They both were in each other’s lives indirectly, working at the same three hospitals in an 18-year span. Some time after Ronnie got divorced and Deborah’s husband passed away, a mutual friend reintroduced them. The rest, Deborah says, is history.
However, when Deborah and Ronnie recited their wedding vows six years ago, they didn’t expect that said vows would be tested two years into their marriage.
At age 50, Ronnie was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer after a routine colonoscopy. He had no symptoms, so the news was unexpected for both of them.
Wrapping his mind around a cancer diagnosis wasn’t something Ronnie was ready to deal with. He kept a low profile after the diagnosis, hiding himself from everyone. Although Deborah was also dealing with the shock of the diagnosis, she knew Ronnie depended on her and she was ready to take on her role as caregiver.
Deborah’s nursing background helped the couple navigate the treatment process, especially when it came to asking the doctors hard questions. Ronnie says that sometimes it was difficult to follow what the doctors were saying, but Deborah was there to redirect the information so it could be explained in simpler terms.
“I definitely got my strength from Deborah,” says Ronnie, “Having her as an advocate in the room helped me decide how to fight this cancer.”
Keeping a normal lifestyle in spite of the diagnosis has also helped Ronnie in his fight. Deborah maintains a positive mindset in their household, but also encourages Ronnie to vent whenever he needs to.
Both of them are avid motorcycle riders, so they try to ride and go on trips as often as possible. They stay strong by leaning on their support team formed by friends and family members who help them treat everyday as a regular day, which has been important despite the curveballs that have come their way.
Ronnie has had three recurrences since his initial stage II diagnosis, and is currently battling stage IV colon cancer with mets.
When faced with the first recurrence, Deborah knew they needed answers and to be proactive about their research. She started asking Ronnie’s doctors even more questions as they faced treatment decisions.
She asked about tumor location – she’d heard it could matter if the tumor was on the right or left side of the colon. Since he had two sons, she knew discussing genetics and asking about Lynch syndrome was important. Deborah also asked about biomarker testing.
“Biomarker testing gave us peace of mind about knowing what we were facing,” says Deborah. “His results didn’t impact the treatment plan but showed us we were on the right track. I had to be the one to ask about it – the doctor didn’t bring it up.”
Ronnie is grateful to Deborah for being strong and willing to ask the doctors questions.
“The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask,” said Deborah.
The couple agrees that although it’s best to get your tumor tested as soon as possible in order to be informed in all treatment decisions, it is never too late to get a biomarker test.
“You want to know as much as you can,” says Deborah. “Knowledge is power.”
Deborah and Ronnie became involved with Fight Colorectal Cancer after learning about it through their friends Renee and Lenny Cummings, who lost their son Clint to the disease. As advocates, the couple is now determined to start conversations about prevention and screening whenever and wherever they can.
Know your Body. Get Tested.
Biomarker testing gave Ronnie and Deborah peace of mind – they knew they were on the right track with treatment. But, they had to ask their doctor about the test and start the conversation. If you’re a late-stage patient, ask your doctor if your tumor has been tested for biomarkers. Visit FightCRC.org/Biomarked to learn more.