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Debbie’s Story

  December 28, 2018

Debbie has been providing us with yearly updates since her brain tumour diagnosis in January 2012. Please enjoy these updates.

Update: December 2019

2019 came and went so quickly.

My daughter and I enjoyed a fabulous trip to the UK, her first.  Lots of extended family to meet and sights to see.

debbie's story 2019 update

To keep myself busy, now that my Boss has retired, I started volunteering one morning a week at the Victoria Brain Injury Society.  I have an Acquired Brain Injury, as a result of my brain tumour, and they are so understanding.

MRI #20 was clear.  This time to celebrate I added two new tattoos, a tulip and a heart.  Most painful experience I’ve going through but worth it to me.

It’s hard to believe that in May 2020 I will be an 8-year Survivor.  I continue to attend my monthly Brain Tumour Support Group, facilitated by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.  We meet once a month and are a mix of newly diagnosed, those in active treatment and long time Survivors.  We share more laughs than tears.

MRI #21 is in April.  After this one I will let my Oncologist know that I am ready to have scans once a year.  He has been wonderful and hasn’t rushed me to extend the length between scans.  I’ve been scared and anxious to have such a long break in between.  I’ve had so many clear MRIs I just have to do it.

Debbie's 2018 tattooUpdate: December 2018

2018 has been a great year and has gone so fast.

MRI #19 was clear! To celebrate 6 years cancer-free I added another flower tattoo, this time a Lupin.

Looking forward to a Happy and Healthy 2019! My 7th year as a Survivor!

Update: August 2017

Debbie and her Mom2017 has been a terrific year so far!

In April I enjoyed amazing holidays to the UK and Las Vegas and am so thankful for my good health & for the memories we’re making.

My team Gnome More Cancer participated in this year’s Brain Tumour Walk and raised $2387. My Gnomies are amazing.

MRI #17 was clear. No signs of tumour, whew!  I was so anxious waiting for my Oncologist to walk down the hall and into the room with my results. It takes me about a day to come down from all of the nervousness and anxiety of both the MRI & result days.

Debbie's tattoo 2017Being 5 year’s cancer-free really is amazing. I always tell my Oncologist that red wine & tattoos help. Finding the humour in the tumour has kept me sane through this journey.

I celebrated my 5 years with a Lotus tattoo. This one hurt, but is worth the pain.

Update: November 2016

Debbie's Tattoos 2016It’s been a while since my last update. My 15th MRI was clear and I’ve been cancer-free for 4 years now, so more flowers have been added to my cancer-free garden. 🙂  Two Gerbera daisies and a rose to commemorate my last clear MRI and my 4 years’ Cancerversary.

I am very blessed to continue to have amazing support from my family and friends.  My team Gnome More Cancer participates in the Brain Tumour Walk event every year. My favourite day of the year.

Monthly Brain Tumour Support Group meetings are a wonderful way to be with other Survivors and to give support to new patients. I never miss a meeting.

I do struggle with my brain injury. Having no short term memory is hard on me and my family. Thankfully the Victoria Brain Injury Society and the Counsellors at BCCA provide support for that.

As 2017 approaches so does my 5 year since diagnosis which scares me.

Debbie's Tattoo 2016

My Oncologist told me he’s never mentioned anything about what may or may not happen at 5 years.

Next April my Mom and I are flying to the UK to see family that I haven’t seen since 1999. When I was first diagnosed I can honestly say I didn’t think we’d be together again. I better warn my family I’ll be a teary mess, although happy one, at the Airport!

My BFF is turning 40 the week after our UK trip and we have planned a fun trip to Las Vegas to celebrate.  Brain cancer and treatment took away many memories but I am so blessed to be here to make more.

Update: December 21, 2015

Debbie and friends at an awareness event 2015

As we get ready to say good-bye to 2015 it’s time for an update.

2015 has been a great year with so many memories made with my family and friends.

To celebrate October’s Brain Tumour Awareness Month I had my very first brain tumour ribbon tattoo updated. Al did an amazing job and I’m thrilled. I get asked frequently what my ribbon means and I am proud to say that it’s for Brain Cancer and that I am a 3-year survivor.

