‘People fighting cancer can be very, very happy’

Deblynne Whittlesey of Stanwood, 53, beat cancer with a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. She was nominated by Gaylen Brule, who wrote this essay:

“When my friend Deblynne told me she was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer, my heart sank. I was speechless and my body trembled. How on earth could she cope with this life-changing event? I was about to learn that the universe had selected the right person to teach a teacher the most meaningful of lessons.

“Most women think, ‘Why me?’ Deblynne never thought of herself as a victim; never spent useless time in self-pity, wondering why she was the one in eight. She could have easily succumbed to all the trials she had already faced — years of fertility drugs never yielding a child, an accident resulting in surgeries and permanent damage in her arm, a foot broken in several places, loss of her beloved dog, a demanding job as a court clerk and bailiff, and the passing of her mother.

“Being told that she would undergo a double mastectomy followed by weekly chemotherapy would have been plenty of reason for her to surrender, give in, give up, collapse into a ball and let all the people she had taken care of in her life return the favor. She discouraged her family and friends from doting on her or discussing her condition and she kept working full-time. Her glass was always half full, there was always light gleaming through the tunnel and the sun would come out tomorrow and every day.

“I truly believe that Deblynne’s conviction to accept her circumstance, not to dwell on the cancer and to continue to live as normally as possible made her a survivor. She taught me that happiness comes from within and even people fighting cancer can be very, very happy.

“After a year of treatment, another accident left her with a broken jaw and her mouth had to be wired shut. When I asked her how she was dealing with it she said, ‘No big deal, it could have been a lot worse!’ “

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