, a baseball team with players from Hannibal, Palmyra, and Quincy, shaved their heads in support of â??Nan,â?? the honorary team Grandma.
Debbie Catlettâ??Nan to her grandkidsâ??is the Dirtbags' best cheerleader. She sits in the stands and with her infectious enthusiasm, she encourages the team at every game. Now Nan is in need of encouragement herself as she battles
for a second time.
At a weekend tournament in Cedar Rapids, the team showed just how much they care by taking off their caps before a big game to reveal their newly shorn skulls. The team was inspired by Debbie's grandson, first baseman Payton Welch.
â??I could have never dreamed that big, that someone could do something this nice for me,â?? Catlett sniffed, still a little weepy over the gesture. She claims she was born a sentimental old fool, but this show of support from 18 players, coaches, and parents was over the top. â??It was amazing.â??
The timing couldn't have been better. Typically, Debbie is a dreamer herself. Through her efforts as Executive Director of the Hannibal Nutrition Center, she spearheaded a one-million dollar fund raising campaign to expand to a new building. She accomplished that feat against all odds, in a down economy, when even members of her own board said it couldn't be done. She never gave up. But as anyone with a major illness can attest, the fight is full of highs and lows. At times you know you've got cancer by the tail; other times you've given up and surrendered to despair. Debbie was in a funk. She was dealing with other health issues and she just didn't know if she could find the strength to face chemotherapy again.
â??When I felt that love and courage of those people shaving their heads, I thought, 'I can't let these kids down.' It gave me courage,â?? she said.
Armed with the new attitude, Debbie went the next day to start her first round of chemotherapy that will run a 12-week course. She expects to lose her hair in the next two weeks. She's pretty attached to her thick, shoulder-length locks, but she's putting it in perspective now.
â??They told me it doesn't matter, whatever I'm going through, they're going through it with me.â??
Debbie went down this road 23 years ago, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time. After a radical mastectomy on her left breast in 1988, Debbie told her surgeon that her goal was to see her children graduate high school. At age 57, the cancer came back in its most aggressive form. She's had a partial mastectomy on her right breast, and faces months of chemotherapy and radiation. Now she's set her sights on seeing her seven grandchildren graduate 16 years from now.
â??I'm going to start living like I'm going to live, and not like I'm going to die,â?? she said. â??I am not going to let these kids down.â??