When Debbie Letniak was diagnosed with glioblastoma, only one thing felt normal. As she recovered from surgery, 15 family members arrived with homemade strawberry ice cream – a family tradition on the Fourth of July.
“The Fourth of July has always been a big holiday for our family,” she said. “In some ways, it was just ice cream, but it was the one normal thing.”
Debbie said she’s always had a close-knit and supportive family. However, their support only grew after she received her diagnosis and began treatment. Family traveled to be with her in the days after her diagnosis. Debbie’s sister, Patti, converted an empty basement into an apartment with furniture and family pictures on the wall for her to stay in as she recovered. Her daughter, Jodi, and niece, Heather, researched and prepared nutritious meals for her. Her nephew, Kevin, is a doctor and attended appointments with her to ensure she understood the medical terminology.
“I’ve had absolutely incredible family support,” Debbie said.
Debbie retired from her 28-year career as an educator in 2015. She taught elementary school, junior high school and was principal at a K-through-9 school. She said she most enjoyed working with children and seeing their enthusiasm.
I look for the blessings
in every day.
“You get them going in the right direction and they just take off,” she said. “I loved seeing that sparkle in their eyes when you catch it.”
She and her husband, Lawrence, recently bought a home in Burleson, Texas, to be closer to their daughter and two grandchildren. Debbie spends part of her time there and part of her time in Sandpoint, Idaho, where her 91-year-old mother, Doris, and other family live and where she grew up.
While in Idaho, Debbie loves spending time outdoors, surrounded by the mountains, clear lakes and towering pine trees. She said she aims to walk 2 ½ miles every day, and also enjoys cooking and spending time with her family.
Along with her family’s support, Debbie said, she also finds comfort in her faith and the quality of care she receives from her medical team. She said practicing gratitude helps her focus on the positive things in her life. She writes down things she’s grateful for in a notebook and reads it when she feels discouraged.
“I look for the blessings in every day,” she said.
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