The 34-year-old, diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2017 after finding a golf-ball sized lump in her left breast, hopes to graduate in November.
And she is backing Cancer Research UK’s Right Now campaign, to raise awareness of the importance of funding vital cancer research.
Now her treatment is over, she says she is determined to make every moment count. Debi, a teaching assistant, took up her studies at Preston’s College during her chemotherapy – and is focusing on her experience to highlight Cancer Research UK’s Right Now campaign and call on people across the Fylde coast to get involved.
The charity’s Right Now television ads show real patients who have had cancer treatment within the last few years, followed up by current home video – showing how research has helped them get back to enjoying life with their loved ones.
The campaign aims to show how actions taken right now can make a real difference in helping more people survive.
Debi is also hoping to draw attention to the impact cancer research has had on her own life – giving her more precious time with the people she loves.
The reality of cancer hit home for Debi, after she found a lump in her breast while taking a shower. She didn’t go to the doctors for two weeks because she was in the middle of looking after her mum, who was being treated for breast cancer.
When Debi did see her GP, she was referred for tests but told not to panic because she was young.
But after tests at Blackpool Victoria Hospital – a mammogram, biopsy and ultra sound – Debi was called back in and told she had triple negative breast cancer – a rarer type of breast cancer. Around 15 out of every 100 breast cancers are triple negative.
Debi said: “It all became a bit of a blur when they told me it was cancer.
“I went into shock and my husband Brett listened to all the details.
“The worst thing was the day before I got the news we’d lost my grandmother to cancer.
“I just thought this can’t be happening. I thought the worst thing would be having to tell my mum, but she was great. She gave me a hug and told me “right let’s get rid of it!”
“The first seven days were the worst. I felt tired and queasy but after that I found I could carry on with whatever I wanted to do. I started a degree at Preston’s College and that was such a positive thing because it meant I had something to focus on as well as my treatment. I’d even take my books to study during chemo sessions.”
After eight rounds of chemotherapy, Debi was told she’d need a mastectomy as her tumour had not shrunk.
She said: “Last Christmas was a really tough time, but after that I’ve not been so bothered. I’ve been going into college with my bald head and I felt proud because it got the younger students to talk about cancer and made it less taboo. They are now aware of the signs to look out for. Instead of worrying about treatment, I was worrying about meeting essay deadlines.
“My husband has been brilliant, he came to every appointment. I worried about how my older children Charlotte, 15, and Josh, 13, would take it but I told them their grandmother had breast cancer twice and was still here. I thought my six-year-old, Matthew, wouldn’t recognise me once I lost my hair but he just said: “Are you making my tea?” and never questioned it.”
After surgery, Debi completed 15 rounds of radiotherapy and in March last year, had a clear scan showing she was cancer free. She now has regular check-ups.
Debi said: “My experience means I understand all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. The ‘Right Now’ campaign captures the experience of so many families like mine. Cancer affects us all – not just the person diagnosed, but also their loved ones.
“I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my life and that’s why I want to do everything I can to raise awareness of the power of research in beating the disease.”