Every trial and every hardship forces us to find the strength to overcome. Deb Owen, a stomach cancer survivor, was tested beyond measure after she was diagnosed in August of 2013. By relying on faith for guidance and strength, the 52-year-old discovered that her faith is stronger than anything she could face, including cancer. Through her experience, she helps other survivors gain the strength they need.
“When you’re first diagnosed, you think this could be it. This could be your last time you see your kids, and the reality of not being able to raise your kids is really hard on us moms,” says Deb.
So much was at stake for Deb and her family. At the time, her children were only age 8 and 13, and she wanted to watch them grow up alongside her husband, David.
“You’re internally so afraid,” explains Deb. “When you look into your loved one’s or your close friend’s eyes, you don’t want to see them scared looking back at you. So, I determined early on that I was going to describe myself as Debra Owen, future cancer survivor.”
Whenever Deb would send a card or sign a document, she would always sign, “Debra Owen, future cancer survivor.” This declaration affirmed for herself and those she loved that she was committed to overcoming and beating cancer. Her heart was in it to win it.
“Faith is a big part of why I am stronger than cancer. I always credit it to great care and lots of prayer,” says Deb. “There’s a balance of life that cancer teaches you, if you are listening. Cancer teaches you to take a step back and rely on faith and trust. Trusting my doctors, trusting that God has a plan and trusting we would get through it together.”
While believing in herself and trusting God was instrumental during treatment, her faith in her care team really allowed her to take that necessary step back. No stone unturned, no task too great, she trusted them to do everything they could for her.
“A favorite memory of mine is when my husband and I went to visit with the various doctors who were a part of the plan of my cure. One was Dr. Gary Timmerman. We sat down with him. I started to cry because I wasn’t sure what type of life I would have after. He stopped, took my hands in his and he started to cry. And he just walked me through it one more time,” she says.
“Sanford Health was our team. It felt right,” adds Deb. “It was an amazing experience realizing how many people were a part of the team helping us get through this very serious illness.”
Holding on to faith
Deb remembers vividly the fear that can be experienced, and she uses this memory when she mentors other cancer survivors.
She explains, “My scans before surgery were clear. And the first thing you think is, ‘Alright, you’ve been praying for this. This moment has finally happened, and now you’re all clear before they remove your stomach.’ Then the next thought, which you’ve never thought before, is, ‘Oh no, what if the cancer comes back?’ And you have to deal with that fear on a different level. Because as a patient, you know how difficult the journey is.”
Deb’s pastor, a three-time cancer survivor, helped Deb overcome this fear. Through prayer and mentoring, Deb found her way. Now, she helps others learn the same lesson she had to learn that day: to walk in faith.
“It’s a blessing to be a survivor,” says Deb. “There is a life after cancer, and it’s a good life.”
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