Woman loses second battle with breast cancer but her family continues the fight at Making Strides

A Metro Detroit woman beats breast cancer once - and when she does, she gives us a message about how to live life and it's really poignant. Especially after her death.

To really talk about breast cancer awareness we have to shine a light on some of the darkness and this story is tough, but it helps us understand how unpredictable and devastating cancer can be.

"I felt a lump and went to mammogram," said Debra Yates.

It's August 2019 and Debra Yates is remembering her breast cancer battle that had started three years earlier. she's the survivor speaker at the American Cancer Society Making Strides kickoff breakfast.

"It means a lot, I try not to get emotional," she said at the time. "I know what these women have gone through. Being here as a survivor, I'm able to smile and be happy, and I am able enjoy the moment."

She was so full of life, that's why it's so hard to accept Debra's death just two years after that moment.

"She had her first battle with breast cancer in 2017, she beat that and she had her second fight with it in July, that was when she got re-diagnosed," said her son, Deandre Slappy. "And then unfortunately we lost her on Sept. 25th."

Debra Yates

Debra Yates

She died just two weeks before the Making Strides walk, an event Debra was so proud of.

"It was her life's work after she got diagnosed," said her sister Kenicia Adams-Strong. "She said all the time that she didn't want anyone to walk alone. And it was her goal that cancer would be cured at some point in her lifetime. Unfortunately, it just wasn't quick enough for her. But she wanted to continue to fight. She raised money - even after her second diagnosis, she continued to register her team and raise money. She really thought she would be here today."

"It's a blessing that we can be here to represent her - she's here."

Standing so strong, Debra's family promises to continue her fight.

"Team Debra is forever. She would want us to be here," Deandre said. "She would want us to keep supporting the American Cancer Society, and she would want us to continue raising funds just so we could fight for a cure."

It seems only fitting to go back to that moment in 2019 and listen to Debra's message.

"Stop putting off stuff, that is one of the big things that I've learned," she said then. "I don't put off anything anymore. If I decide to do something I go ahead and do it. Because I just never know what the future holds."

Over the years Debra rallied her troops and she raised $10,000 for the American Cancer Society and Making Strides. She was still fundraising even after her second diagnosis. Her family and friends say Debra is no longer here but her team is not going away. 

To learn more about the American Cancer Society go to cancer.org/