Debbie's Story of Survivorship

Debbie's Story of Survivorship

Debbie was born and raised just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up with her twin and younger sister. An opportunity to re-locate to the Midwest landed Debbie in the Denver metro area where she could soak up Colorado’s beautiful sun and enjoy all of the magnificent outdoor activities the area has to offer. Debbie had found a small lump in her breast while in the shower, but thought nothing of it at the time. Being only 35, and with a life full of changes, the last thing on her mind was cancer. But after a family member was diagnosed with cancer, she promised herself that she would get the lump checked. Debbie received the unfortunate news that the lump was breast cancer, and with the support of Lutheran’s doctors Debbie’s healing journey began.

"Support is an Important Part of Going Through Cancer, You Cannot Do It Alone"

Most everyone is aware of the importance of seeing your doctor for a yearly physical. Even if you are healthy, annual physicals can help set a baseline of what is healthy for you and your body. For Jon Ludwig, remembering to go to the doctor each year helped catch the early signs of illness that developed into early stages of myeloma.

Victoria's Story of Survivorship

Expert care, when you need it most.

Patients all across the Denver metro community arrive at Lutheran Medical Center not feeling their best, and oftentimes with the anxiety of not knowing what’s wrong with their health. Patients like Victoria know how a minor health concern can turn into something more serious in a matter of weeks, and through the compassionate care of Lutheran’s caregivers, can be brought back to a healing state.

Victoria, her husband Frank, and their three sons enjoy a mostly quiet life in the Lakewood community. Living in Colorado for more than 18 years, Victoria and her family adore spending time with their two pure-bred shepherds, Ruby Rose and Kaiser, along with gardening, and keeping their eyes peeled for the majestic plumage of local birds. In the fall of 2015, Victoria began dealing with digestive issues, and visited her primary care doctor to review these concerns. Her physician advised her to take some over the counter medications for the discomfort she was experiencing, and to follow-up if this course of treatment did not help her condition. Being under the age of 50 at the time, and with no family history of cancer, a colonoscopy was not recommended.

After a few days of medication, Victoria still was not feeling well. She went to the Emergency Room at Lutheran, where she was given a medication that should have provided her with relief. It did not, and did quite the opposite – this medication made her sicker. At that time, the caregivers in the ER knew something wasn’t right, and began running more tests to see what was really going on. After being admitted, doctors found Victoria had colorectal cancer that had also spread to her liver. Within a week of her frightening trip to the ER, Victoria found herself in the capable hands of Dr. Jennifer Caskey and team.

Every step of the way, Cancer Centers of Colorado at Lutheran Medical Center walked Victoria through her treatment plan.

“Dr. Caskey was great in helping to explain my diagnosis, answering questions and ensuring my family and I knew what to expect while I underwent my treatment,” Victoria says. “The medical team provided me with options when I had them, and explained in detail what every procedure would entail.” Victoria underwent liver radioablation, a non-invasive procedure which heats up cancerous tumors to help them shrink. No stitches, or lengthy recovery, Victoria was able to return home the same day.

The nurses in the infusion center are great. They know me by name, and ask if I would like a snack or warm blanket. Their care makes all the difference, and helps me feel at ease.
— Victoria

Starting January 2016, Victoria began chemotherapy treatments every other week to fight her cancer. “The nurses in the infusion center are great. They know me by name, and ask if I would like a snack or warm blanket. Their care makes all the difference, and helps me feel at ease,” she says. The cancer center also provided Victoria with community resources and support groups, ensuring that she never felt alone through her fight with cancer.

More than a year has passed, and Victoria’s tumors are responding well to treatment and are shrinking. Victoria will continue to receive maintenance chemotherapy into the future, and her doctors feel her prognosis is bright. Victoria is a cancer survivor, with many more years of family, gardening and bird watching to look forward to. Patients just like Victoria come to Lutheran frightened and unsure of what to expect, and leave with a feeling of empowerment over their own health.

Be a hero for cancer survivors in our community. Join Cancer Centers of Colorado and Lutheran Medical Center for the 10th anniversary Heroes of Hope Run/Walk on June 4. Help to inspire the countless cancer survivors in our community, and show support for the families and individuals who face their cancer diagnosis with courage and dignity. For those who have fought courageously, and for those still fighting – become a Hero of Hope today.

Leaves of Hope to Heroes of Hope: A Family Tradition


Stories of cancer survivorship can be seen every year at the Leaves of Hope Run/Walk and National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration.  Generations of families come out to Lutheran Medical Center’s beautiful Wheat Ridge campus the first Sunday in June to support survivors in our community, and remember those who battled courageously. For Donna Ross and her daughter Jen, the first Sunday in June is a special time to remember the courage, strength and beauty of their mother and grandmother, Judy Kraft.

Judy, Jennifer and Donna had the opportunity to attend every Leaves of Hope race together since 2007. “Leaves of Hope was my mom’s favorite event of the year,” Donna remembered, sharing their excitement of attending the race together, “as soon as registration was available we would get our tickets, with Mom excited to see if she got one of the first bib numbers”. (As you can see by the picture below, Judy made sure to register early to get the best bib number possible, 0002 to be exact). 

 Judy and her dog Patches enjoy the 2012 Leaves of Hope race. 

Judy and her dog Patches enjoy the 2012 Leaves of Hope race. 

