Deborah Fabbri was keenly aware that breast cancer is a killer disease.
About 13 years ago, Fabbri said her mother’s sister was being treated for breast cancer. Fabbri said she and her mother would take Ruth Culley for chemotherapy treatments. Because a second aunt had died earlier from the disease, Fabbri said she decided to have a mammogram.
“The second mammogram came back that there was something they needed to check out,” she said.
Then the news broke.
“Eight hours after my aunt (Ruth) died they told me I had breast cancer,” Fabbri, 53, said. “I was a little taken aback. I just didn’t expect it to turn out that way.”
Fabbri, a wife and mother of two, underwent surgery at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, then chemotherapy.
She has been cancer free for 13 years.
She credits Aunt Ruth with saving her life.
“It was because of her we decided to do it early,” Fabbri said. “She’s my angel.”
The National Cancer Institute guidelines suggest women over 40 years old should have a mammogram once every one or two years.
Fabbri doesn’t quibble.
“Early detection saved my life,” she said.
Fabbri, an employee of C&G Savings Bank in Altoona, said she nurtures a positive outlook.
“People at work say, ‘have a good day,’ ” she said with a cheery laugh. “I say, ‘have a great day.’ ”
The youngest of seven children in a close-knit family, Fabbri is comforted by their help.
“I truly believe the support of family and friends got me through the surgery,” she said.
A member of St. Demetrius Roman Catholic Church in Gallitzin, Fabbri said her faith in God played a role in her recovery.
“When I went through the first round of chemo I was going through the Stations of the Cross.
“If God could endure the suffering, I could,” she said. “And I got through it. God kept me here for some reason.”
Deborah is married to Timothy Fabbri. Their oldest son, Timothy Fabbri Jr., lives in Pittsburgh. Their youngest son, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Ralph Fabbri, was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 28, 2010. He was 20.
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.