Through her first cancer journey, Deborah Bedlion lost love. Through her second, she found it again: for herself and from another.
“The cancers have been markers in my life in that they showed the true colors of my husband in the first. The second made me want to love myself. It’s been a blessing, even though cancer isn’t something anyone would say was a good thing in your life, but it has been for me,” she said.
Bedlion first faced uterine cancer a dozen years ago while living in Las Vegas and 30 years into her first marriage. After her diagnosis, her husband left town, she said, leaving her largely to take care of herself, their two children and the disease.
She moved to Santa Maria half a dozen years ago to be closer to her sisters and to care for their mother, Rose Shirley Nelson. In 2017, the tables turned a bit as Bedlion was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through seven rounds of chemotherapy and surgery, challenges with medications and their side effects, the pair became each other’s care-giving team. The support from her sisters, Annette Brink and Kathy Vedeer, as well as her sister-in-law, Carolyn Nelson, have made it a family affair.
“It’s been a sisterhood throughout the cancer. I was afraid that it would be too much for my mother. She’s a worrier. She said, ‘No. You’re my daughter.’ She wanted me here, and she’s done really well through it all. That was a blessing, too. She took care of me as much as I took care of her,” Bedlion said.
She had already lost 60 pounds and appeared to be in good health when she received her breast cancer diagnosis.
“I was already making myself a healthier person, but the cancer was, like, really? I’ve lost 116 pounds total, I’ve dealt with old emotional issues,” she said.
She took advantage of an array of Mission Hope Cancer Center programs including the caregiver support group, genetic counseling, and emotional support.
“I’d never talked to a psychologist about all that stuff from my first marriage, from my first cancer, from dealing with all that myself. The psychologist here helped me deal with all that old stuff, helped me with the idea of looking for love again,” Bedlion said.
She credits her improved health and outlook to the medical teams who provided early diagnosis and treatment, and the counseling and additional services provided by Mission Hope Cancer Center. She’s had surgery to remove any signs of the progressive, Her2-positive breast cancer, and wrapped up targeted treatment late this past winter. She made friends in the infusion room, and she discovered a staple Mission Hope support program that finally helped her turn the page.
“After I found the Feel Good, Look Good Program where they provide a wig and teach you how to do your makeup, I started getting compliments which was huge because I hadn’t heard that in years. My first surgery, I had to pay for my wig and they didn’t have support programs. It was amazing to see the changes with Mission Hope programs. Physical therapy has helped me with strength, so I’m losing pounds and inches which is helping my emotional status,” she said.
Food was no longer her replacement for love.
“Working with a Mission Hope dietician, I got food into its proper perspective, and caring for my mother helped me learn my proportions were out of control,” Bedlion said.
And she met another cancer survivor who enjoys her company on long walks and a shared interest in music from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s.
“I’m looking forward to my daughter’s wedding this spring and, who knows, maybe another wedding in my future,” Bedlion said.