 Judy was unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer after a trip to Lutheran Medical Center’s emergency department late one evening. Her strength and resiliency helped her fight lung cancer three times , each year never missing a chance to be present at the Leaves of Hope race. “It was important for my mom to come and meet other survivors, in hopes that she could maybe help them through their journey and feel supported.” Each year Judy and Donna attended the Leaves of Hope race together. While Judy wasn’t always able to walk a full mile, every step was a small victory. Judy enjoyed having a special meal with other survivors, making new friends and feeling connected with the community. The Health and Safety Fair helped to connect Judy with community resources, “my mom especially appreciated the chair massages offered by Bridges Integrative Health and Wellness” Donna remembered fondly. Each race renewed her spirit and courage to continue battling cancer.   

“My mom was so focused on living life she never let her diagnosis slow her down. She found courage and strength through the support of our community and hospital”. Each year hundreds of cancer survivors at all stages of treatment and diagnoses along with their families, friends and nearly 1,000 runners, volunteers and vendors join Lutheran Medical Center in celebrating survivorship. 

 After being diagnosed with cancer, Donna and Judy traveled as often as they could and enjoyed every moment together. Pictured above, Donna and Judy visit California’s beaches.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Donna and Judy traveled as often as they could and enjoyed every moment together. Pictured above, Donna and Judy visit California’s beaches.

Judy Kraft fought with courage and dignity until her passing on July 23, 2014. To honor her mother’s memory Donna, her daughter Jennifer and Patches, Judy’s rescued miniature dachshund, continue to race and be a part of the celebration. Through the support of community partners and participants, funds raised at the Leaves of Hope race help to provide patient navigation, survivor and nurse education, genetic counseling and patient care for hundreds facing cancer issues.

Join Donna, Jennifer, and Patches (who still joins in the celebration of Judy’s life at the race each year) on Sunday, June 4, 2017 at the NEW Heroes of Hope Run/Walk! To honor the 10th anniversary of the race on campus, Lutheran Medical Center is proud to share our new race name, and begin a new chapter of celebrations at Lutheran Medical Center. Celebrate with survivors, help to inspire those who are recently diagnosed, and support families who have lost their loved ones to cancer and be a Hero of Hope in our community. Register today to participate in the 5K Run/Walk, 10K Run, or 1 milk walk in this annual dog and stroller friendly race. Click here to show your courage against cancer, and be an everyday hero in our community!

Give Where You Live

Karen, like so many neighbors in our community, had fallen on hard times after losing her job. She struggled to make ends meet, and even after gaining new employment was unable to remain in her long-time home.

Karen moved into temporary housing while she worked hard to pick up the pieces and strengthen her financial situation. Her dream of a better life changed drastically when a yearly mammogram turned into a breast cancer diagnoses. Karen felt paralyzed, but as she began her battle with breast cancer she was never alone.

Cancer Centers of Colorado’s skilled team of oncology-trained nurses, physicians, and surgeons supported Karen and made sure she understood her diagnosis and the treatment options available to her. Support from our community ensured Karen would have access to the best, state-of-the-art cancer treatments and equipment. Using breast brachytherapy, skilled surgeons placed catheters in Karen’s breast tissue to deliver radiation treatment directly to the cancer cells. This advanced and effective treatment allowed Karen’s breast cancer to be treated with great precision while protecting her healthy tissue.

While undergoing treatment patient navigators helped connect Karen with local support groups, allowing her to meet other survivors and be introduced to a community network of support.

Throughout every step of her journey, Lutheran Medical Center made sure Karen was treated body, mind, and spirit. The greatest miracle of all, a miracle that you helped make happen, was when Karen was able to finally move into permanent housing thanks to the support of care management staff and Foundation funding.

The weight of her stress lifted, Karen was able to focus fully on her health and recovery and is proud to now be cancer free. For the first time since losing her home and beginning her breast cancer battle, Karen shared a Thanksgiving feast in her new home with renewed hope for the future and a clean bill of health.

Won’t you help to create more miracles in our community?

Make a gift today and help support patients like Karen by visiting

2014 Leaves of Hope gets national attention!

Coping With Cancer magazine and website, publications written by and for the cancer community, included the 2014 Leaves of Hope Run/Walk and Cancer Survivors Celebration on their coverage of National Cancer Survivors Day!


Coping With Cancer is read in print by more than 500,000 people in various healthcare settings each year. The website, which is advertisement-free and full of useful information about cancer and living with cancer, brings the magazine's content plus additional resources to millions of users each year.

Visit Coping With Cancer online at

SAVE THE DATE! The 2015 Leaves of Hope Run/Walk and Cancer Survivors Celebration will be held Sunday, June 7, 2015 at Lutheran Medical Center!

Steps toward survival

Steps toward survival

By Hugh Johnson, Wheat Ridge Transcript

Some people run to stay healthy, others jog to experience the beauty of the Colorado summer. Those who attended Exempla Lutheran Medical Center’s Leaves of Hope Run/Walk Sunday ran for a different reason, to celebrate life.

In conjunction with National Cancer Survivor’s Day, Exempla Lutheran hosted its seventh Leaves of Hope Run/Walk in celebration of the 14 million cancer survivors in America. A sunny day that included breakfast for cancer survivors, music, snow cones and more, the event featured a kids 100-yard dash, a 1-mile family walk, a 5k run/walk and a 10k run/walk in which participants got run along the Crown Hill Lake Park.

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