In 1998, Debbie Biddle had packed up her life on the East Coast and headed to Oregon for a new job opportunity. Less than a year into it, the then 45-year-old received an invasive breast cancer diagnosis.
The months that followed consisted of two surgeries and chemotherapy. Since then she has had three more bouts with breast cancer, more surgeries and radiation. In 2015, following genetic testing, she learned that she is BRCA2 positive.
But after her first diagnosis, Biddle decided to slow things down. She semi-retired and began to teach online, which offered flexibility for her to travel with her husband and move back East, settling in South Carolina near her parents and sister.
“I’ve always been an optimistic person, but I know nothing is a given,” Biddle, now 66, said in an interview with CURE®. “I feel like the cancer will come back because the last surgery didn’t (result in) clear margins. But I’ve been lucky.”
Her new “in the moment” lifestyle also allowed her to practice her passion — photography. Biddle’s love of nature comes out in her works as she enjoys taking in the scenery while on a hike or strolling through her yard to get closeups of different flowers.
This passion is what led her to enter her work, “Whirlwind,” in CURE®’s first-ever art cover contest, which spanned four months and brought in more than 70 art entries from patients and survivors across the country. The winner, voted on by CURE®’s audience, scored a chance to be featured on the fall print issue of the magazine.
Biddle’s entry was one of four finalists and following a survey sent to readers of the magazine and website, her photograph was selected as the winner. “I was in total shock when I heard I won,” she said. “I was so impressed with the other entries.”
The inspiration for “Whirlwind” came after she and her husband visited The National Quilt Museum in Kentucky and she saw the different ways they were patched together. “You get a cancer diagnosis and it’s a surprise and shock that you have to figure out what to do with the situation,” Biddle said. “For me, liking to be part of the decision making and learning as much as I can to be a part of that, so you start this whirlwind. It starts with the learning and decision making, then you move into the process of surgery, chemo, radiation and not really knowing where you will land in the end. Is it all going to work? I live life in a whirlwind — trying to do as much as I can when opportunities arise. And, maybe I never land?”
Biddle has been cancer-free for four years and remains on an aromatase inhibitor, which has caused problems with her bones and joints after years of being on them. From radiation treatment, she experiences a sore chest. But overall, she said, she feels pretty good.
“I live for the day,” Biddle said. “If I start to get grouchy or get stuck in a traffic jam and feel the adrenaline going, I start to think ‘Today is the only October 4, 2019 that I’m going to have. Am I going to make that a good day or a bad day?’"