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Life-changing diagnosis teaches family that "things" don't matter

Komen East Tennessee Staff • Feb 21, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Some of you might have noticed the ad for our upcoming Tri-Cities Race for the Cure, with the two beautiful women embracing and supporting each other. It might be obvious to some which one is fighting breast cancer, but then maybe not.

In 2016, Debbie and Craig Chapman had just settled into retirement after successful careers at Eastman. They were looking forward to time together, with kids, grandkids and friends. In August of 2017, they celebrated along with their daughter Amber and son-in-law the birth of twin grandsons. Little did they know how much more their lives were going to be changed in the coming months.

Debbie was getting ready for bed in March 2018, when she noticed a lump. She immediately became concerned and called the doctor the next day. She had always been aware of what was normal for her and “followed the rules.” She did not say anything to any of her family at first. When she was unable to secure an appointment right away, she confided in Amber. They called Amber’s doctor and were able to get an appointment for a mammogram, ultrasound, and then a biopsy within a week. Yes, they called Amber’s doctor. You see, Amber herself had been diagnosed only a few months before with breast cancer.

Debbie’s diagnosis was stage 1 estrogen positive breast cancer, and her tumor would not be receptive to chemotherapy. Since Debbie and Craig had been helping with the twins, now 7 months old, during Amber’s treatment, Debbie’s first priority was her daughter. Her doctor agreed to let her try an estrogen blocker in order to hold off on the lumpectomy until Amber was done with treatment. The blocker did work, so surgery was put off. In May, Debbie suffered two strokes. Because of the strokes, surgery that was scheduled for June would have to be put off for six more months.

The estrogen blocker continued to work for Debbie, and by the time she was able to have her lumpectomy in November, the tumor had shrunk. So, after surgery, she started radiation treatment. When we met last week, she had only a few treatments left.

Throughout this journey, Debbie, Craig and their entire family have realized that lots of “things” don’t matter. They realize how important family, church family, and community are. They have also realized how important knowing your family’s health history is.

In the coming weeks, we look forward to introducing more of Debbie and Craig’s family and sharing their amazing family’s story of how breast cancer has made an impact. But more importantly, how their family is fighting back and wants to share that story and fight with the community to make a difference!

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