A Survivor’s Story: Deborah Iversen

Deborah Iverson stands near a hand-made quilt, whose sale proceeds will benefit “Dollars for Mammograms.”

Deborah Iversen was born in Pierre, South Dakota, but has lived in Florida for years. She owns Deborah’s Quilt Basket in Venice.

When were you diagnosed and at what age?

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Venice, Florida, at age 51.

What type of treatment did you receive?

My breast cancer was Stage 2 and my treatment was a lumpectomy followed by six treatments of chemotherapy every three weeks and then 33 treatments of radiation.

Did you face any obstacles? If so, how did you overcome them?

My obstacle during my treatment was keeping my retail store, Deborah’s Quilt Basket, open during my treatment. I had 30 friends step forward to help out with my business as I was not able to be there physically six days a week. When I was working, someone was also with me to help.

I also developed lymphedema in my left arm from the surgery, so had additional therapy to control the swelling.

What was the most challenging part?

The most challenging part of my diagnosis was that my mother had also had been diagnosed with breast cancer one month before me. I moved into her home in Venice and we went through the challenges of healing together.

Where did you find the greatest support?

The greatest support that I received was from friends who either called, sent a card or dropped by with food and family who, although they were many miles away, were there for my mom and me. I talked to my Dad, who was now living in South Dakota, every night and that was very comforting.

I found a lot of support in a friend, Dawn Moore, who became a fantastic mentor after she had also survived from her diagnosis a couple of years before me.

How has this affected your relationships with friends and family?

The experience had a profound effect on my family because my mom passed away two and a half years after her diagnosis and I wondered if I would survive longer.

I had a BRCA mutation test to see if there was a possibility that the cancer was in my family genes. That test and another similar test came back negative. It provided me with the satisfaction that the cancer was not handed down somewhere in my family.

It also told me the mammograms that women should have yearly are the best test to prevent a later stage of breast cancer. The best thing for survival is early detection in what seems to be a very common type of cancer.

How has this experience changed you?

I would say the whole experience has told me that we are stronger than we think. Challenges should be accepted and I am so grateful that, after 12 years since my diagnosis, I continue to be cancer-free. That has been my greatest gift.

What advice would you give to others?

I like to offer advice and encouragement to others that have this challenge ahead of them. It is a fight for survival and with the advances in treatment many more people are surviving. One day I hope there is a cure.

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