In December 2000, ORD flight attendant Debby Simpson’s life changed forever.
Debby had detected a small lump in her breast and was soon diagnosed with breast cancer. She felt fortunate for having found it so early — the tumor was less than 2 centimeters — and was able to start treatment immediately.
Taking the most aggressive treatment available for seven months, Debby thought she had won her battle. When breast cancer is detected as early as Debby’s, patients typically have a 98 percent survival rate. Unfortunately, Debby was one of the few patients to have a recurrence despite her early detection.
“In December 2003, my cancer returned with a vengeance,” she said. “This time it had returned to my bone, brain, liver and lungs. I was devastated.”
Her second treatment was far more extensive. Debby endured 19 months of chemotherapy, 2 rounds of Gamma Knife radiosurgery and radiation treatments for her spine and hip.
Debby was determined to keep herself strong and focused. During and following her second treatment, she enjoyed yoga, meditation, dancing and even became a certified Pilates instructor. It took more than six years for her to return to work in 2009.
But Debby’s battle was still not over. In 2014, she had a sudden cardiac arrest while on a layover in Paris. When she got home, Debby discovered that her cancer had come back and began treatment a third time.
Today, Debby feels better, but she will need to continue treatment for the rest of her life.
“It is important to be open and share my experience with others,” Debby says. “I hope to be a positive and hopeful example.”