Debbie's Ribbon tattoos 2015On October 17, 2015, my friends joined me at my Brain Tumour Awareness booth at a local mall. We wore grey and gave out awareness wristbands and cookies.On November 13, 2015, I got the results of my 13th MRI. No sign of recurrent tumour!!! Best news ever. In 2016 I’m looking forward to having more good times with my loved ones and getting my next tattoo.MRI #14 February 2016. Gnome powers 🙂

Update: June 13, 2015

Debbie and Team Gnome More CancerOn May 24 my team, Gnome More Cancer participated in the Victoria Brain Tumour Walk. We were 57 plus 1 Marmot strong and raised over $2,400.00 which helped Victoria Brain Tumour Walk achieve their target.

On June 5, 2015, I found out that my latest MRI was clear and I am still Cancer free.  As positive as I am, I’ll admit I was scared waiting for my results. From the MRI test date to result day, I’m stressed and have headaches so imagine every terrible scenario that may unfold on result day.

Debbie's Tattoos 2015I celebrated this milestone with a 3-year cancer-free flower tattoo.

In 2013 a Hibiscus, 2014 a Plumeria and 2015 a Lily. I’m working on a sleeve or two.


Update: August 11, 2014

Debbie at Brain Tumour Walk 2014This is a very exciting update for me and my family!

May 25 was Victoria’s Brain Tumour Walk.

My team, Gnomes Who Roam was 57 strong. We raised $1,594 for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada!

I dressed like a gnome this year which was so fun and after the walk, my team joined me at my van so that we could draw the gnome prizes for my team.

Debbie and Team 2014For every $25.00 donation the donor’s name goes in a draw to win a prize gnome. For $100.00 donations the donor automatically wins a gnome. Such a fun day.

On Saturday, August 9 we celebrated! I am now two years cancer-free!

When I had my first clear MRI in 2012 after my treatment ended I asked my Oncologist if I’m considered cancer-free or if I’m in remission. He explained that because he can’t see in my brain to see what’s going on that I am now considered “stable”.

Debbie's Tattoos 2014This was fine but I decided when I got the news recently, that MRI #10 was Perfectly Clear, I am now considering myself to be “Cancer Free.” This change in mindset has really helped me. Remission always made me feel like we’re just waiting for my tumour to come back. I know there is still a possibility that it can but whether I’m in remission or cancer-free the cancer is gone until I’m told otherwise!

I celebrated my 1st-year cancer free with a flower tattoo and last week I added a second flower to it! My hope, as well as my family, is that I have two sleeves full of flowers!

Update: February 11, 2014

Life has really gone by so fast since my last update.

On October 5, 2013, I organized a fundraiser for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. We held an indoor garage-gift-and-bake sale with 100% of monies raised going to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada! With the extraordinary help from my friends and family, we were able to raise $2,065! I am already thinking of what we can do this year! I also shared my story with CTV News and my Mom and friends got to show off their tattoos on camera!

In December 2013, my friend Carmen had a great idea! Instead of sending out Christmas cards we pooled our money and went down to the Cancer Clinic here in Victoria. We had $500 parking money to share, cookie bags and candy canes. We had a table set up inside the front doors and handed out an envelope and treat to every person that either came in or left the clinic. It took about 4 hours until everything was gone. It felt so great to give back and as cancer patients and their families can understand parking is expensive!

I had MRI #9 on January 10, 2014! I have nicknamed the machine the Tunnel of Love, although I hate it! Another clear scan with no signs of recurrent tumour!

Debbie Live TattooA few days prior to getting my results and had the word Live tattooed on my leg. The word live means a lot to me! Since my diagnosis on March 16, 2012 living is what I do. I try to live life to the fullest!

On February 2, 2014, my husband, our two kids and my Mom flew to Las Vegas! On February 3, 2014, Paul and I renewed our Wedding Vows at Graceland Wedding Chapel. This is the same Chapel we were married in 16 years ago this May! This time it was a full Elvis wedding and we loved it!

It is hard to believe that on March 16, 2014, I will be a two-year survivor of Stage 3 brain cancer! Wow, I did it, and not alone! I have had so much support from family and friends this whole journey!

