ENS Chastity Dunnaville has known the U.S. Navy since she was a child; her mother and several relatives are now retired from naval service.
During her formative years, they served as living examples of the many benefits and opportunities available through military service. Last year, she achieved her childhood ambition when she graduated from the Naval Academy.
Last September, however, a diagnosis of Stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma turned Dunnaville’s world upside down.
“I had already been involved in about three weeks of different tests, scans, and biopsies,” she said. “I knew from the different keywords the doctors had been using that it was going to be something serious. Once I finally received the official diagnosis my main focus was just doing what it took to get better.”
Dunnaville admits that it’s not always easy to remain upbeat about her illness; however, her faith and the help and well-wishes she receives from family and friends have sustained her. She frequently reminds herself and others: “Being angry doesn’t change anything, and it doesn’t fix anything. All it really does is waste energy so there’s no point in being mad about it.”
Throughout Dunnaville’s recovery process, Navy Safe Harbor – particularly her Non-medical Care Manager, Judith Carlisle – has been a tremendous source of support: “The major item that Navy Safe Harbor helped with was my orders when I was moved from Florida back to Washington, DC,” she said. “Judith has also been a big help with my family and responding to any questions, comments, or concerns that my mother has had along the way.”
Though her treatments are emotionally and physically taxing, Dunnaville volunteered as a teaching assistant at her high school during the past semester. She credits the job for keeping her busy, motivated, and active.
“She has fought the good fight with such strength and dignity that it has amazed all around her,” said Carlisle. “She has continued to live life in service to others all along the way. When a student from her high school was diagnosed with cancer, Chastity became a best friend, mentor, and constant inspiration to the student.”
Both agree that Dunnaville’s mother, Taryn, deserves equal recognition for the unrelenting support she has provided her daughter during the past year. Carlisle reported that Taryn rarely leaves her daughter’s side; Dunnaville added that she is not certain if she would have made it so far without her mother’s support. In addition, CAPT Catherine Phillips, a Naval Academy mentor, has been a powerful advocate for Dunnaville, and has become an honorary member of her family.
“Although my life plan has changed completely and I am not where I predicted I would be a year ago, a lot of good has still come from [my illness],” Dunnaville said. “I have been able to meet a lot of great people and do many things that otherwise I would not have been able to do … Instead of asking, ‘Why me?’ I tell myself: ‘Only me.’ Because only I could overcome this.
The Navy Safe Harbor Foundation is dedicated to supporting the recovery of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and their families
by assisting them with resources not currently provided by government or community resources.
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