Dubbed the “earth mother” by her husband, Mike, Debbie Guy, a licensed clinical social worker with a master of social work degree, has spent a life time taking good care of herself and others. For years, she juggled a career in education with her roles as a wife and mother, making time to have annual mammograms and exercise regularly. She never took hormone replacement therapy and felt healthy in her daily life. When Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was surprised, to say the least. “I had just bebopped along in life, doing the things I was supposed to do,” Debbie says. “I was totally clueless that something may have been wrong.”
Debbie received the news that she had invasive ductile carcinoma following a routine gynecologic examination. “The surgeon biopsied a lump from my breast on a Friday afternoon, and I got my results the following Monday,” Debbie says. “I was shocked, cried and told my husband and my two sons, Michael and Mason, who live out of town. I called my sister, and together we tried to determine when to tell our mom the news.”
Hours later, Debbie’s sister, Karla, and her husband, Kurt, arrived at Debbie’s front door with a pink ribbon and a plan to battle the disease as a family guided by faith. “We decided then and there that the fight was on,” Debbie says. “We vowed to put anyone with no confidence or determination in time-out and seek the highest quality of care at CHRISTUS Cabrini. We prayed together and never looked back.”
A team of CHRISTUS Cabrini physicians led Debbie through an aggressive course of treatment that began with the removal of 19 lymph nodes and a tumor larg e enough to qualify Debbie for the TAILORx Breast Cancer Trial. Treatments are customized based on each patient’s genetic profile, maximizing effectiveness. Naturally inquisitive and optimistic at heart, Debbie jumped at the opportunity to participate in the trial, which included several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“I love to learn, and participating in the trial was an opportunity to bring purpose to my experience,” Debbie says. “I was inspired to make the most of the situation and be a source of hope.” After the second round of chemotherapy, Debbie’s hair began to thin as she expected it would, but she approached the loss like she approached everything else, with faith and optimism. “I couldn’t control anything else that was going on in my life, but I could control when my hair would come off,” Debbie says. “I made two appointments with my hairdresser, and my husband and I had our heads shaved together. It was empowering.”
A Journey of Healing
During the past five years, Debbie has relied on the CHRISTUS Cabrini team to guide her, and she has continued to be impressed with and welcoming of their compassion and expertise. “They were factual and upfront from my first meeting,” Debbie says. “They answered all of my questions, big and small. Everyone has been consistent and so supportive.”
Faith in the Future
Years after her cancer diagnosis, Debbie does not consider herself “cancer-free” or in the clear. Instead, she is focusing on one day at a time, living in the present and treasuring every moment. She has signed up for extended participation in the TAILORx Breast Cancer Trial, which is slated to continue for the next 20 years, and she is grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the women who will be impacted by breast cancer in the future. But Debbie’s life is not all about being a breast cancer survivor. She works as the oncology social worker for the CHRISTUS Cabrini Cancer Center.
“Overall, I had a very good experience, so when that job opportunity arose, I applied,” Debbie says. “I’m optimistic and look for the best in people and found that at CHRISTUS Cabrini. I’m a spiritual person, and I found kindred spirits at CHRISTUS Cabrini, as well. It’s a one-stop shop that focuses on the healing of each and every patient, and I’m happy to be a part of the team.”