Cancer Survivor, Helen Deboles, Runs to Show Others They Can Persevere Too
Helen Deboles thought her life was over. She was in her 40s, facing chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries for breast cancer. She had already endured too much pain and was feeling too little hope.
“The road that I traveled, there was darkness at the end. I didn’t think there was a light,” Deboles, 56, recalled. “I would be in my room, and I would just try to not see anyone because I wanted to give up. I started thinking about my two young daughters, ‘What are they going to do? What are they going to do without me?’
“Something kicked into gear. I woke up, I got a kick in the butt, and I’m here. So, I’m trying to just do this thing called life and keep moving ahead to show other women and men that they can do the same. Don’t just lay there and take it.”
Part of that kick in the butt was to take charge of her health and fitness. It’s why Deboles signed up for the Track Shack “U Can Finish” 5-mile race at the University of Central Florida, running in the Growing Bolder Division Powered by Florida Blue Medicare.
At race time Helen was anxious, crowded in a sea of other runners of every age, every level of fitness, and every reason for being there. The start is always exhilarating, and Helen got off to a good one. She felt an inner confidence, one positive that came from nearly dying. Deboles had learned she was tougher than she thought. She had learned to harness that strength, that resolve, to fight for herself and for others, as an example. Even her sister was there at the break of dawn to watch her run.
“She got me out of bed this morning. I actually just wanted to sleep,” April Johnson said. “But I know it’s so dear to her heart to be here, and it’s so dear to her heart to fight, I couldn’t stay in bed. So, I got on up and I came, and I’m going to be by her side all the way to the end.”
With her sister cheering, Helen was on the move. Two miles in and she was keeping a solid pace, steady and strong.
But around the fourth mile, her knee began to stiffen. She tried to push through, but it kept getting worse. She wondered if she would have to stop, but Deboles knows a little something about how to deal with pain.
“Don’t give up. Always push through it. Perseverance, that’s what it’s all about,” she recalled. “I’m going to push so I can show everyone else that you can do it, too.”
Deboles did push through. She may have slowed down, but she never quit. She powered to the end and was met at the finish line with a loving embrace from her sister. At the age of 56, she conquered a five-mile run. This 12-year cancer survivor is out to show us that we can be so much stronger than we think.
“I keep going back to perseverance,” Deboles said. “Push, push, push. It’s well worth it in the end.
“I accomplished something and I didn’t give up. It means a great deal because if I give up, it seems like I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to fail myself, so that’s why I kept going.”
Whether facing a daunting medical diagnosis, trying to run a race, or any challenge in between, Deboles offers this piece of advice:
“Never give up. Believe in you, and you’ll make it through.”
This article is featured in the Spring 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.