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Debbie is a mother who was 11 years into remission when she was diagnosed again. She is encouraging people to advocate for their health and push for help when you need it.

This is Debbie’s story.

Diagnosis: I had breast cancer before this…when I was 45. I went through chemo and 35 treatments of radiation and at the end of that I was good. I was 11 years clear. Then I found a lump in my neck. I thought it was a muscle or a gland. I probably found it in May, but I had a doctor’s appointment in July anyway, so I thought I won’t bother with that. I’ll just wait until I see him in July. My mistake.

They found cancer in my lymph nodes. It was a shock for sure. I thought wow, really? Okay, what do we do now? When I found out it was in my neck, I thought that was exactly where it was, right there. They said they couldn’t operate because it was too close to my heart and lungs. But I thought with a little bit of treatment, or whatever, we might be able to do this.

But then when I went back in the next time and was told it was actually IN my lungs…that…took me back quite a bit. Within those 11 years I had friends die, and many had cancer, different kinds of cancer, and I knew once it got into your lungs, it goes to your brain and can travel really fast so of course my first initial reaction was…I started to cry…but I had to catch my breath. I thought NO, just because it happened to this particular person does not mean it’s going to happen to me.

Once I digested all of that I said okay, it’s there but is this it for me? When I was told it was in my lungs they explained it was because of the breast cancer, that it travelled and it came through the lymph nodes in my neck and then down into my lungs and then I was asked if my back bothered me and I said are you going to tell me it’s there too? My back did bother me, but I thought I had just pulled a muscle or something. That’s when I found out about the cancer in my spine.

I had never even heard the term metastatic before this and I have no idea why people aren’t talking about it. I worried about the cancer coming back but the furthest thing from my mind was that it would come back into my lungs and my spine. From my breasts? Really? I don’t know why it’s not being talked about, but I think it should be for people like myself.

Living with mBC: I don’t think I’m naïve or have my head in the sand but when you feel good and healthy it’s hard to imagine that something’s actually wrong. You have to be in tune with your body, the little things. When something’s not quite right, you just know. I think people need to know it’s okay to tell their doctor when something feels not quite right. And people should be more aware about cancer – that just because it’s in one spot doesn’t mean it will stay in that one spot and that’s it. I think they should know when it comes to breast cancer, there could be a possibility that it spreads. That it could be metastatic breast cancer.

The best advice I can give? Take a deep breath and think about the most positive thing in your life. What do you want? Really want? Is it not to live? Of course not. So, live EVERY DAY the best you can and then some – so if tomorrow doesn’t come, you know today was a good run. I believe our time is all written somewhere in our life book. It starts when you’re born and stops when the good lord is ready for you. Until that day comes, I’m staying here and I’m going to cause a little havoc. After all, I have a 28-year-old son and if he ever gets married, I need to dance at his wedding.
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