Deb Speidel of Milbank has been selected as the honorary chairperson for the 2017 It Only Takes A Spark Cancer Walk on Friday, June 9, at Farley Park. “I never expected to be chosen,” Deb said through tears. “I don’t feel I am worthy of this.”
Deb was diagnosed with stage 4 Adenocarcinoma – lung cancer – last October. The cancer has spread to her brain, mediastinum, and adrenal glands. Her condition is incurable but treatable.
“I have a huge support system of family, close friends, and the employees of Montage,” Deb said. “I could never go through this without all of them.”
Life changed for Deb on October 19, 2016. While at work at Montage, she suddenly began to have stroke-like symptoms. Her daughters, Michelle and Kim, who also work at Montage, came to her assistance thinking perhaps Deb was having a heart attack. “When I found my mom, she looked at me with a stare like she didn’t know who I was,” said Kim. “That’s when panic and fear hit me.”
Kim and Michelle quickly loaded Deb in the car and hurried to the Ortonville Hospital. As they were reaching Ortonville, Deb had a seizure. “I don’t remember a thing about that,” Deb said.
After many tests, the doctor informed Deb’s daughters she had cancer. “The doctor told us her cancer was severe and had spread to two other parts of her body,” Kim said. “My dad was still on his way to the hospital. Once he arrived and we told him, he broke down crying. In my 40 years, I had never seen him cry.”
Deb was taken to Sioux Falls by ground ambulance for additional testing. The family spent two long days waiting before a biopsy was performed. “She had one biopsy that came back as nothing,” Kim said. “We thought that was great until the doctor said she would have to have another.”
After the second biopsy, Deb and her family were given the formal diagnosis – Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma. The doctors explained this type of cancer starts in the glands that line a major organ – lungs in Deb’s case. “We were told there were a few spots on each lung,” Kim said. “As if that news wasn’t bad enough, they said the cancer had spread to her brain, where she had multiple lesions, and to her adrenal glands which sit on top of her kidneys.”
Deb next endured 10 rounds of radiation on her brain to reduce the lesions. “She lost her hair,” Kim said. “That was hard for her to swallow with everything else going on.”
It was determined that Deb was an ideal candidate for a new therapy called Immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system instead of killing cells like chemotherapy does. “I have a port under the skin on my chest and take this treatment every three weeks until it stops working,” Deb explained.
Deb must also undergo a PET scan every three months to analyze the lesions in her body. “The last scan showed the tumors were shrinking,” she said with a smile.
Although she feels fine, she has been unable to work since October. Still, she manages to maintain a positive attitude. “This community, my friends and family are all a Godsend,” she said. “I do not feel sick at all and I know that is from all the prayers people have said. I am praying for all those other people out there that are sick and battling cancer, too.”
“I’m gonna beat it all,” Deb said. This time she was beaming.