December 19th, 2007 09:12 EST
Chase Von and The Courageous Debra D. Griffin, Cancer Survivor!!!
Interview on behalf of the Student Operated Press with...
Debra D. Griffin; Cancer Survivor and Author of "A Journey To Wellness!!!
Chase von: Hi Debra, I want to thank you on behalf of The Student Operated Press and myself for finding the time to do this! I know you have some book signings coming up and various other projects in the works, so we truly appreciate you finding the time! I was also asked before I'd met you, to proof your initial draft of the book. And through that although we hadn't yet met, I felt as if I knew you.
And now I certainly do! So now, my very brave new friend as well, thanks you for this interview!
Debra: Chase, any time I have an opportunity to spend some time with you is a real blessing. I always leave you with more than what I bring and for that, I am truly grateful. Thank-you!
Chase von: Before we get into your book, I would like our readers to know more about Debra the woman. What were your earlier years like? Where did you grow up? And what were the things as a younger version of yourself, that you found to be the most important and having survived what claims so very many lives, has your outlook and perspectives changed any from your previous views, after having now survived cancer?
Debra: My early childhood was a fairytale. My parents and my nine siblings lived just five blocks from the Los Angeles harbor in a small town called Wilmington located in So. California. My father was pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and my mother was a stay at home mom. One of the most important things I learned early in life was faith based, “God is able.” Knowing that my God is a loving and giving God and he is able to carry me through what ever befalls me took away so much of the fear and dismay concerning my diagnoses, because I knew and without a doubt, by his stripes I am healed.
Chase von: Now on to your recent book, "A Journey To Wellness", you didn't initially want to even keep a journal if I remember correctly. I also don't think I could blame you. Going through such a traumatic experience is daunting all by itself. But to chronicle it at first must have seemed like not the most of enjoyable of things to do. However, you began capturing your thoughts, writing poetry, and positive things that eventually led to you using your skills as a photographer to capture your care providers as well.
Looking back on your experience, are you glad that you did write down these events and your feelings?
And also would you suggest to others, in similar circumstances, to do the same?
Debra: Chase, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to keep a journal; I just didn’t know how to make it a positive thing. So many of the journals I had seen until then seemed to be, in my opinion, grand pity parties. I just needed to find a way to do it and have it reflect me. When I decided to incorporate the photos is when I found my stride. And yes, I would advise everyone going through a tough time to journal…it’s amazing what you find out about yourself. For me, what began as a simple task ended up as my saving grace.
Chase von: After you beat breast cancer, and cancer of the liver, it again returned, and metastasized in your brain. I know the average person might have wanted to throw in the towel at that point. I mean getting so far, and then what a huge set back! But you kept fighting! I remember talking to you on the phone a few weeks ago and you telling me, not only that the cancer was gone, but miraculously; it didn't even leave scar tissue! You are an extremely determined woman! How much do you attribute, having a never say die attitude has contributed to your being able to remain alive?
Debra: Next to the medications, procedures and surgeries, everything…it was that live or die attitude that got me up in the morning and pointed me in the direction of the medical facilities. It was the smiles, prayers and well wishes that built my hopes and keep me coming back. Next round!
Chase von: I've mentioned this before when we did the Michele Green radio show together, but I am still so very touched by how when you were so weak, and unable to even bathe yourself, that your daughters carried you to the tub, lovingly washed you and dried you, and how deeply that affected you at that time. I also read recently in a book by Joel Osteen, called, 'Your Best Life Now" where he relates the story of two twins that were born but unfortunately, one had a heart condition. This is not verbatim mind you, but against hospital policy, a nurse asked if they could put both the babies in the same incubator. A doctor finally consented and the healthy baby reached over and put his arm on his sick little sister, and for no apparent reason, her heart stabilized and began to heal. The story later done about it was called, "The Rescuing Hug." I mention this because I am aware how much you feel music helped you, but do you also think that human touch is also essential in healing?
Debra: Of course, Chase, I do. There have been so many studies on the human touch, but for me and without a doubt, it is my life. I have wonderful family and friends who keep me grounded. They never let me forget that I am loved. Their hugs and kisses nourished my soul and I could feel them with me whenever they couldn’t be there in the flesh. Chase, I am so blessed.
Chase von: Another thing I saw on TV was a young woman whose female relatives had a strong history of breast cancer. Her mother had even had it and survived. This woman however, didn't want to take any chances. So before it even became a possibility, she had both her breast removed, and later plastic surgery to correct the removal. At the end of the program, they stated a figure and this is from memory, so not exact, but that she went from a 75 to 90 percent of developing breast cancer to a 2 percent chance of developing it. I know that your family also had a history of breast cancer. So would you advocate now, those with a strong familial history of breast cancer, possibly doing as this young woman did so as to minimize it occurring?
Debra: Chase, no, every case of breast cancer is different. There are many types and stages of breast cancer and for each case, the treatment is personalized. What works for some will fail with others and it is impossible to see the outcome in advance. What I do advocate is finding a good medical staff that will work well with you. Who will do all in their power to find the right treatment for you based on you own set of circumstances. I advocate fighting aggressively and not playing around with time. I advocate not letting fear rule your decisions, but allowing knowledge to be your guide.
