Life goes on for cancer victim’s family

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 20, 2004

WINDSOR – Deborah Daniel never expected her husband to die from a cancer.

He was a fireman, an outdoorsman, never complained, was never hospitalized and refused to give up, so she thought he would beat the disease like she did a few years ago.

Deborah, 44, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 1999 after suffering a seizure while sleeping. There had been no problems and no pain except for what she thought were sinus headaches.

&uot;Don woke up with the bed shaking and that’s how the whole thing started,&uot; she explained.

Ten days after the diagnosis, she had surgery to remove the growth. As Deborah was recovering from surgery September 15, Hurricane Floyd hit eastern North Carolina and Pitt Memorial Hospital filled to overflowing. Three days later, the doctor said Deborah could come home if her family could get to Greenville.

&uot;Don was out of breath when he got to my room; he was rushing and wanted to get back home because water was rising so fast. It was an experience just to get back to Windsor,&uot; she explained.

Deborah had been misdiagnosed with the worst kind of aggressive brain tumor and opted for follow-up chemotherapy and radiation on recommendation of her doctor. It was later discovered that her tumor was just one step down from that severity and the treatments served her well because she has had no other problems. An MRI every six months confirms that no growth has returned.

Deborah works as a rural carrier with Williamston Post Office and Don worked as a distribution clerk with Colerain Post Office. The couple has two daughters, Liza, who works for a pharmaceutical company in Greensboro, and Roxanne, a student at Bertie High School.

&uot;Don loved to hunt and fish; he loved (Merry Hill-Midway) Fire Department; he loved God and his (Capehart’s Baptist) church; his family; playing and coaching softball, but not necessarily in that order,&uot; Deborah explained.

In October 2002, Don developed pain in his side and began coughing heavily. An X-ray found a lung mass and an outpatient test at Pitt Memorial showed it was small cell carcinoma that could not be helped with surgery.

&uot;It spread to his windpipe and the doctor said it was so aggressive that his body would not be able to heal from one surgery before another spot would turn up,&uot; Deborah said.

Don had radiation and chemotherapy treatments, which, according to his wife, made him &uot;sick, sick. I never was that sick from my treatments, but each cancer gets a different therapy.&uot;

Don’s lung mass diminished, &uot;but was still there.&uot; However, he never stopped working at the post office, continued his work with the fire department and never spent a night in the hospital.

Doctors convinced Daniel to take a leave of absence this past February to give his body a rest. In March, he began coughing massive amounts of blood and the doctor suggested a stronger cough medicine. Don rode to Windsor with his wife to pick up the new prescription. Within hours, Don, 48, died at his home, leaving Deborah in absolute shock.

&uot;It seemed to me that Don was going to be okay,&uot; she noted. &uot;After the radiation, things were getting cleared up, he was getting straightened out and that’s what I thought was going to happen.

&uot;It has just been eight weeks since Don died and I’ve been busy trying to get everything settled. I still kiss his pillow at night like I used to kiss him. I miss his afternoon phone call to see what time I’ll be getting home from work. Sometimes my phone will ring in the afternoon and it takes me a few seconds to realize it can’t be Don. When I come in the door, he’s not in his recliner or in front of the computer and I miss him sitting with me in church.&uot;

Don and Deborah were active in American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Bertie County and served as captains for Capehart’s Baptist Church Team. This year, when people gathered at Bertie High School May 14-15, she was still a member of the church team.

When asked what she would tell people now about Relay for Life now, Deborah replied, &uot;I would tell them the same thing I did before Don died. My faith is in God. Through God, Relay for Life researchers find new medicines and hopefully will guide us to a cure one day. That’s the main objective of Relay for Life.

&uot;I had the faith that Don was going to be healed and he was healed, just not in the way I wanted.&uot;