October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. One local resident understands the significance of that better than most. Debbie Seaton is no stranger to cancer. She has beat the disease twice, and is now battling it a third time.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.
One local resident understands the significance of that better than most. Debbie Seaton is no stranger to cancer. She has beat the disease twice, and is now battling it a third time.
Her own journey began in 2008, she said her father's cancer had returned.
While she was taking care of him, she began noticing some oddities of her own — but initially ignored them.
Later she scheduled a mammogram, which resulted in an immediate diagnosis. That very afternoon she was told she had a fairly large tumor at stage 2.
But things were not as they seemed.
After checking more thoroughly her diagnosis was changed to stage 3 and by the time her surgery arrived, she was looking at stage 4 — and the cancer had spread to two places on her spine.
By 2009 Seaton was on chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
At the time of Seaton's experience, she built a close bond with another local woman, Kinlee Farris, who worked at the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce at the time.
“Kinlee was diagnosed as stage 1 just two weeks before I had my diagnosis; she really battled with hers,” Seaton said. “It's been a few years ago now since we lost her.”
Seaton said her friend always stayed so positive through the ordeal — an attitude Seaton said she has also aimed to maintain.
Seaton continued working full time as she dealt with her illness and treatment.
“Many people didn't even realize I was sick because I looked so healthy,” she said.
She said she had hormone-related medications, but after three years it quit working.
“The cancer on my spine flared and I had to get shots every four weeks,” she said.
Though Seaton's cancer went into remission at that time, since the cancer is in her bones, she said she has to remain on medication the rest of her life.
For seven years now, the treatments she has been taking — two shots every four weeks and daily pills three weeks out of each month — have held it at bay and have kept her going.
That was, until a few months ago; in June Seaton geared up to face yet another bout with cancer.
As the war has raged, Seaton said not only is it frightening when it comes back, but now she is up against the financial end of it. The cancer-treating medications Seaton has to take the rest of her life are costly: the two Faslodex injections she takes each month are $7,400 and each month of the Ibrance (chemo-targeting therapy) pills costs $14,000 — not to mention her monthly copay of $2,400.
Thankfully, she said there are organizations and foundations out there now that can help offset some of the mounting bills.
From her years of experience, and after talking to several physicians, Seaton said the playing field of cancer appears to be changing some.
“Doctors are getting better control of it,” she said. “Though there's no cure, it is becoming something many patients can maintain and, as a result, live out their lives with it.”
Though her world has significantly changed — and in the beginning she wondered 'why her?' — she assures it has not been for nothing — God has directed her steps through the journey.
Seaton said she had just lost her father before her diagnosis. She said she prayed for direction, and within no time women were showing up with stories and suggestions.
“Five people recommended a specific doctor to see,” she said. “Dr. Denise Rable is a breast surgeon whose grandmother also had been through cancer.”
Seaton said Rable's experience with the illness shaped a perspective that was very compassionate and caring.
“She took care to weigh the cosmetic side of things, and considered those when advising what needed to be done,” Seaton said.
She said God guided her to select that doctor, and it afforded her a more positive approach to handling the issues she was facing.
Seaton said she has learned to look at the whole experience as a tool for ministry.
“You don't realize when you are battling something, how much you are ministering to others,” she said.
Seaton said it's been an opportunity to be an encouragement.
“It's changed my life, sure, but it's made me stronger,” Seaton said. “And it's opened doors to minister to people I wouldn't have had the opportunity to otherwise.”
There's one thing Seaton said she knows for sure.
“The journey is different for each person,” she said. “Everyone responds differently to it.”
She said people are unique and react differently to the illness and/or treatment.
“A lot go through it and never have trouble again,” she said. “While others are dealing with it over and over.”
She said it's scary sometimes, but she thanks God every day for her life and the path she now walks.
“Any cancer is serious — whether it's stage 1 or 4 doesn't matter,” she said. “I know people who were stage 1 and aren't here anymore.”
She said someone's physical ability to fight off the disease is only part of the puzzle.
“A lot of it depends on your outlook,” she said.
Seaton said one person's journey isn't going to look like someone else's; they won't be the same — they can't be compared.
“The important thing is to never give up,” she said.