Adrienne "Daisy" Zonneville grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma when she was 11.
The doctors gave her an 85 percent chance to survive. Yet by 15, the cancer had returned, and her survival chances fell to 65 percent.
Mid-way through the first treatment, her parents' insurance company dropped Adrienne, who got her nickname in high school after she finger-painted daisies all over her first car, a gray 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier.
Her father and step-mother had to turn to many nonprofits for financial help to pay Daisy's gargantuan medical bills (about $175,000 the first time; $250,000 the second).
Their daughter did survive. She's 31 now and is celebrating 15 years of being cancer-free by running a marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The marathon is at Kiawah Island, S.C., on Dec. 12 -- 15 years to the day after her last treatment.
"After everything I've been through, I wanted to celebrate that anniversary in a big way," said Zonneville, who lives in Troutman and works in Mooresville as a machinist and welder for a company in the racing industry.
"I thought about taking a trip, or buying something nice. But then I got a pamphlet in the mail about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and I thought, 'well, those organizations sure helped me a lot. Why not raise money to help other people?'"
She decided to train for a marathon. Within a day, her fiance, Jeff Roy, and friend/maid-of-honor-to-be, Lauren Hayward, signed on to train and run the marathon with her (they're all pictured above; l-r: Hayward, Roy and Daisy).
Saturday, O'Charley's restaurant in Mooresville is serving up a pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. to help Zonneville raise money. For $10, you'll get pancakes, bacon and coffee -- every dime of the proceeds going to LLS. O'Charley's is donating the food, space and workers.
Next month on Halloween morning, the trio is putting together a Halloween Poker Run, with motorcycles, hot rods -- anything with a motor -- leaving from Tilley Harley-Davidson/Buell in Statesville to Easy Eddie's, a motorcycle shop and lounge in Huntersville. The run will make several stops along the way, and riders will be given a playing card. The best five-card poker hands will get cash prizes. It'll cost $15 for each rider/driver and $5 for a passenger -- again all the money going to LLS.
Never a runner, Zonneville's been running with a training team Saturday mornings. During the week she runs on her own, or with Roy and Hayward, and spends one day a week riding a bicycle.
"I'm not athletic; I tried sports in high school and failed," she said. "I figured this would be a great challenge; and we're going to do it come hell or high water."
She's doing it because she understands what nonprofits do for people stricken with catastrophic illnesses like her's. Since 1949, LLS has invested more than $680 million in research, education and patient services.
She knows also the benefits of extending life.
"The treatment the second time was a 180-degree turnaround from the first," she said. "I went from throwing up 20 times a day, to eating a cheeseburger while I was getting the second treatment."
And she knows first-hand: Hope's a powerful motivator.
To donate to Daisy Zonneville's cause click here. And Saturday, take a ride up to O'Charley's in Mooresville on Saturday, 8 to 10 a.m., for a plate of pancakes and a good cause. Go north on I-77 and take exit 36. Turn left. It's about five lights down.