Survivor’s Story ~ Deborah Wolfe talks about her battle with breast cancer

The real estate market in the Lakeway Area is booming, particularly if you’re a seller. Just ask local Realtor Deborah Wolfe, who on a recent Monday showed houses to a prospective cash buyer from out of state. The buyer is ready to re-locate and has cash in hand, a real dream-come-true for anyone in real estate, except for the fact that, apparently, everyone wants to move here right now.

“I’m watching every price reduction and new listing daily, so we can run with it,” Wolfe said

The sellers-market trend reflects a healthy local economy and continuing announcements of new jobs coming to Hamblen County, facts that will continue to keep Realtors busy.

Keeping busy and maintaining a lively sense of humor are traits well-known by those who know or have worked with Deborah.

What may come as a surprise to many, however, is that in November 2017, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram.

“I had absolutely no idea, not a clue. There was no lump.” Wolfe said.

After a follow-up ultrasound, she was told the diagnosis in one of her breasts was DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ — the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct), considered the earliest form of breast cancer with a low risk of becoming invasive.

Her treatment included two lumpectomies and the decision to undergo a mastectomy.

“Then I went through reconstruction. After the reconstruction, I came out of it and now have two of the perkiest boobs, ever. I am delighted, thank you, Lord!” she said.

Humor was an integral part of the treatment and recovery process.

‘‘My oncologist kept me bolstered and feeling good; he would get me laughing,” Deborah said. “And some of things that happened were just funny. I didn’t take things personally. I saw it as, ‘this is a process.’ And it was an easier process for me because there was no chemo, no radiation. The lumpectomy only would have required radiation.

“As my plastic surgeon said to me three to four days prior to the mastectomy, ‘That stuff is just like crabgrass.’ But it stayed in the milk ducts. I did have two lymph nodes removed, just to be sure. In total, I had five surgeries, the last two were reconstructive,” she said.

Deborah’s final surgery took place in July 2018.

“Most people did not know I ever had it, the recovery was quick,” she said. “I didn’t miss much work at all. It went so well for me. My oncologist helped me deal with the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the process. The surgeries went very smoothly, with no problems at all. I was able to deal with the discomfort.”

She makes return visits to her oncologist every six months, all of them have been clear.

“I can’t say enough about early detection,” she said.

Until now, Deborah has not been outspoken about her experience, preferring instead to keep it under wraps. And the reason behind that inclination is due in part to the fact her situation was relatively easy to bear, she feels, in comparison to others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Putting myself in someone else’s shoes, I feel very fortunate. We are often quick to say ‘I am just so blessed.’ But the person who you are talking to may have been through worse – it could be offensive to them. Some people have it rough.”

Deborah knows one woman in particular who has endured three types of breast cancer. But when she hears of someone who has received a diagnosis, she is quick to respond now.

“I reach out. If I can be of help in any way. I started letting people know for that reason. I tell them, ‘I’m here for you, if I can help in any way,’” she said.

Deborah is one-half of The Wolfe Pack real estate team, affiliated with ReMax Real Estate Ten in Morristown. The other half is her husband, Ron.

They have been in the business for around 15 years, and she said working, especially in the busy Lakeway Area market, helped her deal with the stress of the breast cancer experience.

“You talk about a distraction! Work is the best thing for me,” she said.

There was a particular celebration at some point in 2018, after the surgeries.

“I ran through the house naked two or three times,” Deborah said. “Poor Ron. It’s been rougher on him than it has me. Evidently that is a very classic behavior when it’s all over, and women are very pleased with what they came out with. Thankfully, we have woods on three sides of the house, and the neighbor on the fourth side wasn’t home.”

She also celebrated with a beach vacation that fall, putting on a swimsuit for the first time in a year — “I began to feel normal again,” she said.

Her advice to anyone who may experience a similar diagnosis:

“There is hope. Have doctors you trust and have confidence in; put it in the Lord’s hands and go about your business the best you can. And when you are ready, reach out and help others who are diagnosed and going through it, too. When we go through something tough, we should reach out and give somebody a hand, those who are just starting it. Breast cancer is one of the scariest things, but it’s amazing what doctors are able to do today. They know more than they did 10 years ago.

“Get your regular mammogram every year and check your breasts every month. If you see anything different, research for signs and get in there early! It’s a process you go through; there’s a dark side and then you come back out into the light. The dark side for me was the day I had my mastectomy. And now cancer doesn’t scare me,” she said.

The couple is enjoying their second careers together (he worked in manufacturing prior, she worked in hotel management). Technically he has seniority; he started in the real estate business six months earlier.

“I don’t think he ever planned to include me,” Deborah said. “I had never thought about doing this; but I quickly found out how much fun it could be by watching Ron, and I got interested.”

The cohesive Wolfe Pack team now in place was something of a work-in-progress in the beginning.

“It took three years to learn how to work together,” Deborah said. “In those three years, though, we only had one sale that nearly caused a divorce. I represented the buyers; Ron represented the sellers. It came down to a decision the sellers had to make; and we nearly hit each other. Ron allowed his client to make the decision, and we got it closed. We brushed the dirt off each other and our wounds healed. We will still fuss and argue occasionally, usually over what the price of a listing should be, but we will always come to an agreement of what’s going to work.”

Average price points for the Morristown market are hovering under $300,000 for a single family dwelling, usually around $250,000, give or take $20,000.

“The lower you get, the faster the speed of them moving,” Deborah said, adding that a having a contract in hand within 24 hours is common.

“From what we see now it will continue,” she said. “This is a great area to work in real estate. The people who live here are super. The ones who choose to live in East Tennessee are super.”

By the time out-of-town buyers are ready to sign on the dotted line, they are familiar with Deborah’s sense of humor.

“I tell them, ‘Whatever you don’t like about where you’re from, don’t bring it here,’ she said. “They always laugh.”