The Courage to Heal: Deborah’s Cancer Story

Deborah’s journey began like any other routine visit to her primary care physician, as she marked her fiftieth birthday with a check-up. Living in the serene suburbs, Deborah had no reason to suspect the storm that was about to engulf her life — the next cascade of events would challenge her perception of health and resilience. 

Concerned about irregular periods and unexplained weight gain, she confided in her physician, expecting reassurance but instead receiving a recommendation for a vaginal ultrasound, an uncommon step for a primary care visit. The ultrasound revealed ominous news. Her ovaries were enlarged, harboring complex cysts. Urgently referred to a gynecologist, Deborah faced the reality of ovarian cysts, prompting discussions of a complete hysterectomy. The presence of cancer was revealed by an elevated CA-125 blood test result. 

A serendipitous encounter with a family friend, an OB-GYN from the University of Pennsylvania, unveiled a crucial lifeline — a second opinion with a gynecologic oncologist. This expert’s insights were paramount, diagnosing Deborah with high-grade, stage two ovarian cancer during surgery, a revelation that shattered her sense of security. 

The whirlwind of treatment followed by chemotherapy tested Deborah’s physical and emotional fortitude. Fatigue, anemia, and fear became constant opponents, yet she persevered, drawing strength from her loved ones and the practices of yoga and meditation. Deborahs advice is, “Be patient with yourself. Listen to your body and rest when you need time to slow down. Advocate for yourself as no one else is going to do it for you. Ask for help in specific ways as your family and friend want to help but they need to be told what you need.” 

The discovery of a BRCA1 gene mutation added another layer of complexity to Deborah’s journey, prompting a proactive decision for a prophylactic mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Undeterred by her ordeal, Deborah emerged as a beacon of hope and advocacy, dedicating herself to supporting fellow survivors and advancing research. 

Through it all, her husband stood unwaveringly by her side, providing the steadfast support that anchored her amidst life’s tempests. Grateful for his love and patience, Deborah’s outlook on life shifted, embracing each moment with gratitude and resilience. 

Today, she stands as an embodiment of strength, her journey a testament to the power of advocacy, self-care, and unwavering support. She is now a dedicated Ovarian Cancer Survivor Research Advocate at the local, state, and national levels, and she is a peer mentor for newly diagnosed women across the country. As she looks ahead, Deborah’s heart brims with hope, envisioning a future where her experiences pave the way for a brighter, more compassionate world.