Ovarian cancer has no symptoms.
“It’s called the silent killer,” Debbie Ayers Lawson said.
Lawson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the fall of 2010. She has been in remission for a year. Now that she looks back on it, she says she is grateful she had cancer, and thanks God for it.
“Attitude is 80 percent of the fight,” Lawson said. “That’s where faith in Christ comes in. My faith is my safety net at all times. I would not have chosen this, but I’m thankful that Jesus blessed me with cancer. We have found out in the long run that it has been a blessing in 1,001 ways.”
Having cancer has given Lawson a platform to share her faith. Dr. Larry Kilgore, Lawson’s doctor, has given her opportunities to speak in public arenas about her faith and also allowed her to return to the chemotherapy room to speak to the patients.
“You get to meet some really phenomenal people who have cancer,” Lawson said.
In August 2010, Lawson experienced pain in her lower body after she stepped out of her car.
“I felt like my insides were going to hit the ground,” Lawson said.
Lawson went to her gynecologist, who ran some tests. After the tests, the doctor told Lawson her ovary was the size of a baby’s head. The pain Lawson felt was caused by her ovary bouncing off her pelvic floor. She was then scheduled for surgery in October 2010.
Two weeks later Lawson went to her post-op check up. Lawson was “expecting nothing, because at this point we still knew nothing,” she said.
The surgeon hadn’t received the pathology report when Lawson arrived.
“Before I left the doctor’s office, the pathology report was faxed in,” Lawson said.
The report was handed to Lawson’s surgeon.
“When she looked at it she said, ‘are you alone?’” Lawson recalled.
When Lawson said she was, her surgeon told her what was on the report. Lawson had stage one ovarian cancer. The surgeon also told Lawson her ovary had burst when it was being removed in surgery, causing cells to flood her body. Ovarian cancer is in particular cells, and the cells that went into Lawson’s body could have caused the cancer to take root anywhere in her body. Because of this, her surgeon referred her to an oncologist.
“At that point you’ve got to get your thoughts together, drive to Knoxville, and tell your family,” Lawson said after a pause. “I had great support at this point, when I told my family. Because I have a phenomenal family.”
Lawson is the second member of her family to battle cancer. Her niece, Ali Dower, was diagnosed with cancer when she was only a year old. Ali Dower was only given six months to live, Lawson said. She is now 21 years old.
“That was the only cancer history in our family,” Lawson said “Cancer had never been part of us.”
Lawson’s family is very involved in raising support in the fight against cancer. Ayers Real Estate sells funnel cakes at Relay for Life. Lawson’s sister, Traci Ayers Dower, is the survivor chair for Relay for Life. Lawson was also at the survivor dinner for Relay for Life this year.
Lawson’s faith sustained her through her battle with cancer.
“My first thought wasn’t about being healed, I knew deep down this was going to be a way of sharing my faith.”
When she found out she had cancer, she told her sisters, Codi Ayers Provins and Traci Ayers Dower that God would use it.
Lawson’s insurance had changed, and she had only one doctor she could go to, Dr. Kilgore.
“This is a God thing because it seems this is the perfect man to go to,” Lawson said.
Lawson also had to decide whether or not to undergo chemotherapy.
“That seems like a no brainer, but it’s not,” Lawson said. “It (chemotherapy) changes you at a cellular level.”
“The big thing at that point is getting down on your knees and praying to God for guidance,” Lawson said “Not that He would heal me, or that He would take it away, but for guidance on how to proceed. I wanted to be obedient to what He wanted me to do more than anything.”
As Lawson was praying for guidance, the story of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego was brought to her mind. These three Hebrew children refused to obey a pagan king and bow before the idol he had set up. This story from the Bible helped Lawson in her fight with cancer.
“I don’t have to bow to cancer, because as long as I’m in the Lord’s hands I win in either direction,” Lawson said, referring to life and death. “I guess that’s why I wasn’t worried about being healed, I was worried about using this for what it should be used for.”
Lawson chose to undergo chemotherapy.
“I had six rounds,” Lawson said. “Which is a walk in the park compared to so many other people.”
Although Lawson describes her experience with chemotherapy as a “walk in the park,” she underwent suffering. Not only did the medicine cause her favorite food, ketchup, to taste bad, her hair to fall out and her fingers to become tender when she clasped objects, but she had an allergic reaction during her first treatment. She couldn’t see or hear, and her blood pressure was thrown off.
“It’s a pretty scary event,” Lawson said.
The doctors were able to take care of her and she was able to finish her rounds of chemotherapy on schedule. She had completed her treatments by March of 2011. She has tested cancer free since and has been in remission for a year. She is waiting to be cancer free for five years. Within five years, cancer can easily come back.
Lawson is thankful for modern day cancer therapies.
“Just because you’ve had cancer, doesn’t mean you’re down forever,” Lawson said. “You begin to rise back up.”
Lawson is a chaperone for JROTC summer camp, and was finished with her treatment in time to go to camp.
Lawson encourages people to donate money to both the American Cancer Society and to the Campbell County Cancer Society. She said many feel they are helping the locals by giving only to the CCCS, but they shouldn’t feel the two organizations are in competition with each other. The best way to help local cancer patients is to give to both, she said.