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“Debbie Young survivor's story"

Cynthia Culp Allen
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000


Cynthia Culp Allen has published nearly one thousand articles in newspapers and magazines. Six of these articles have won Amy Writing Awards, and she was also chosen as Writer of the Year at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in 2002.  The author has also contributed to many books including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Woman’s Devotional Bible II.  She has three books of her own, The Healthy Balance for Body and Soul, The Beautiful Balance for Body and Soul, and Home Is Where You Hang Your Heart.  Allen is a frequent speaker at conferences and churches, and guest on radio and television, when she is not home in the northern California mountains, working on her latest project!

Debbie Young: Mammograms do save lives!

On Halloween Day, 2012, Debbie Young received the call that every woman dreads after a routine mammogram.

Debbie Young, three years after beating breast cancer isn't letting anything get in the way of pursuing life, love and family.


Debbie Young, three years after beating breast cancer isn't letting anything get in the way of pursuing life, love and family.







On Halloween Day, 2012, Debbie Young received the call that every woman dreads after a routine mammogram.

“We would like to re-do your mammogram tomorrow, Debbie,” the Mt Shasta radiology technician explained. Filled with apprehension, the Yreka resident hurried back to Mount Shasta City the next morning. After a second mammogram, the radiologist said, “Let us take a look at this … we see some areas of concern. We’ll be right back.”

Both mammograms revealed eight small dots the size of pin pokes.

“These are calcifications,” the radiologist explained. “We want you to see a breast cancer surgeon right away.”

Debbie said her first thoughts upon hearing the word, “cancer,” were fragmented. She remembers thinking, “Uh-oh, cancer. Am I going to die?’”

She adds now, “ I think these thoughts are normal.”

Debbie’s Mt Shasta surgeon ordered more diagnostic tests including MRI’s and a stereo tactic biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. The tests revealed an aggressive cancer that was growing like weeds after autumn’s first rain.

“We were hoping to do a lumpectomy and radiation, Debbie,” her doctor stated. “But now we will have to do a complete mastectomy.”

Debbie decided in that moment to have a double mastectomy. “This cancer wasn’t here at last year’s mammogram,” she told her doctor firmly. “I don’t want to go through this again!”

After the holidays, Debbie was scheduled for surgery. Her sister, Dawn, and older brother, David, came up from southern California to be with her through the surgery. On January 14, 2013, Debbie had a double mastectomy, removing a large tumor and 30 lymph nodes where the cancer had spread. She spent three nervous days recovering in the hospital while waiting for the pathology report.

“What a relief when my doctor called and said, ‘All margins cleared!’ Debbie remembers.

This was step one toward recovery, but both the doctor and patient knew there was a long journey ahead. At Medford Hematology and Oncology Associates in Medford, Debbie was scheduled for four months of chemo, the strongest medical “cocktail” possible, due to the aggressiveness of her cancer.

“I drove to Medford every two weeks for four months,” Debbie says. “The sessions lasted from 4- 6 hours each time. But first, I had surgery to put a port into my upper chest for chemo delivery. I would have chemo on Thursday. Go back on Friday for a blood cell booster shot, and by Saturday, I felt like I had the flu, so achy. By Monday, I was feeling achy and tired. The effects of chemo accumulate. Within a month, I had lost all of my hair. But I was blessed with a friend who gave me an assortment of wigs, and the chemo nurses were wonderful!”

Debbie was also blessed with a week off from cancer treatments before beginning daily treks to Mount Shasta for radiation. She completed radiation 7 ½ weeks later, after Labor Day 2013. The final lap of Debbie’s journey toward recovery had begun – it was time for her reconstructive surgery! In the end, six surgeries were needed – for a total of nine during her treatment year.

“It was a tough year,” Debbie says. “But the treatments gave me the feeling that I was fighting the cancer. I was bound and determined to do everything I could to stay alive!”

This year, Debbie feels like she is finally healing. She returned to work part-time and is able to handle chores at home, including cleaning corrals and caring for her horses and pets. She also is “back in the saddle” on her motorcycle. She is enjoying life once again, with a renewed gratitude that she is a survivor and has learned important lessons that she can now pass on to others on the same journey.

First, Debbie says, stay positive. Don’t give cancer the power. Early on, Debbie asked her doctor, “What are my chances of survival?” He said, “You have a 12% chance it will come back within ten years.” Debbie answered quickly, “That means I have an 88% chance that it won’t!”

Follow your doctors’ orders and eat more vegetables. “Veggies have been found to fight cancer naturally,” Debbie says.

Debbie recommends laughter, lots of laughter. “It’s the best medicine!” she says, smiling, “And don’t forget to laugh at yourself!” Concentrate on yourself and your treatments, don’t take on others’ stress or situations, she advises. “Cancer feeds off stress,” she adds, “I am so thankful that I had a support group of my husband, family and friend. We all need that.”

There was a silver lining to her dark cloud of cancer. “It strengthened my faith in God,” she explains. “Doctors said I was a miracle, well, who is in the miracle business. God!” After her double mastectomy, a friend gave her the devotional book, Jesus Calling. Throughout her recovery year, Debbie read a devotional a day and journaled her thoughts and feelings, many times as a form of prayer. “I learned how to communicate with God, “she says. “Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28, ‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,’ and I found this to be true during this time in my life.”

To celebrate her recovery, Debbie was tattooed over her scarred back with a Cross draped with a pink breast cancer ribbon, and sporting angel wings. “I designed it to thank God for having my back during that difficult time,” she says. “Now I take every day as a gift from Him. Every morning, I open my windows and say, Thank you for this day of life. The last thing I write in my journal at night is ‘TYFTDOL.’ I appreciate it so much, because I know there are those before me who have not survived cancer. I don’t take every day for granted because of them. Now my purpose is to help others get through cancer. If one lady will go get a mammogram when she hears my story, I’m thrilled if it saves a life.

Link to article:  Posted May. 3, 2016



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