to early morning fog and mist on the river. As she was paddling in front of me, the combination of light around and before her and the mist hiding the path, I thought of what she was facing: the fact her life was coming to an end and that before long she would be taking a different journey and this time I would not be going with her. I took several images, this being my favorite.

I had shown this image to people over the past several months. On June 14, her brothers, two of which are talented photographers, came to see Donna one last time. Both liked the image and agreed it is one of my best. Then a third brother walked by and asked if we saw the angel. Having not seen it before, the angel was immediately visible in the illuminated mist on the left of the photograph.

I believe we all have guardian angels. I believe this was her guardian angel that was accompanying her down the river that day, and was with her early in the morning of June 16, 2010, when she passed away.