Debra LockwoodIn 2019, Debra Lockwood went to her brand-new OB/GYN for a regular checkup. During a digital rectal exam, her doctor felt something.

It turned out to be stage 3B peritoneal cancer. Peritoneal cancer looks and behaves like ovarian cancer, but is actually a rare cancer that develops in the peritoneum, a thin, delicate sheet that lines the inside wall of the abdomen and covers the uterus and extends over the bladder and rectum.

Debra underwent surgery and six rounds of chemo. Through it all, she knew she needed support. She and her husband enrolled in the Beat the Odds Program, which offers strategies for improving quality of life, managing symptoms and side effects and positively impacts survival after a cancer diagnosis.

“I didn’t want cancer to be my identity,” says Debra. “When I had a test, I didn’t want to wonder if it was coming back - I just wanted to be able to live my life, and Beat the Odds helped me do that. The class gave my husband and I a chance to connect and work through things together. Even today, we still reflect on some of the things we learned in the program.”

Now, Debra is in remission, and is starting her next chapter as a mentor for the Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support & Education Program. This program matches newly diagnosed patients with mentors who are specially trained cancer survivors that encourage and guide patients through the time of diagnosis, treatment, surgery and onto recovery.

“When I was approached to become a mentor, I wasn’t sure if I would be right for it,” says Debra. “But I just kept thinking ‘what if someone is going through this alone? How can I not be a mentor?’”

Beat the Odds and Women Guiding Women are just two of many free support programs and services offered to cancer patients and their families through the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center.

These critical programs are funded by philanthropic support raised through the annual Team Spirit Long Beach Cancer 5K. Team Spirit Long Beach, presented by the Baker Family Foundation, is in its 22nd year. This year's virtual format will include a "virtual opening ceremony," including walker welcome, warm-up, cool down, live Zoom starting line and virtual walk – all with moments of motivation to keep walkers going until the finish line!

In addition to being a new mentor, Debra is giving back by joining Team Spirit Long Beach. You can register today to join Debra and so many others on Saturday, Oct. 2 for this year's Team Spirit Long Beach as they walk and raise funds for future patients who will benefit from these critical services.