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.

Debbie assembled her “dream team” of doctors. Lutheran Medical Center’s genetic counseling was able to rule out any risk of inherited cancers, and get her connected with surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Brew. Dr. Brew helped outline a course of treatment that was minimally invasive – a lumpectomy and radiation to remove her tumor. After an MRI found more cancer in her same breast, Debbie wanted to make sure the cancer was 100% removed. She was referred to Dr. Richard Mouchantat, who helped her to decide her best course of treatment would be a double mastectomy.

From R to L: Briana Zimbelman, RN, Debbie’s mom, Debbie Oddi, and Kathy Goeringer, RN. 

From R to L: Briana Zimbelman, RN, Debbie’s mom, Debbie Oddi, and Kathy Goeringer, RN. 

After Debbie’s surgery, tests showed additional cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.  Because of this, she completed 8 rounds of chemotherapy over sixteen weeks at Cancer Centers of Colorado at Lutheran Medical Center. “The nurses in the infusion center were amazing. Brianna, Cathy, and Robin made sure I never felt alone”. Her doctors managed her chemotherapy schedule so that she could travel back home to see her sister get married, an occasion she did not want to miss because of cancer. Even over 1,000 miles away, Debbie’s dream team made sure she was cared for every step of the way. “While at my sister’s wedding my cousin, who is a nurse, noticed I had begun to develop thrush. My cousin and I immediately called my Lutheran nurse, Robin, who within twenty minutes was able to set me up with a prescription that could be picked up locally in Pennsylvania that night.”

Ring this bell three times well its toll to clearly say, my treatments done this course is run and I am on my way.

As Debbie neared her last treatment, she remembered a bell she had seen at a hospital in Pennsylvania that is rung after a cancer patient finishes their treatment. After inquiring about Lutheran’s bell, she learned that the tradition had not yet made its way to Lutheran’s Cancer Center. Debbie bought a naval bell, some wood and stained and engraved the bell so that if could be hung for patients battling cancer. On her last treatment, and now for every patient moving forward, Debbie rang the bell and read the engraving “Ring this bell three times well its toll to clearly say, my treatments done this course is run and I am on my way”. The bell is now a beautiful tradition in the infusion center, where patients, nurses and doctors all pause for a few moments to celebrate victory (no matter how small) in the battle against cancer.

From R to L: Briana Zimbleman, RN, Debbie Oddi, and Kathy Goeringer, RN.

From R to L: Briana Zimbleman, RN, Debbie Oddi, and Kathy Goeringer, RN.

Join Debbie and her friends as we ring the bell for all our cancer survivors at the Heroes of Hope Run/Walk on June 4. This annual family friendly event supports Cancer Centers of Colorado at Lutheran Medical Center, and insures all of our patients, like Debbie, have access to genetic counseling, support groups, financial aid, and more.

Be a hero for hope in our community, join us June 4 to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day and honor all of our cancer survivors and remember those who fought courageously.