Chase von: Tell our readers how in addition to keeping a positive out look, how important you believe music was in your eventual recovery?
Debra: Oh, it’s just a matter of life or death, that’s all! Heh heh. Truthfully, music provides the opportunity to commune with God. When you are listening to music and as it fills your soul, you have no room for discord, worry or concern. For the Lord did say, “Make a Joyful Noise.”
Chase von: One of the things that struck me about your book, was you told it like it was. You didn't portray yourself or your life prior to cancer as picture perfect. In fact, you had already dealt with some pretty life altering events prior to learning you had cancer. Do you think in addition to family history, that stress related things often do contribute to people developing cancer? The world disease if separated comes out as disease or a state of not being at ease. And if so, do you now also practice things such as meditation or yoga or other things to manage your stressors?
Debra: Yes, my life held many distresses prior to cancer and I never took the time to rid my life of them…I just kept heaping them to the pile. After the cancer, I learned I had to purge and get rid of the stress in order for healing to take place. I had to learn to fill my life with positive things and get rid of the drama. Today I do this by dealing with the problems one problem at a time until they are gone. I have also found that doing the things I love to do, such as my photography, my music and prayer relieves a lot of the day-to-day stress. Today I fight hard and play harder, and I just don’t have much time left for worry, fear or doubt.
Chase von: How receptive has the medical community been to your book chronicling your survival of this dreaded disease? And are the ones listed in the photographs insisting they get signed copies? (Smile).
Debra: All the doctors and staff who are in it have been quite receptive to the book. Dr. Daniels bought 10 copies for his staff and his other breast reconstruction patients. Yes, and all but one of the photographers have been given a copy. The cover photographer was the last to get her copy and she was so proud of me. Did I ever tell you that she was my instructor when I was attending college?
Chase von: No but that certainly makes a very personal book even more personal and beautiful! My friend Bazhe lost his mother to a form of cancer, which he describes in detail in his book, "Damages." My mother also lost her mother and of course, my grandmother to cancer as well. Very few people don't know a friend or a loved one that has not been affected by this dreaded disease. But having survived it.
Can you tell our readers just a little about some of the breakthroughs medically they have had, and how hearing those ominous words now, doesn't always mean a death sentence?
Debra: I am the first in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer that has survived. There are no victories before me…so I did hear death with my diagnosis. But today there are so many new procedures and drugs that even with stage IV breast cancer, which has no cure to date; a woman can live with cancer like one would live with diabetes. When my sister Dorothy was fighting, brain metastasis was her demise, yet today with gamma knife surgery, brain mets is now just more than a nuisance. In fact, the girls in my oncologist’s office called it a tune-up…today some treatments can be painless. Fortunately for me, because I am still here.
Chase von: Unfortunately, I had your book on a computer that bit the dust. But I remember the part where you were first told you had cancer. Can you share with our readers how you called a friend, and what that friend told you even though he physically couldn't be present? There are many parts in your book that touched me emotionally and that was most certainly one them!
Debra: Chase, that passage reads like this:
When I finally pulled myself together, I called a friend, Dean Dass, and told him about the test. He was working and could not get to me, but what he said to me was quite remarkable. Dean told me that someone who loved me was already with me. I thought he was talking about God until he told me to put my arms around myself and hold on. He also said that no one could love me like I could. So I held myself and when I felt better, I started my car, said good- bye to my friend, and drove home.
Chase von: How important is family to you, and what is your take on the state of our current world?
Debra: My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I am nothing without them. They have kept me afloat through all my struggles…not just the cancer. All my struggles. I would prefer not to answer the question about our world now, I have to remain positive.
Chase von: What would you say, if you were standing in front of a microphone that could be heard by every child on the planet and regardless of what language it was they spoke, they would understand you? What positive advice would you give the children, if that were possible?
Debra: Smile, and keep a lot of smiling faces around you. Keep busy; take this time to do all your favorite things. Sing, and make a joyful noise.
Chase von: How can our readers find out more about you? This interview is certainly not capable of covering all of your life-threatening ordeal, so can you share your links and web pages? And when we spoke last you were telling me you are already working on another book! Can you share something about that one as well and a general time frame when you anticipate it will be available to the public?
Debra: Your readers can find me in several places. First, on my web site at namandesimages.com, this is my personal photography site. Then I have two pages on the space.
www.MySpace.com/serious1cancer and www.MySpace.com/namandesimages where all are welcomed. For those that want to help in this fight for life they can also donate to The Breast Cancer Care Research Fund at; 6022 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angelos, California 90036 or by contacting Michele Rakoff at (310) 927-7606.
Also Chase, my next book will be an anthology, paying homage to the musicians who helped me fight my bout with breast cancer. I hope to have it finished by September in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2008.
Chase von: On behalf of The Student Operated Press and myself, Debra, I truly thank you for taking the time to do this. I also want to extend Happy Holiday wishes to you and yours and I am sure we will be in contact with one another really soon, so love and light to you as always. (Smile).
Debra: Thank you so kindly. It is always a pleasure to spend some time with you…as I do enjoy your company. Happy Holidays to you and your family, and may God continue to bless.