Today, I lost my friend. Her family lost a loving mother, a beautiful wife, a sweet sister and a caring daughter. Many lost their close friend, and then others from all over the world lost the most incredible, dedicated advocate for finding a cure for stomach cancer. Debbie truly was amazing – after being diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer at age 40 with three young children, not only did she not give up, but she fought so hard for the last 9 1/2 years to be with her family, and beyond that to create a non-profit, Debbie’s Dream, that would champion the cause of finding a cure for stomach cancer. With everything she gave of herself, her most important role was being a mother, and it meant everything for her to be around for her children. She inspired me and so many others to be strong, fight for what is important to us, and to always give back.
I met Debbie in college in our sorority. We lost touch after school, but reconnected years later at a campaign fundraiser for a mutual friend. And, then when Debbie was diagnosed and started her grassroots organization, Debbie’s Dream, I was lucky to be a part of the beginning, and I became a sort of historian for the organization and for Debbie. I have years of images of Debbie, not only at Debbie’s Dream functions and meetings, but also of her family portraits that we took every year. Photos were so important to Debbie, and she truly loved them, and I am blessed to have been able to document so many moments for her through this journey. I loved being her friend, I love her family and am heartbroken for them, and I love being a part of Debbie’s Dream, watching it go from a meeting of volunteers at a neighborhood clubhouse to becoming a nationwide organization that spearheads stomach cancer research and patient advocacy. With these images, I hope you can see how she literally shines from the inside out. My dear, amazing, smart, beautiful, funny, dedicated friend – you are already missed by so many. I love you.