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Every ten minutes, another child or adult is expected to die from leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. This statistic represents nearly 145 people each day, or six people every hour.
That's why I'm participating in this event --to help The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society beat cancer! Make a donation to help fight blood cancers!
I will be walking across the state of North Carolina this summer starting out in Murphy NC in late may and ending in Ocracoke Island NC. My mother requested that some of her ashes be spread in the ocean so I will be carrying my mothers ashes with me on this journey. The ultimate goal of this walk is to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I have a facebook page dedicated to this event and you can go there by clicking here http://www.facebook.com/pages/Walking-NC-in-Memory-of-Debbi-Patterson/111868255655677. Please read bellow about who my mother was to me and my family and so many others. Thank you for your support!
Who was Debbi?
I started writing this biography by listing some of the major details of Debbi’s life: hobbies, places she lived, jobs, etc. Although these things are all important parts of her life, they don’t define who she was. When I got to the year 2005, the year she was first diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), I paused. Suddenly, I realized that those smaller details of her life, the moves, the new jobs, the degrees, are not the things that she is remembered for. When Debbi was diagnosed with CLL, I’m sure a thought similar to this went through her mind. What are the important things in life? What are things she wanted to be remembered for? Who was Debbi?
I stopped writing a consecutive sequence of dates and achievements at that point and began writing Debbi’s story. As her daughter, I’ve known her for most of her adult life, almost 27 years. But, not until the last few months have I come to know who she really was. I hope to be able to convey some of that to you.
My mom was born in 1956, and spent her entire childhood and adolescence on a working farm in the small, rural town of Siler City,NC. The beloved youngest, and only daughter of four, she was treasured and loved by her parents and three older brothers. From a young age, she developed a love for the farm on which she lived. She grew up in simplicity as she walked along the creek bed, helped her father and brothers with the farm chores, rode her bike up the gravel road to her grandmother’s house, and climbed trees. She grew up eating biscuits and gravy and drinking sweet tea. A varsity basketball player, she was never much of a “girly-girl”. All of these details about her life, and more, she wrote down in the myriad of journals she kept as a girl and all throughout her life, until the very end. She was a clear and creative writer and kept a record of every important event in her life. She was a homebody, pure and simple. Her roots were firmly and deeply planted on that farm. She understood the value of having that deep connection to family, faith, and tradition, and carried that with her throughout her life, instilling that same value in her children. It almost broke both her and her parents’ hearts when she moved away to go to High Point College. But God knew exactly what he was doing when he brought her there. It was there that she met my dad, her husband and life-long partner, Fred. Introduced by friends, she was unsure about this city boy in the beginning. But Fred felt no hesitation, and quickly fell for this wide-eyed, mischievous, country girl, so unlike the other girls he knew. In the end, his persistence won her over, and they were married in January of 1980.
Mom became active at their church in Greensboro, NC. She directed the church drama group and energetically volunteered with the youth group. Although introverted at heart, she was known for her fun-loving attitude and infectious laugh.
I was born in 1985, followed by my brother 1988, and finally, after convincing my dad, my sister was born in 1994. Amazingly, she and my dad completed the family by adopting a fourth child, a daughter, in 2006. In my, perhaps biased, opinion, Debbi was born to be a mother. Although she excelled in writing and drama, impacting hundreds of lives through her involvement in ministry and through her work with the March of Dimes, she poured her heart and soul into us. She prayed hundreds of thousands of prayers on our behalf, drove us around to countless dance classes, basketball games, soccer practices, cheerleading competitions, and whatever other things we were involved in. She was our number one cheerleader, our continual motivator, and our prayer warrior. She knew when to give tough love and when to give a long, comforting hug. She knew when to discipline us and when to shove us lovingly, out of the nest. Through frustrated tears and hilarious dinner conversations, she labored for us night and day until the end. She couldn’t remember acronyms for anything, but she could remember all those seemingly small details about our lives, the ones we were so quick to forget. She loved Christmas. I mean, passionately. She loved the decorations, traditions, food, gifts, and church services. She was so good at making home always feel like home, even after we moved out. My favorite thing about coming home was having a hot cup of coffee, sitting outside and talking about nothing, or everything, with her. She knew how to relax. Which is why she loved the beach so much. She would park her chair in the sand, toes in the water, reading a book from sunup to sundown. While the rest of us would get anxious and go inside to take showers or eat or go shopping, Mom would come inside when she was good and ready: don’t bother me, I’m reading my book.
Her ability to “chill” made her a perfect match for my dad. Complete opposites, Dad was always in “go mode”. A worrier, he was constantly doing something or going somewhere. But mom knew how to get him to relax. They were the perfect pair.
When she was diagnosed with CLL in 2005, she was still in the early stages and doctors were hopeful that chemotherapy would move her disease into remission. The diagnosis was scary for mom, and forced her to confront her mortality in a way she hadn’t before. How long would she be around? Would she get to see the big milestones in her kids’ lives? Through this scary process, her faith in God’s goodness and God’s plan held fast. She turned to him for comfort and peace in the middle of a very turbulent time. After a round of chemotherapy, she went into remission for the next five years. During that time, she adopted a fourth child. She saw me graduate from college and move on to live in South Africa for nine months. She endured a lot of frustrating behavioral moments with my brother, only to watch him grow into a mature man, join the Army, and be deployed to Iraq. She continued raising two adolescent girls, always on the front row for their basketball games and cheerleading competitions. And she also worked full-time as a Community Director for the March of Dimes. At the time, this all seemed completely normal. But looking back, I wonder how in the world she did it. How did she handle the stress of sending two kids overseas, raising two teenage girls, working full time, being a wife, and dealing with her health issues? I’m convinced it was through her unwavering faith. She entrusted her children and her life to God, knowing that he was always in control. Yes, she had doubts, fears, and frustrations, as evidenced from her journals. But overall she had a sustaining faith that brought her through a period of time that should have been impossible.
In 2010, her CLL came out of remission and she underwent chemotherapy again. She also developed Thrombocytopenia, a disorder causing very low platelet counts. For the next two years she underwent weekly platelet transfusions and was in and out of the hospital multiple times. In 2012 she went through more chemotherapy and also radiation, and it was determined that she had developed stage four CLL. Her doctor recommended that they begin to think about a Bone Marrow Transplant. Without this, her life expectancy would be very short. She and my dad began making preparations for the transplant. Before being able to undergo the transplant, they needed to destroy all of the CLL cells in her body through an aggressive round of chemotherapy. In late October, 2012, she was admitted to the hospital for a three-day round of intense chemo. Once recovered, she would be able to move forward with the transplant.
But she never recovered. Her body became progressively weaker. She contracted pneumonia, suffered from three Atrial Fibrillations, contracted a sinus infection, and eventually her kidneys began to shut down. After only a month in the hospital, my 56-year-old mother had no hair, could not walk, could not breathe on her own, and could barely hear or speak. After a failed kidney dialysis, there was nothing more to be done. She left three older brothers, a husband, and four kids under 26. This fun-loving, faith-filled, joyful, strong woman left her broken, pain-ridden body and joined her parents in Heaven.
Though I know she is in a better place, I wish more than anything she could have waited longer before getting there. There are plenty of people here who still need her.
That is Debbi’s story.
- Written By Sara Patterson (my sister)
HERE IS A LINK TO MY FACEBOOK PAGE!! GO LIKE IT!
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