We are now gearing up for Victoria’s Brain Tumour Awareness Walk on May 25th! This is the 3rd year we’ve participated. My goal this year is to make my team, Gnomes Who Roam, a big one to help spread brain tumour awareness here in Victoria!

Update: August 15, 2013

Debbie's one year anniversary tattoo“I just celebrated my 1-year remission from brain cancer on Aug. 9! To celebrate I got this tattoo!”

Debbie celebrated her one year anniversary of remission just a few days ago. We are so happy to celebrate with her!

Update: June 2013

Debbie at Victoria Brain Tumour WalkOnce again I took part in the Victoria Brain Tumour Walk – and what a great day!

I was even able to celebrate and share a little more of my story by being called up by a Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada representative to the stage!

Debbie Gnomes Who Roam TeamAlso, my team for Brain Tumour Walk was called ‘ Who Roam’. We encouraged fundraising by saying that for every $25.00 donation my team members got their name in our gnome prize draw!

We had just under 15 prizes and drew names at my van after the walk! I am so proud to say that we raised $1,025! Thank you to my family and friends for their ongoing support!


Update: December 20, 2012

Debbie celebrating end of treatmentOn November 11 I finished chemotherapy!

I celebrated with my friends and family on November 24th!

My friends made a gnome hat and beard for every guest that we wore for the group photo! The night was amazing!

I have just had another clear MRI.

It is now tattoo time. My Dad, Mel, Chris and Joanne have already had theirs done. Tomorrow it is me, my husband and friends Sarah, Janice and Tracy!

2012 has been a hard year and I can’t wait to see 2013!

Update: August 21, 2012

On August 7th I had my first MRI since my treatments began. After a very stressful 48 hours, I got my results on August 9th. No visible signs of my tumour! Holy what a feeling it was hearing those words! Lots of tears of joy! I was sending out “tumour gone” texts to family and friends, while still sitting on the exam table!

It really was an amazing feeling to find out that my body had accepted the treatments as we had no clue what the results were going to be!

My tumour is now considered “Stable”. I am not cancer-free as they can’t see into my brain to see what’s going on so I will continue my 6 month chemo protocol and will be done by the end of November, I will have another MRI at the end of September and then they will be every 3 months for the next year and then every 6 months after that.

This has been the hardest year ever and I thank my family and friends and even complete strangers who have reached out to me and provided support to me and my family.

In November after treatments are done and I’m cleared by my Oncologist it’s tattoo time! Me, my Mom, Joanne, Janice, Diane, Sarah and Laurel (I hope I didn’t forget anyone) are going for it!!

May 10, 2012

Debbie 2012My life before diagnosis was very busy. I am a happily married mother of two children. I worked part-time as a Legal Assistant and I did volunteer work in my community.

On January 31, 2012, I had a grand mal seizure while at work. I was admitted to hospital and found out the next day after my MRI that I had a brain tumour. On February 27 I had a craniotomy which removed 99% of my tumour. On March 16th the pathology results came back and I was diagnosed with a Stage 3 Oligoastrocytoma. That was the day my life changed. The neurosurgeon didn’t suspect my tumour was cancerous so we were not prepared at all for the diagnosis.

I am having aggressive treatments of chemo and radiation right now and after a one month break, which is almost here, I will have more chemo.

This was a devastating diagnosis for my family and my friends. We just never saw this coming! We have all accepted the diagnosis now and we are all staying positive and strong. I still have moments during the day where it’s hard but I am doing much better.

I received great advice from a friend. No one can take into account the “you” factor! Your determination and your courage to beat this cancer. Every day I think of the “me” factor. I also love the Kelly Clarkson song Stronger. This is my fighting song!!

My friends have started a garden gnome campaign. My yard is full of these friends that magically appear while I sleep. They are like friends smiling at me!

I am looking forward to the end of the treatments. I am very tired.

I don’t think too far in the future right now. One day at a time, and I just try and be as positive as I can for me and my kids.

We have a Team Debbie for the May 27, 2012, Brain Tumour Walk and I am looking forward to walking with my friends and family.