Debbie Stallings didn't have breast cancer in her family, and had never had a friend that was diagnosed with the disease. But she was interested in supporting the cause - not knowing that one day, she would need that support for herself. Inspired by a tote bag that her sons had given her just before her diagnosis, Debbie became an entrepreneur. Like Kathy Adams of Confident Clothing and Anne Best of DryDreams, Debbie joined the ranks of breast cancer survivors who turned their breast cancer journey into an opportunity to help other people. Debbie tells her breast cancer survivor story here.
Debbie's Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Age at diagnosis: 51
Type of breast cancer: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Lymph node status: 8 nodes, all clear
Tumor Description: Grade 1-2, Estrogen Positive
Surgery: Mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy, delayed reconstruction
Treatment: Femara for at least 10 years
Diagnosed on: August 2007
Family History of Breast Cancer: None
A Serendipitous Gift Bag
My two sons gave me a Pink Ribbon New Balance workout bag for my 51st Birthday, three weeks before my breast cancer diagnosis. I had participated in the Komen Race for the Cure for several years in my home town of Plano, Texas. I had never known anyone with breast cancer - I was just touched by the Cause. I continue to be a part of the Komen Race each year as a survivor now. I was a volunteer with Komen in June 2009 and also had a Team called "Journey Gals" made up of survivors, friends and family. Being a part of the survivor parade each year is heart moving and healing.
Late For A Mammogram
I was diagnosed with breast cancer August 2007 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, grade 1-2, estrogen receptor positive. I was six months late for my mammogram, because I had canceled my original appointment for some non-important appointment and then I forgot to reschedule. One night I sat straight up in bed remembering I had never had my mammogram. A few weeks after my appointment I was called back in to have further testing and the digital mammogram found one spot, then I was sent over for a breast MRI which found two more. Lumpectomy was not an option at this point, so I was scheduled for an mastectomy. During my first surgery, they removed eight lymph nodes and they were all clear. I had my mastectomy on October 17, 2007 and had breast reconstruction with a silicone implant in 2008. My treatment is taking Femara for at least 10 years to remove all estrogen from my body.
Support From Family and Friends
My husband Tracy and my two sons; Tommy 25, and Tony 20, were my awesome support system. They were there for me through all the emotions and fears. My husband was by my side at all of my appointments and surgeries and of course my guys kept telling me how beautiful I was. My Mom also stayed with me for two weeks and cared for me and did everything that I could not do. What would a girl do without her Mom's support and love? Friends - so many wonderful friends brought meals over and offered so much support.
On the day I stood in my doctor's office and she told me I had breast cancer, I knew I would do something to be a part of helping other women going through the same journey. Just a few months later - in January 2008 following my surgery and recovery - I started working on what I was going to do to add comfort to other women's journeys. As I was writing my biography for a breast cancer fashion show that Baylor Hospital and Saks had invited me to as a survivor model, the word journey kept coming up. I had carried the Pink Ribbon Bag that my sons had purchased for me all though my appointments, biopsies, and surgeries. It held everything I needed: reading glasses, journal, warm throw, water bottle and more. I realized that was what I wanted to do.
A New Venture Offers Support
I started working on a web site offering gifts that would comfort and touch other survivors. I started with JourneyBags that could be purchased by a survivor or given as a gift for a survivors journey. I launched www.Journeybag.com January 2009 - just a few weeks after my last surgery. The New Balance Pink Ribbon bag my sons had given me is now sold on my web site, as well as crosses, books, gifts that had touched me, and more. As of May 2009, I have expanded the site to cover all types of cancer survivors, men, women, children and even heart health awareness.
Being a Breast Cancer Survivor
The day you are diagnosed with cancer is the day you become a survivor. Breast cancer gave me a second chance in life. Both my sons were gone off to college, so a cause to fight for was just what I needed. I now have over 40 survivor sisters that I have met on my journey and they touch my life each day. I can say there is life after breast cancer. I am doing well and I am a survivor.