Debi had thyroid cancer in 2001, and in 2014 began her fight against breast cancer. Anyone who has experienced an emotional and/or physical hardship can empathize with the monstrous wave of concern and fear that can consume us. One can only imagine the difficulties Debi came face-to face-with. Her admirable strength at this point in her life radiates, but she admits that due to breast cancer there were years of self-doubt, insecurities, and fear of never returning to her old self.
Debi gave us the raw truth to her battle because there wasn’t any other way to approach it. It was during a biopsy review, based on a mammogram, when the tumor was discovered and predicted to be cancerous. She knew she wanted to take immediate action. After the verbal confirmation of cancer, she was referred to a surgeon, and scheduled her appointment right away. Her surgeon informed her that the surgery would be a lumpectomy, with a need for 6 weeks of radiation. During her lumpectomy surgery, in early January, it was discovered there was more to the fight. Unfortunately, more cells showed up of which needed to be removed in her breast. The next step for her was a single mastectomy with no radiation. However, Debi decided she wanted a double mastectomy because she wanted to diminish the possibility of cancer returning to her body through means she could control. Her surgeon at the time advised against it and Debi got the reaction from others that her decision was drastic. To her, however, this was the only answer she saw probable. Debi then spoke with a social worker who respected her decision and advised her to get a second opinion. Debi found a new surgeon who researched her case and agreed to follow through her wishes.
Support from others is one of the areas Debi depended on for strength. She often felt confused and unsure during her experience, asking her doctors and family for answers to the decisions only she could make. Her husband and two daughters were the only support she desired at the time. As for others, it almost felt draining trying to keep people updated. She knew this hurt many people in her life, but she had to do what was best for her. When her immediate family came to terms with her decision on a double mastectomy, this was the best reassurance she could have received at the time.
Even with the support she needed, Debi still wanted to be sure she would feel like a woman again. She soon made the choice to extend her double mastectomy procedure, and have reconstruction surgery immediately after.
“If I had known then what I know now, I probably would not have done that.”
Debi had been unaware of places like Thelma’s, and the concept of breast prosthesis altogether, until after her double mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries. To her, you either had implants or had nothing. Debi had not known how strenuous the reconstruction process was going to be for her. She wishes she would’ve taken the time to let her mind and body heal before making a decision. There is nothing wrong with being patient with your body.
Debi lost the feeling of being appealing to her husband, although he told her he would always love her. This deeply troubled Debi because she values her relationship with her husband immensely. She says she still struggles with feeling pretty and confident, but the best advice she can give is to remember that with the bad days there will be good days. One must be patient and realize that recovering from this fight is a long process. Don’t look for a quick fix because one needs to be patient with their pain. The struggle is not what defines a person, and one must learn to carry themselves with new strength.
Debi said choosing to attend various support groups at the Breast Cancer Coalition was one of the best decisions she made. She meets bi-weekly with women to talk about their experiences, or talk about life in general. It’s a moving and inspiring environment. The group re-instills the mindset that everyone has a different story, but they all have found a common-ground of strength.
Some time later Debi visited Thelma's as a customer. She said she felt such a welcoming environment that she wanted to be a part of the team. She started her employment at Thelma’s in the spring of 2017 as a mastectomy fitter. She takes pride in giving women the support they deserve. Although, she admits to feeling guilty in the regards of not being able to relate to the chemotherapy or radiation treatments some have endured. She still believes and demonstrates that she can relate to them, which makes her a positive asset.
Empathy is one of the most powerful gifts we as people can give. People often become engulfed in their own pain, assuming no one can relate to the extent they need. Debi had a life-changing fight like many, and the result of that fight is her beautifully giving the gift of empathy to others. While she knows that being alive is a miracle within itself, there is still a mental recovery from having one's pain publicized. This mental recovery should not be diminished because a positive state of mental health is the true component to being ones old self again.
-MaryKate Frey, Social Media Consultant at Thelma's
-MaryKate Frey, Social Media Consultant at Thelma's