Buddy Check 12: Local couple fights cancer together

By Christy Hendricks
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Diagnosis of cancer is hard on any couple, but a Heartland husband and wife bring new meaning to fighting the disease as a team.
Over the past four years, both Kent and Debbie Griffith were diagnosed with cancer and together they've fought back a total of three times. Not only that, as a family practice physician, Kent sees cancer patients frequently.
"You're absolutely in shock when you first find out," Debbie Griffith said. "And then you're just trying to get your mind around it and then you're trying to decide what you should do, be best for you."
Nearly two years ago, Debbie felt the shock of a lifetime after a mammogram came back suspicious and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As many breast cancer patients, she immediately began gathering as much information as possible.
But Debbie could draw on a source of knowledge and support not all women have.
Her husband, Kent, is a family practice physician.
"He knew people in the outside medical community that he also contacted and that helped," she said. "That helped make the decision."
Kent is also a two time cancer survivor.
"We had been through the experience with me and so it gave us a little more insight into what to expect," Kent said. "I see people diagnosed with cancer frequently but when it's your own family it's a whole different experience.  It's hard to explain but it obviously affects you more."
Debbie says the experience has changed how she relates to other cancer survivors.
"You really know what they're going through," she said. "You really can identify with that and empathize with them."
One thing she's learned from the experience is the importance of being your own advocate.
"A lot of opinions differ," Debbie said. "We had some people say mastectomy.  We had some people say breast preservation is the best way to go and so then it was just deciding what's best for me then because all the treatments were probably going to have the same result that I would be cancer free but just which one's best for me."
After going through her options, Debbie had a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation.  She's now cancer free.
"I got through this just fine and you can too," she said.
"It's important to stay well informed, stay in touch with your doctors," Kent said. "I haven't let it interfere with my daily life because there's only so much that you can do and from then you just go on with your life."
Both Debbie and Dr. Griffith stress the importance of early detection and regular screenings like yearly mammograms, because early detection helps increase the chance of survival.