Survivor of cancer, inspiration to many

Debbie Moore and her son DJ enjoying Relay for Life event after Debbie's operations.

In the United States today 1 out of 3 people are diagnosed with cancer, and almost everyone else knows someone who has or had cancer. In 2004 Debbie Moore,34, resident of Sylva, became the one.

She was diagnosed with Paraganglioma and Pheochromocytoma, and began her fight.
She had at least 13 different tumors spread all over her body, including one on her spine abdomen and the lining of her brain. But she did not back down and attacked her cancer head on.

Moore, who in 2004 was a mom of a one-year old boy, was fighting without stoping with the active life – staying very involved with her church and directing an interpretive signing group.

Due to the rarity of her diagnosis the doctors were unsure of what treatment would be the best option. The first round of treatment they tried was intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments in hopes of shrinking some of the tumors and possibly getting rid of others. The doctors did know that regardless of the outcome surgery was inevitable to remove the tumors that remained.

“I was scared, how could I not have been, but I knew that with the support of my family and church family I could accept that everything was up to God,” said Moore.
Moore would be subjected to five surgeries to remove the largest and most harmful tumors. She had the one on the lining of her brain removed along with the abdominal which caused doctors to have to remove her sternum.

The surgeon who performed her craniotomy, to remove the brain tumor, thought going into the surgery it was in a location where he would not be able to remove it. However, it had moved slightly and he was able to get it out. He told the family after the surgery that something more powerful than him had moved the tumor to allow it to be removed.

After the surgeries Moore was facing incredibly long odds, the doctors did not know what else to do to treat her. The tumors were reoccurring. Finally they found an option for treatment; it was a two-step experimental study being conducted by doctors at Duke. She was accepted into this study knowing that it was a completely new treatment procedure. Moore’s treatment group was the first to undergo this new treatment.

While enduring her treatments, surgeries, and time in the hospital, Moore was faced with the fact that she may not get to see her son, DJ, grow up. DJ was nearly a year old when his mom was diagnosed and began her fight. Debbie was fighting not only for herself but for her son too, and for the ability to see him grow up.

Moore, while she is still fighting day in and day out, has been able to see DJ grow up. DJ turns seven years old in November and was able to play football for the first time this season. Debbie was there on the sidelines cheering him on as she has been for nearly every one of his baseball, basketball, soccer and football games.


A fight known around the world

Moore was helping fight cancer at her local Relay for Life organization even before her diagnosis and now she is participating as a survivor of cancer. Relay’s mission is to give
those battling cancer more birthdays. Relay for Life events take place around the country, these events are the main fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society.  Relay for Life has become international with 21 other countries joining the fight.

Western Carolina University’s Relay for Life fundraising started on Oct. 25, 2011 at O’Malley’s in Sylva. WCU will host their annual Relay for Life in the spring on the UC lawn.

Moore is a member of the Relay team at Faith United Methodist Church and led a group of performers called Heavenly Hands to perform on stage at the Luminary ceremony. The
luminary ceremony is a time for all those attending Relay for Life to pause, honor and remember their loved ones who fought cancer. For the members of Heavenly Hands, of which I am honored to say I was a part of, their performances at Relay for Life now are not only done for others to remember their loved ones they are done in honor of Debbie and the bravery, will, and faith she displayed and continues to display.

It is not too late to join a team or start your own team to help fight Cancer in Cullowhee and help give more birthdays. Your support of Relay for Life now will not only save lives today, it could also save your life tomorrow.