This is 50

She left her job, overcame tragedy and wrote 27 books -- at age 52

Aug. 6, 2014 at 11:18 AM ET

In collaboration with Huff/Post 50, we’re doing a three-day series featuring some of the most inspiring people who are 50 and over, from risk-takers to people who have completely reinvented themselves. 

After 18 years working as a writer for Lexmark and enjoying life with three kids and a loving man, 51-year-old Donna McDonald was both successful and happy.

Donna McDonald
TODAY

But when her company downsized, McDonald mustered up the courage to leave her job. Though she didn't know what the future might hold, she thought she finally had the chance to pursue the dream she had always wanted — to be an author.

Just a few months later, McDonald ended up facing a nightmare instead.

Her 30-year-old daughter, Leslie, was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. To make matters worse, Leslie was pregnant, and because of her illness had to deliver the baby early.

The next year of McDonald's life was filled with cancer treatments and hospital visits, and her goal of writing fiction fell to the wayside. Instead, she spent her time making her daughter a priority, paying for a miracle. One year later, Leslie died. 

Video: TODAY continues its collaboration with Huff Post 50 to honor people who’ve reinvented themselves after 50, including self-published author Donna McDonald. After the tragic death of her daughter, McDonald decided life was too short for her not to pursue her dream of writing fiction.

For two months, McDonald simply sat in her living room, numb to the pain of losing her child.Eventually, her younger daughter, Jennifer, tried to cheer her up by suggesting she read the novel "Eat, Pray, Love." As cliched as it sounds, reading it gave her just the inspiration she needed. 

McDonald sat down at her computer, determined to write. Just two and a half weeks later, she finished her first book — at the age of 52.

READ: At 56, she said 'ciao' to unhappiness and found her 'life's calling' in Italy

When her first two novels were rejected by traditional publishers, she learned to self-publish her books. And though she knew there was a possibility that her stories with characters over 50 might not sell, she was convinced her fellow baby boomers would love them. 

Donna McDonald
Courtesy of Donna McDonald

Twenty-seven books later, McDonald is sure this is the best job she's ever had. And from her pursuit of writing, she's learned a valuable lesson: Whatever passion you may have, just go for it. After all, it wasn't too late for her. 

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