Debbie S.

My ‘cancer story’ originally began in 2001. After 6 weeks of inconclusive testing, I lost my mother to a brain tumor. At that point, I realized that my grandmother, my aunt AND my mother had been stolen much too early from the deadly disease known as CANCER. I also realized that ultimately I would take my turn as well.

Yearly exams in July were always a must for me and I never questioned their importance. Therefore, it was a total shock when I found a lump in May of 2015 doing a self-exam. I did not really think it was serious because I had always been told, ‘Women who nurse their children don’t get breast cancer.’ However, I saw my doctor quickly, and got a diagnosis by June. (Ironically, this diagnosis was a few days prior to our “Monica Lopez Benefit Tournament”!) I immediately thought, ‘Okay, here it is, I am going to die soon’. I am going to leave my husband and my 12 year old son!

In July, I had a lumpectomy procedure and an ‘Onco’ test done to find out if I needed chemo. Since I was in the mid-range, the decision was mine to make. Of course, it was really no decision at all, because the prayers had been said already and my husband and I never even discussed whether or not I would have chemo. We were going to do everything possible to prolong my life!

We found a place that matched my hair color to a sample and ordered my wig, knowing that I would be losing my hair on the 14 day. Being a teacher of 6 yr old’s, I needed to keep things consistent and inconspicuous. Losing my hair, however, was worse than I ever imagined! My husband had travelled to Paraguay, so I had to enlist the help of my son in law to be my barber! (I never realized, number one, how much ‘stubble’ would stick to the pillow when you tried to sleep and number two, how cold your head would get without hair! ) My wig ‘looked’ natural, but it definitely did not ‘feel’ natural! The netting around the edge of my forehead nearly drove me insane! After my students left for the day, I would close my door and immediately yank it off! I began to realize that something had to change, so I got a book from the ACS that explained how a little girl’s mother got sick and lost her hair. Her little girl would have ‘hat day’ with her so she could share in the support of her mother. I remember telling my kids that I would still love them even if they did not have hair. I proceeded to ask them if they would still love ME if I didn’t have hair and after a bit of discussion, I told them I was wearing a wig. Of course, they wanted to see my shiny head!

My treatments were basically uneventful except for the marvelous privilege I was given to be a ‘guinea pig’. Wise Health had a new ‘shot’ called the ‘on-body injector’ from Neulasta. I was thrilled to test a new tool that would be used by future cancer patients in Decatur, Texas! The trial injections and chemo went pretty smoothly and I only had to miss 2 days of school total!

Now, it was time to tackle the radiation! I incurred severe burns under my arm and had to cut the edges off my bra as well as wear large loose fitting clothes! Treatments were done daily, Monday through Friday for 33 consecutive rounds. We set a goal to be finished before our Christmas ski trip on December 17 and I made it with 2 days to spare! (Needless to say, the fatigue prevented me from skiing that year.)

In the summer of 2016, the 3rd Annual Monica Lopez Benefit Karate Tournament was in my honor. Mr. Starnes, Monica and all of our karate family were absolutely amazing!

It has now been almost 4 years and I still feel fear when there is an unfamiliar pain somewhere because I don’t think that a person is ever really ‘cancer free’. I have vowed to live every day to the fullest, love my husband, my son and my Lord to the best of my ability. I pray that I can be a supportive, positive influence to other women facing the fight just as Monica, my school family, my karate family and my church family has been to me! No ONE person ever has cancer, FAMILY and FRIENDS have cancer!

Thank you for the opportunity to share ‘My Cancer Story’ with you!

-Debbie S.