"Know you are stronger than you think." — Debra MacDougall

"Know you are stronger than you think." — Debra MacDougall

It was 2018 when a breast cancer diagnosis blindsided Debbie MacDougall. After the widow and mother, then 54, learned that she had stage I estrogen receptor-positive ductal carcinoma, a cancer of the milk duct that grows in response to the hormone estrogen, she was brought to tears. “I thought I was going to die,” she recalled. “I asked myself, ‘How will I get through this?’” When a second doctor reassured her the tumor was small and treatable, Debbie says, she knew she was going to be “okay.”

Throughout her course of treatment, though, Debbie was dealt numerous blows. Following a mastectomy and two breast reconstruction surgeries, she endured five rounds of chemotherapy that left her fatigued, bloated and in pain.

“There was a scar all across [my chest], I had drains coming out and I had seven lymph nodes removed,” Debbie said.

Refusing to allow the sight of her scar to commandeer her emotions, Debbie in an about-face said to herself: “‘You are so much more than the scar on your chest. You are a beautiful person and a good person. Your scar will heal.’”

Her recovery was not only a physical and emotional struggle, but a financial one. Money was tight and her insurance deductible was high. “Financially, cancer was a big hit for me,” said Debbie.

Debbie’s daughter and a close circle of friends helped her regain her footing by helping her to shower and dress, cooking her meals, providing rides to
chemotherapy and doctor appointments.

Debbie also received help from the Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition, a Lindenhurst-based nonprofit dedicated to breast and gynecologic cancers that offers advocacy, education and support services.

“Breast cancer affects you in many ways; each story is different,” she says. “I am sad I had to go through this, but I know I am lucky it was caught early and [that it was] treatable. [I] feel blessed.”

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