Debbie Pickler is a member of the American Lung Association’s Lung Cancer Patient Advisory Group.
Debbie’s lung cancer story began on March 4, 2013, the day she was diagnosed. When she heard the news, she was overwhelmed. There were a million things running through her head – her husband, kids, grandkids, what’s next for her. Before getting bronchitis, pneumonia and a pleural effusion, Debbie did not have any symptoms.
The month following her diagnosis was filled with tests, biopsies, specialty doctor visits, staging, surgeries, second opinions and biomarker testing. She then started treatments consisting of Carboplatin, Alimta and Avastin. There were no therapies or trials available for her specific type of lung cancer at that time.
Over her ten-year cancer journey, Debbie has overcome many challenges. The chemotherapy led to many short and long-term side effects, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, nausea, anemia and high blood pressure. She also experienced radiation fibrosis, loss of lung volume, and bronchiectasis due to radiation therapy. Debbie found that seeing a pulmonary doctor and going to pulmonary rehab to exercise the lungs have been essential to maintaining better breathing. In 2015, she was able to join a BRAF trial and participated in that for over two years.
In 2014, she connected with the American Lung Association at Detroit’s first LUNG FORCE Walk. It was the first time she saw there were other people like her who knew exactly how she felt and what she was going through.
To Debbie, being a patient advocate gives her purpose. She never wants to see another patient or caregiver feel alone on their journey. It gives her hope to help others going through similar experiences.
Debbie is currently retired from a career in the automotive industry. She is married with four children and five grandchildren. She loves crafting, knitting, photography, cooking and spending time with her grandkids.