Senior ladies on stage with sashes

Wobbling Toward the Crown

Senior Scene


At Oak Mountain High School on June 10, twenty women plan to “Dare to Dream” as they “Live their Dreams” when they compete in a senior pageant for the state title. I plan to join them! 13 senior women (ages 60-69) and seven other super senior women (ages 70+) will compete in the Ms. Senior Alabama pageant. This year’s theme of the Ms. Senior Alabama Inc., is to “Dare to Dream.” Delegates seek to enrich the lives of senior women while offering opportunities for them to share their experiences, wisdom, and interests with others. 

Donna Francavilla
Donna Francavilla currently holds the title of Ms. Senior Hoover 2023.

God has always worked in my life, but I hadn’t noticed his wondrous ways until more recently. You look up at Him when flat on your back. An example of God manifesting in my life is that my eldest son Michael played a critical role in my journey. I gave him life; he returned the favor by restoring mine. A radiologist at the University of South Alabama (USA), my son diagnosed my condition when he was the first to read an MRI scan of my brain. Michael discovered a large tumor called an acoustic neuroma, a vestibular schwannoma. I was treated by multiple radiation therapies at the University of Alabama in Birmingham Hospital. A couple of years later, my friend Marlene Wallace Berndt noticed how the tumor was affecting me. Alarmed, she called my doctor, saying, “There’s something wrong with our girl!” The neurosurgeon then realized that I had a large growing acoustic neuroma and hydrocephalus (water on the brain) for nearly a year. Emergency brain surgery was performed to install a drainage shunt in my head. When the tumor grew larger yet again, the tumor became life-threatening by pressing against my brain stem. Last July, I underwent another surgery to remove most of the tumor. 

Senior ladies on stage with sashes
The Ms. Senior Alabama pageant is set for June 10 at Oak Mountain High School. Alabama Media Professionals is sponsoring Donna Francavilla’s participation.

In what the Ms. Senior Alabama website calls a “sisterhood,” each delegate serves their communities and each other with the common goal of improving, inspiring, representing, and helping. I am so grateful to have a second lease on life. In June, almost a year after the latest surgery, I plan to look my best and join other senior women on stage to celebrate all that I can do rather than wallow in the deficits I now have. Those include permanent deafness in one ear and no vestibular nerve on one side. The tumor also causes persistent headaches, blurred vision, numbness, weakness on 1 side of my tongue and face, brain fog, vertigo, and problems with limb coordination. Ms. Senior Alabama’s theme this year focuses on butterflies. In many ways, I can relate. Like butterflies that emerge anew; we feel alive, grateful, beautiful, and ready to spread our wings. 

-Donna Francavilla


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