Debbie is not only my sister, but she is my best friend. She is a wife, a mother, and grandmother, who by the age of 53, was diagnosed three times with breast cancer. As you read on, you will see that Debbie has been through a lot over the last 14 years and faced challenges that has tested her faith. But through it all, my sister Debbie has persevered and has not only grown in her faith, but more so her love for God, her family and life.
In January 2003, at the young age of 38, Debbie was diagnosed with Early Stage Breast Cancer. Our family was devastated. Her husband and three young children supported her as she underwent radiation treatment. By the grace of God she went into remission and continued to care for her husband, children and our elderly grandfather, all while working full time as a Project Administrative Assistant in Hilo.
Unfortunately, in September 2009, at the age of 45 and almost 6 years later, Debbie faced another medical challenge and was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. The news that this horrific disease was back, literally broke her spirit, as well as her family, children and her husband. Debbie made the difficult decision to follow through with the recommended double mastectomy surgery on O’ahu, along with months of injections and Chemotherapy. The 8 hour surgery went well despite additional new health risks she faced. At her bedside, I️ clearly remember my sister Debbie repeatedly asking me to please take her home, as she wanted to be back with her children on the Big Island. Once Debbie was strong enough to make the flight back home, both her and her husband Milton, were finally reunited with their children.
Sadly, soon after this surgery, Debbie became extremely & unexplainably sick. After a week of suffering and several trips to the doctor, Debbie was rushed to the emergency room in Hilo. Deb was diagnosed with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that's become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. Most MRSA infections occur in people who've been in hospitals or other health care settings and infections typically are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints. She flew to Oahu and was immediately admitted to Queens where she stayed 2 weeks. Condition for her release was putting in a pic line and having daily IV treatments in Hilo where her husband Milton and I️ would take turns administering antibiotics thorough IV at home every eight hours. Deb was also required to make weekly trips to Oahu for the next 8 weeks to follow up with her infection specialist. Despite IV treatments, she became ill once more and was ordered to once again fly back to Queens Hospital. With her husband and siblings by her side, Deb then underwent a 7-hour emergency surgery on January 1st, 2010 - New Years morning, to remove all chest expanders and all tissue, including part of the chest muscles, where the MRSA was hiding.
In February 2010, she began 6 rounds of chemotherapy before having two more surgeries in November 2010. The surgeon found extensive damage to her chest wall and recommended a Latissimus Dorsi flap procedure to reconstruct the chest wall by pulling part of the back muscle to the front in hopes to strengthen the area with healthy blood cells. After enduring weeks of pain and physical therapy after the surgery, Deb was then told by the doctor that she will no longer be able to work and considered disabled.
Deb found a new norm and was inspired to help cancer patients and has been a strong advocate in our community. Over the past 6 years, Deb has volunteered her time each week with local non-profit groups coordinating cancer events that promote awareness and support, and even became a certified Cancer Patient Navigator with two non profit groups so she could serve, assist, and advocate for cancer patients in Hilo. A project so dear to her heart was her deep involvement with the Hope Lodge campaign where she spent a year long journey speaking in our community as well as doing radio and TV appearances on O’ahu, in support of the Hope Lodge campaign. (Hope Lodge is a place where neighbor island folks stay for free while receiving treatment on Oahu.). Volunteering is her full time job which she will tell you is the most fulfilling and rewarding one in her career.
After being in remission for 8 years to the month, on September 22, 2017, at the age 53, Debbie was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer Stage 4 that has now traveled to her chest bone, lymph nodes and lungs. When she shared the news with us, she was calm and had a peace about her. She remained so strong and determined to fight this. She changed her diet and started filling her body with all natural immune boosting supplements to help counter & fight this horrific disease.
Looking ahead, Deb faces a new norm with monthly trips to Oahu for treatment, injections and follow-up appointments to closely monitor the cancer. She has already traveled to Oahu 6 times since August 2017 and rising medical expenses for scans, MRI, biopsy, and labs are mounting. Deb will take targeted therapy medications each day and manage side effects from it as well as take weekly blood draws and other tests (xrays and scans) ordered by her Oncologist. Other possible treatment options are radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.
Over the last 14 plus years, I️ have watched my sister and her family struggle through not only wondering if she will survive treatment, but also make ends meet. This has caused a major financial strain on all of them and I️ know that the pressure of it all has taken a toll on them. Through it all, Deb and her husband Milton continue to try and make ends meet on their own and has never asked for any type of financial assistance.
So today, I️ humbly ask for your gracious donation to help ease their financial burdens of not only the accumulated medical bills, but for the upcoming treatment (both natural and pharmaceutical), travel expenses, daily living expenses and travel that exceed their income. This may include any additional accommodations needed for her care giver to travel with her (when needed), to upcoming off-island surgeries, treatments and appointments.
Thank you in advance for your kind generosity, love, prayers and support over the years, but most of all, thank you for any donation you make For My Sister, Debbie, as I love her with all my heart.
With Much Love & Gratitude,
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