Toe to toe with cancer: Deena Moore fought

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

By Deeanna Standifur
Special to the Salisbury Post
ëWhen I looked at the date on the dry-erase board on the wall, I realized someone had stolen about three days from my life.î[0xa0]
Salisbury Post readers saw these words in a piece titled ěNose To Nose and Toe To Toe With Cancerî in the Aug. 30 edition. Many who read this saw nothing more than another story they couldnít relate to. Others were reminded of their own cancer struggles or that of loved ones. For our family, however, we read what was our reality and what would continue to be our reality for the next four months. My name is Deeanna Standifur,[0xa0]and I am Deena Mooreís niece.
[0xa0]I received the call that Deena was being rushed to the emergency room and immediately knew our lives were forever changed. Deena was not one to be sick with much more than a common cold. With that said, for her name and the word hospital to be spoken[0xa0]together in that way was unheard of. I sat with my grandmother for the next few hours, answering her phone and getting updates from my mother. We had lost my uncle, Deenaís brother, to cancer six years ago. When the words ěbrain cancerî came across the phone line, my legs nearly gave way under me. Brain cancer. Visions of dementia and loss of functions and senses flashed through my own mind. Would she come out of surgery? Would she know any of us? Would she remember anything?
[0xa0]The next few months brought many surprises and blessings to our family. Not only had she came out of surgery OK, but she knew every one of us and was even[0xa0]able to recall my great uncleís complete military rank. That no doubt put a smile on his face along with each one of us standing in her ICU room at Forsyth Medical Center.
Deena was able move around, although a bit slower, on her own. She returned to her love of the computer even before leaving the hospital. Once home she began e-mailing weekly updates to her friends and family. Although she hadnít had a chance to learn the new Windows 7 before the cancer struck, she struggled through it like a trooper. Everything Deena did was done with good attitude and a trooper spirit. Deena had regained her life. In her words, following her last radiation session, the doctor had told her she could start buying green bananas again. My mother, who was her personal assistant and driver throughout her illness, said[0xa0]Deena just stopped outside the door of the office and cried huge, happy tears.
[0xa0]It was roughly five weeks later when we learned that the cancer had come back. It had not only[0xa0]returned but had[0xa0]also spread like rabbits in a summer garden. This cancer known as glioblastoma was back and planned on taking names. Deenaís spirits stayed high in the beginning of this diagnosis. She was never afraid of dying. She had made her peace and was ready when the good Lord was.[0xa0]Her decline was very slow at first. Early on after being told the cancer was back she started going through her personal things in order to make it easier on the family when her days were done. If you have never watched the decline of someone with brain cancer it is one of the most heartbreaking things ever.
[0xa0]Slowly Deenaís eyesight began to fade. We were constantly on the hunt for stronger reading glasses. This upset her more than anything because it was the one sense she knew could and would affect other parts of herself. Shortly after her eyes got bad, her ability to walk well changed. It became difficult for her to dress herself, walk in/out of the house as well as get in/out of the car. Soon her trips to anywhere we would take her had to be limited due to her lack of decent mobility.[0xa0]Depression set in. She felt she was a burden on my grandmother, mom, brother and anyone else who helped her out.
[0xa0]Her church family, friends, former co-workers and other members of our family were constants through this whole ordeal. She had so many prayers coming her way. People brought food and good company since she wasnít able to do what she once had. I told her once that she was fortunate to be surrounded by such intelligent people because they helped to keep her mind active. She agreed. Eventually, all the smart people in the world couldnít keep her mind going like it had. She began taking constant inventory of the things like her glasses and phone that[0xa0]she had near her and where exactly they were. Her short-term memory was almost nonexistent. However, she could quickly recall many stories from her time working at the Center Theatre or at the VA. In the last two months or so, she started to revert to a very child like state. Confusion was the norm; she couldnít remember how to do some daily tasks, and felt she couldnít say or do anything right because of a lack of comprehension.[0xa0]
[0xa0]On[0xa0]Wednesday, Dec. 29, I went to[0xa0]see Deena and help my grandmother, as had become routine.[0xa0]The thought never crossed my mind that this would be the last time I would see her alive. I knew her days were nearing[0xa0]because you could read it in her actions. Our last conversations involved[0xa0]the classes I am taking and[0xa0]our common job irritations. The last thing I remember her saying to me before her nap was that she was tired of not being able to do for herself, not being able to come[0xa0]and go as she wants and having to rely on everyone else for all her needs.
Deena passed away the next morning.
I personally canít thank reporter Shavonne Potts ó along with the staff[0xa0]and the readers of the Salisbury Post ó enough for the coverage of Deenaís struggle over the past few months. It was a great honor to her to not only have her name in the paper as a person of interest but to have her own writings in the news as well. The members of Grace United Methodist have been a great comfort to our family and Deena during her illness. The Boyden High School class of 1968 alumni have also been very good to Deena during her struggle. I could spend hours thanking all those who supported her but instead I leave just these words. May God bless all those lives touched by Deena Moore and all the lives that touched hers. On behalf of my once very vibrant aunt, I leave you with these words that became standard in her e-mails. ěWho loves ya, baby?î

Deeanna Standifur is a resident of Rowan County.