Friday, November 5, 2010

A little more about Debbie

I am writing this per Jennifer's request (see her comment on the blog post before this one).  Jennifer wants to know more about Deb, like how we met and how long we were friend's.  So, here goes.  Below is a picture of Debbie, taken maybe a year or so before she was diagnosed with cancer.  She was (it is hard to refer to her in the past tense) was a beautiful person on the inside and the outside.

Debbie and I met at work.  I work at Social Security and I take and process claims.  I was working in the Oklahoma City office and Debbie came up there for training (she got promoted to a claims representative).  We got to talking some because I wanted to transfer to her office because it is smaller, less stressful and closer to my home.   I ended up transferring to the Shawnee office, where I work now, and became her mentor once she got out of class.  I was her mentor for a little while as is usual and we became friends.  She was really smart so she made me look like a smashingly great mentor.  :)

Time went by and we just grew close.  I guess when you listen to someone's marital problems, stick with them through a nasty divorce and the day to day work grind, you just sort of grow close.  Debbie and I are alike in a lot of ways but also different in a lot of ways too.  She was athletic and strong, I am not.  She was outgoing and made friends easily, I am not and do not.  Yet, she loved to read, cross stitch and we shared a similar sense of humor.  However, in certain areas she was tentative, like in talking about feelings and confronting people about things that might cause conflict. I am pretty straightforward and like to get things out in the open.

Long story short, I personally think we balanced each other out.  I think I helped her be able to talk about feelings more easily with people and she helped me be more outgoing (even though I struggle with this still).

When she was diagnosed with cancer in August 2009, I didn't think anything of staying friends with her.  It was and is the most natural thing in the world to me to be there for a friend in need.  Her cancer was the nastiest, most aggressive thing I ever saw in my life.  She started treatment in Shawnee but her cancer spread to her liver and they could not treat her any longer.  Debbie ended up leaving work January 2010 to go to McKinney Cancer Center in Texas but I always made it a point to text her or FB message her almost every day.  I never called because she was always so busy running around to treatment.  She had her mastectomy in May 2010 and another surgery to remove the breast cancer that recurred on her skin in June 2010 (yes, it was THAT aggressive).  I went down to treatment with her for two days around this time and then I went down again for a week in August 2010 (this is when you were introduced to her via this blog).

I knew Debbie was strong and tough but I never knew the extent of this until I went with her in August.  By that point she had been battling a horrible chest wound caused by an infection in the incision of her June 2010 surgery.  I saw her get that wound treated and I never, ever want anyone to have to go through the absolute torture that I saw.  She had to do that 3 times a week (dressing changes) from June 2010 until she died last week to keep the wound from getting infected.  In addition to the chest wound, she was also going through the first part of whole brain radiation when I was down there with her (the cancer had spread to her lungs, liver again and brain) and it was affecting her by making her extremely nauseated.  However, she was so amazing.  While down there we went to a movie, out to eat when she felt like it and shopping at the Coach store outlet and Gap outlet.  She just never let cancer stop her.  We talked about all kinds of things, serious and silly.  That is what I loved about our friendship, we could talk about anything and nothing was ever 'out of bounds' discussion wise.

She would come home to Oklahoma every weekend and would do as much with her three kids as she could. She tried to keep their lives as normal as possible and she did so much with them that many people wouldn't have found the strength to do.  An example of this is she would go and watch her 8 year old daughter's soccer games on Saturdays.

The doctor's told Debbie that her cancer had spread too far and that they could not treat her any longer a week before Sweetheart's party.  She came home that Friday and I stayed the night with her all that night and for six hours that Saturday evening.  She was suffering so much and had to be helped up to the bathroom and back to the couch, etc.  But she was an awesome person, never embarrassed for me to help her with what she needed and she was still able to laugh and find joy in things.  I saw her again for a little bit last Monday and Tuesday.  I went by her house Friday morning and she was asleep.  She died in the early morning hours  that night.

Her funeral was Tuesday.  Les and I had dinner with her husband and her childhood friend last night.  It was so hard being in her house and knowing she wasn't ever going to be there again.  But, I got to hear some great stories about her from her friend and we got to laugh about how strong and stubborn Debbie was.  It was wonderful for me to be able to do that.

I have my ups and downs.  I am incredibly sad she is gone.  Even though this last year we mainly just texted,  I knew she was always there.  Since she has been gone I find myself wondering what Debbie would think about certain things that happen at work or books that are coming out and I have to tell myself she is not longer here to ask.  I am not angry, just sad that my wonderful friend had to leave us so very soon.  I will always miss her but I will be ok because I know she would want us to move on with our lives.  However, I am sure in the upcoming months I will have my ups and downs and that is ok.  I figure that being this sad meant we had a great friendship and I won't ever forget that.

If any of you have any other questions about my friend, please email me or comment.  If you are tired of me talking about her, I understand.  I only wrote this because Jennifer asked me these questions and I wanted to share a little more about her.  Thank you for asking Jennifer, talking about her makes me feel good.  I hope all of you are lucky enough to have a best friend like the one I did.



  1. It sounds like a lovely friendship. Take time to grieve it. I don't mind you posting about her at all. It's your blog.

  2. I think she will always be with you where it's most important -- in your heart! The grieving process takes us all to different places. You certainly don't have to apologize for that!

  3. Jess, Thanks for sharing more about your wonderful friend Debbie. You will always have your memories and in that way she will always be with you.

  4. thank you for sharing. i'm going to call my best friend now. i always enjoy a good friendship story!

  5. i hope i didn't sound insensitive. she's a fighter and loyal friend and mother; it sounds like.

  6. I smiled and cried. Thank you.

    Cheers Spiffo

  7. Jess - thank you so much for sharing. She sounds like a truly amazing person. I wish I had been blessed to meet her. But I am grateful to know her through your friendship with her. Friendships as the two of you share(d) are rare, meant to be cherished and celebrated. thanks for celebrating your friendship by sharing it with all of us through this blog. As i wipe tears from my eyes after reading this I am compelled to say that she is not gone. she will always be with you as it is clear that you carry a part of her with you still. What a beautiful thing!

  8. I loved reading about Debbie. She sounds like an amazing person. Thank you for sharing :)

  9. Jess,

    Thank you for sharing that story. It is amazing how some people handle adversity. What a blessing it is to have such a good friend. You still have her, though she may be with you physically. As long as you keep her close to your heart, she will be there.

    Many many hugs to you,
    From another Jess (I too am outspoken and like to get to the root of an issue - maybe it has something to do with our name ;) )

  10. Wow Jess...your "love story" really stirred my heart. I hope I have friends in my life that would care about me like you did your friend. She sounds like she was the perfect friend. That is so hard to find these days in this world of conflict. I've always thought that two of God's greatest gifts are time and memory. It is always easy to remember our happy moments. Thanks for sharing...and I think all of us are your friend and we will never tire of hearing about our friend's friend.

  11. I really believe Debbie is still with you and is inspiring you with this blog...(I had a Debbi too...she passed in may 2008...due to a mysterious illness...) I'm a new follower and am just reading this blog...which is why my posting this comment is so late. God continue to bless you in all you do. :)