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People Are Worth Fighting For: Debbie Anderson's Story

02 February, 2019

Profiles of Courage: Debbie Anderson's Breast Cancer Survivor Story

My name is Debbie Anderson, some may know me as an employee of Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, Others recognize me from church, a few may even know me from different events around Elko County, but for the most part this is the first time most people in Nevada will get to know me for I am no one special. I am just an ordinary person who lives an ordinary life.

I moved to Elko Nevada in February of 2016 from a small town in ND where everyone knew me. I was Steve’s wife, one of my five children’s mom, one of my five grandchildren’s grandma. I was the daughter-in-law of Allen and Della. I was the women who brought the soccer to Valley City and developed it into the largest children’s activity program in town. If you were ever admitted to the hospital in Valley City you most likely spoke to me before leaving. I delivered meals on wheels every Thursday to 35 elderly individuals and I was the most sought after wedding and funeral singer in town. Yes, I was known, I was active, I was happy, and I would do anything for a moment to myself.

And then I got that dreaded phone call. If you ever received this phone call you know what I am talking about when I say that I will never forget the very moment, where I was and what I was doing when an oncologist from the Roger Maris Cancer Center called and asked if I could come in with my husband to visit about my biopsy results. When a doctor calls to schedule an appointment with you and your spouse you should know, it is not good news.

Breast cancer happened to me in November 2009 when, almost exactly one year from one mammogram to the next, one small tumor was discovered in my right breast. I have survived my breast cancer diagnosis by receiving surgery; a double mastectomy and hysterectomy which Webster dictionary would define as …everything that makes me female surgery, but heck…what does he know. Then I went on to having six months of chemotherapy, 40 dosages of radiation and extended use of Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy prescription for breast cancer, to reduce my risks of the cancer returning and inducing hot flashes and moodiness proving I was still a woman.

Remember I said I would have done anything to have some time alone…, well after my diagnosis with cancer, I had such a sense of loneliness. I remember laying on my husband’s lap with tears streaming from my cheeks, or sitting in the tub and silently crying so not to let anyone know how scared and afraid I was ----only to find out years later that my family too kept their fears and tears to themselves not to upset me. I did not have the strength for soccer, or the ability to sing as I was always short of breath. And I would never ask someone to deliver a meal to me or my family. But what you need to know as you read this, as people who may be going through this or know someone going through this very scenario, you’re not alone and there is strength in numbers.  

When I got my diagnosis, I remember thinking, ‘I’m not ready to die. I want to spend more time with my husband, my children and my grandchildren.

It became about what I can do to make myself well again, about what I can do to change my diet, learn how to exercise, so that my life was healthier. I was not only living for myself anymore, but for my family and every woman who was going through this same fight. People say cancer is a personal thing. I say it’s not. Cancer is your opportunity to go out there and tell people that they are worth fighting for. Every women is worth doing for themselves.

The scars that I carry are proof that I am a survivor, and that I am strong and resilient. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel a bit anxious and apprehensive every year as I come upon the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis, but I have learned to lean on my family and stay focused on the gratitude I feel to have overcome the disease.

I made my decision because I love life, to laugh, and to have fun always and I know I’m blessed…My scars? I barely see them. I feel whole; I really do. Because every day, I get to say, I am a Cancer Survivor, I’m healthy, I feel great and that’s beautiful.

This blog was orignially published on October 17, 2018, in the Elko Daily Free Press. You can access the original article here.