By her own admission, Dina Howard is a planner, almost obsessively so. But nothing prepared the 39-year-old Sacramento woman for the turn her life took in the fall of 2005 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Over the ensuing months, under the care of UC Davis physicians Helen Chew, James Goodnight and Janice Ryu, Howard made difficult decisions about surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Photo of Dina Howard and daughter
Howard's diary chronicles the impact of her breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery on her entire family, including daughter Maya, now 3.

Howard is not a radio reporter by vocation, but she documented her journey with a reporter's ear. For a year between two Thanksgiving Days, Howard recorded her unvarnished thoughts and taped her experiences.

Distilled down from one year to one hour, the compelling, first-person documentary provides a rare, full-circle look at breast cancer — from diagnosis to treatment to survival. Listeners accompany Howard as she passes time in the waiting room before mastectomy surgery, as she undergoes her first chemotherapy treatment and as she arrives at UC Davis Cancer Center for her last radiation treatment.

The documentary, originally aired on Capital Public Radio in late December, can now be accessed online at, along with additional audio and photos.

Also available for streaming or downloading on the Capital Public Radio site is a recording of a half-hour interview with Howard and Goodnight. The interview aired on Dec. 29 on the KXJZ program Insight.

Howard also shares moments at home with her husband and children and on the beach in her native Santa Barbara.

Howard says she made the decision to create Dina's Diary as “a way to make a difference.”

Her goal: “ … to make lemons into lemonade by somehow being a kind of breast cancer big sister for women I would never meet who would come after me.”