Breast cancer doesn't stop Knoxville runner

Breast cancer doesn't stop Knoxville runner

Posted:
Debbie Stairs just completed her first 50K - that's just over 31 miles. It was during a run in 2005 that Debbie noticed something wasn't right. Debbie Stairs just completed her first 50K - that's just over 31 miles. It was during a run in 2005 that Debbie noticed something wasn't right.
"I knew something was off," she remembers, "because I had participated in a 195 mile relay race and I thought my running isn't like it needs to be. [I] went to the doctor and found breast cancer." "I knew something was off," she remembers, "because I had participated in a 195 mile relay race and I thought my running isn't like it needs to be. [I] went to the doctor and found breast cancer."
Debbie Stairs' doctor says her physical fitness contributed to how well she responded to surgery, and her outlook may well have made a difference in her recovery. Debbie Stairs' doctor says her physical fitness contributed to how well she responded to surgery, and her outlook may well have made a difference in her recovery.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - An East Tennessee woman just completed her first 50K - that's just over 31 miles.

The real story, though, isn't that she did it. It's why she keeps going.

At 50, Debbie Stairs is in remarkable shape.

When the busy executive with Oak Ridge National Lab isn't on the job, you'll often find her at the gym or outside on a run.

It was during a run in 2005 that Debbie noticed something wasn't right.

"I knew something was off," she remembers, "because I had participated in a 195 mile relay race and I thought my running isn't like it needs to be. [I] went to the doctor and found breast cancer."

Debbie jumped into action.

"I'd like to know my options, want to treat this aggressively. I've got things to do and places to go so let's do it," she told her doctor.

Debbie ended up having a mastectomy.

"I had the surgery on Monday and went back to work on Thursday," she said.

Dr. John Bell, Debbie's oncologist at UT Medical Center, says she is an inspiration.

"She had herself together personally, professionally, emotionally, physically and spiritually," he said.

For Debbie, running was something she couldn't wait to get back to after surgery.

"I found a 50k, got a coach, started training."

Debbie finished in the 50k in Mississippi last weekend in under six hours.

It led to our question: "what's next?"

Debbie laughed. "I won't go any more than that. 50k is enough!"

Debbie is now eight years cancer free.

Dr. Bell says her physical fitness contributed to how well she responded to surgery, and her outlook may well have made a difference in her recovery.

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