The sign hanging in Debi's charming Danville farmhouse proclaims, "Home is Where the Story Begins." For this nurse and grandmother, home means country living with her husband Tim, complete with a garden, wildflowers and a pig pair named Petunia and Porkette. Debi's story, however, took an unexpected turn last spring when she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
It began with a routine mammogram at Hendricks Regional Health, Debi's first experience with the new 3D digital mammography. The advanced technology has two key benefits—earlier detection of breast cancer and improved peace of mind due to its greater accuracy. This is especially important for women with denser breast tissue. Also, 3D means there are less unnecessary callbacks, sparing patients the anxiety that occurs with coming back for more imaging tests.
Early detection in action
In Debi's case, her proactive approach to routine screenings, along with 3D mammogram capabilities, caught her breast cancer early. "Though I did not have a family history of breast cancer, it didn't mean I wasn't at risk. That's why it's so important for women to make a personal commitment to preventative care."
Additional testing, including a biopsy in the Center for Breast and Bone Health at Hendricks Regional Health, led to the diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). This is how 85% of breast cancers begin. Early detection and a tailored treatment plan are the biggest allies in preventing cancer from progressing to a more life-threatening, advanced stage. "So many women believe they will feel a lump if something is wrong," Debi says. "But in my case, there was no lump to feel because it hadn't spread."
Creating a plan
Despite a positive prognosis, Debi and Tim knew they still were at the beginning of a life-changing journey. The first step was meeting with breast surgical oncologist Monet Bowling, MD, in the Hendricks Regional Health Breast Center. Together they mapped out a treatment plan that included surgery and radiation.
What Debi remembers the most from this appointment is how Dr. Bowling treated both her and Tim. "She was so compassionate. I knew Tim was starting to feel really overwhelmed, and she must have felt that, too. She leaned right in, looked at him and said, 'I have got this. I am going to take care of her and she will be fine.' Dr. Bowling truly understands that it is not just the woman dealing with this. It is the whole family."
Debi is well into her radiation treatments and doing wonderfully. Her care team includes Dr. Bowling as well as Dr. Stanley Givens, radiation oncologist; Dr. Stephen Eberwine, medical oncologist; and Christy Wilson, physical therapist specializing in women's health. Debi also participated in the Livestrong program for cancer survivors at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA.
Sharing her story
With a personality that is equal parts compassion, sincerity and sass, she wants to share her story with as many as she can. "I started blogging about my journey on Facebook. It's so rewarding to spread the positivity and share how important is to be proactive about our health."
Debi has many chapters left to write, and she hasn't let breast cancer slow her down. Through their farm, she and Tim are actively involved with the nonprofit organization, Why Not Today, which provides food to Hendricks County Food Coalition, Project Homeless Indy, and other Central Indiana food pantries. She is also a founding member of Family Promise, a local nonprofit group serving homeless families in our community.
Debi's other passion is helping others achieve healthier, happier lives through her work as a certified wellness nurse. The impact of her cancer journey has made this work even more meaningful to her.
In her down time, not that there's much of it, you can find Debi enjoying some iced tea on the porch at Walnut Hill Farm. Chances are she's happily keeping a watchful eye on her young grandsons Archer and Brooks, or welcoming family and friends for a visit. You may also spot Rusty and Snoopy, the resident cows.
But most of all, you'll find a life that while touched by breast cancer, is beautiful, inspiring and full of hope.