Debbie’s Story

Stage 4 lung cancer – words nobody wants to hear. As a nonsmoker, shock was my initial feeling when the Dr. told me of my diagnosis. As I started on my cancer journey, as devastated as I was, I knew God was with me. I trusted that He would take care of me.

Before my initial appointment to learn the course of my treatment, my family and I visited our local cancer center assuming I would be spending my days there being treated with IV chemo. My family and I prepared for me to lose my hair and all the list of side-effects that I often envisioned with chemotherapy. However, GOD had other plans for me.  

By His grace and mercy, He put me in the hands of Dr. Daniel Petro and his staff at The Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. By his good grace, I learned my type of cancer was caused by a gene mutation – anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive or also known as ALK+. While I don’t believe there is such thing has a ‘good’ cancer, I would learn that this type of cancer can be treated with targeted therapy and can have positive outcomes, which consists of 8 oral pills a day. Praise the Lord, no IV chemo.  

It’s been quite the journey though and one that certainly has not always felt easy. It started by wrestling with the insurance company to justify the need for the medication. A battle that often continues and feels daunting to justify a medication that could save my life.  This past July marked 2 years since my diagnosis. Every day, I pray “Lord, I know I’m healthy and I’m going to live.” The medication has not come without side-effects though. I struggle daily with digestive issues, which at times can impact my daily routine. One of my favorite things is the sun. I love the warm rays hitting my face; however, the medication doesn’t allow for me to be in direct sunlight. To even sit on my front porch, my calming place, I have to first make sure I have my special sunscreen applied, my hat is on, and I’m consistently aware of whether I’m in direct sunlight – or I pay the consequence of what can only be describe as burning from the inside out. My entire life has changed, this is my new normal.  But when I’m not feeling well or I can’t sit in the sun as I would like, I boldly say, “Not today Satan” and pray to God for patience.

With every pill I take I say a prayer asking God to continue to target the cancer and praise Him for all He’s already done.  I have been told numerous times that I have such a positive attitude. I can only attribute this to the power of prayer, the many wonderful people praying for me, and the support of my family – it’s what keeps me going. As of today, the mass on my lung as shrunk to what the doctor describes to be similar to a scab and my lymph nodes have deflated back to normal size.  I thank God every day for my shrinkage and the progress thus far.

Stage 4 lung cancer – words nobody wants to hear, but words I will not allow to defeat me or be able to steal my joy.

November is lung cancer awareness month, it’s also the month we focus on thankfulness and gratitude, as well as of tomorrow, I praise God for seeing another birthday. Today I am thankful for my family, friends, and that God has given me the strength to bear this sickness which I have been afflicted. Even in the struggle, He remains to be good. Thanks be to GOD.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation

Psalms 91:16
Samuel and one of his favorite people, Febbie.

Debbie lives in Central Pa with her husband of 45 years, Gary, and has 2 children, Chris and Danielle. Debbie is the proud grandmother to Alex (25) and Evan (18), she is also ‘Febbie’ to her youngest grandson, Samuel (4).

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