CaringBridge Is Funded by People Like You

Make a donation to CaringBridge

Honor Deanna with a tax-deductible contribution to CaringBridge today.

Click here to make your donation.

Deanna’s Story

Welcome to CaringBridge. We have created this site to keep our friends and family updated about Deanna's progress. Please read the latest in the journal, view the photo gallery, and drop us a line in the guestbook.As of Friday, December 12th, Deanna is still at Abbott Northwestern hospital in Minneapolis, staying on the Spinal floor, with her husband Neal close at hand. Several months ago (August of 2008), she started experiencing back pain. After an initial MRI, she was told she had a fracture in her vertebrae. For several months Deanna diligently wore a brace to heal the fracture. The past two weeks, the fracture, however, got worse.

On December 8th, Deanna had another MRI and at the doctor's request, a subsequent biopsy of the lower back. She was admitted to the hospital on December 10th because the biopsy had come back malignant. She was admitted by the Spinal doctor, but the Oncologist quickly became involved. It turns out, the bone in the vertebrae had weakened, and had fractured because of the cancer within the back. Running point on all the activity and follow-up testing was Dave Tetzlaff, Neal and Deanna's brother-in-law, who is a physician at Abbott. It has been a god-send to have Dave involved.

After a CT Scan, the news became worse, and that it was not only in the back, but had also gotten to the pelvis, with a couple spots on the lung. Because the form of cancer appeared to be estrogen based, the breast was still the likely culprit. This had not been verified. The doctors still needed to verify the source as the breast, so an ultrasound and biopsy of chest was proposed, and conducted on Thursday, December 11th. On the evening of the 11th, the Oncologist gave Deanna and Neal some positive news, that the lower back could and would be treated immediately with radiation. And Deanna would be feeling better in the back by Christmas. As of Friday, however, we still haven't heard back from Pathology on the biopsy of the breast.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, discussions around next steps for the breast cancer will be discussed. The real difficult aspect for Deanna, is having to deal with two sources of cancer and pain: the lower back (immediate) and the breast (longer term depending on the stage it is in).

We will update the details here and in the journal as they become known. It is obviously a fluid situation, and changing by the day, if not the hour. Please check the journal as well, since Deanna will be updating that as her pain improves, and she begins her radiation treatments. Please keep Deanna, Neal and their two children, Linnea (12) and Annika (9) in your deepest prayers as they move through this trying time in their lives.
Thank you, Noel Thompson (Deanna's brother).

Latest Journal Update

Six Years Ago on a Wednesday

Six years ago on a Wednesday I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.  Six years later, this Wednesday the 10th bears some similarities to that Wednesday the 10th: it’s the last week of classes for all of us at Hamline; I’m home, grading the stack of papers piled next to me; and it’s Advent, a time of sitting in darkness waiting for light. It’s the first time this Cancerversary has fallen on a Wednesday, the same day I got word that life would never be the same. 

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Linnea texted me from college to let me know that a high school classmate’s father who had stage IV cancer had died that morning.  I had sat next to this father at the International Baccalaureate banquet last spring.  His body bore many signs of cancerous invasion; he was weak and had trouble eating the banquet food.  We talked of how grateful we were to be making it to our daughters’ graduation.  But there was a sobering gap between my place of gratitude and his.  It seemed a remote chance that he’d be around for his younger son’s high school years.  I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be around for all of Annika’s. 

And so this father with stage IV cancer died on a Wednesday, his daughter back at college after having been home the weekend before.  And Linnea, daughter of a mother with stage IV cancer, away at college, texted to let me know and to say it was hard news for her.  Even though we had only met the family that one time, it was hard news for us all.

The next week Linnea wrote a not very nice poem about Wednesdays.  About how they’ve been bearers of bad news.  So this 6th anniversary of the diagnosis on a Wednesday carries sadness, grief, and anxiousness a bit differently than it has in past years.

At the same time, I know well how different this Wednesdayis than that Wednesday six years ago. This Wednesday I’m not living on Vicodin to dull the 10-out-of-10 pain; I’m not wearing a torso brace and struggling to walk; rather than getting malignant news about a biopsy on my back I’m headed to yoga this morning to stand on my head.  Sunday we were in Decorah for our first experience of the glorious Christmas at Luther; last night Annika and I baked Christmas cookies and watched Rudolph.  In ways more numerous to count, life is so very different than it was six years ago.  

This is a day where we mourn what we lost that Wednesday in 2008; it’s a day where we find our grief intersecting with other grief, such as the grief of the family of Linnea’s classmate.  For our family, we also grieve my dear Grandmother SwaneeThompson, who on December 11 last year had a stroke and died on the 15th.  We miss her dearly. 

But this Advent Wednesday, I also give thanks—thanks for the really good health I have right now; thanks for incredible family and friends and church and school and CaringBridge communities; thanks for work I love; thanks for it all.

Blessed Advent Wednesday to everyone.  Much love, Deanna

25 people hearted this



Kerri Carlson
By Kerri Carlson
Your light continues to shine in the darkness and thankfully the darkness does not overcome it. Thanks be to God!!!! Love to you & your family as you walk through this milestone.
1 person hearted this
Tina Fahnestock
By Tina Fahnestock — last edited
Deanna, thank you for your incredible words and support to all of us who know you. I too was saddened by the loss of that very same dad we know. The light and love you spread thru the darkness is sooooo bright.
Blessings to you and your family!!
1 person hearted this
Julie Yarborough
By Julie — last edited
I just read these comments from Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes, and they speak to this very kind of Advent day. I hope they speak to you as well.
Julie Yarborough

Advent takes on a different feel from the rest of the year: we hang lights, put up decorations, sing about peace and joy. But there always seem to be these dark intrusions into our Christmas preparations: untimely deaths, December tragedies, school shootings, protests over racial injustice, end of the year layoffs.... How unfortunate, we say, that these agonies come right at Christmas time.

But this is the true setting of Christmas. It is into this darkness that God comes to be with us, into our suffering and struggles, into our brokenness and sin, into our loneliness, into our injustice and even into our distracted shallowness and complacency. Christ chooses to be among us not in the grandeur of the temple but in the rough stable of our real lives. The words of the psalms and the prophets that lead us toward Christmas are not happy congratulations, but the lament of the poor, the longing for redemption. The cry of the oppressed, the song of the widow, the silence of the people searching for the way, this is the song of Advent. This is the world that God enters into to accompany, to bless, to heal, to change. The tragedies we lament don't intrude on Christmas: it is Christmas that intrudes on the ways of the world.

Advent is when we lift up our heads in the hospital waiting room and the empty bed, in the tear-gassed streets and embattled towns, in the Ebola wards and refugee camps, in the dark kitchens and the breadlines— and rejoice: it is into this darkness that the Holy One comes to walk with us, into this sorrow, this difficulty, this hope. Here, now, for these people, O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
1 person hearted this
Deanna Qualley
By Deanna and Wayne Qualley
Thanks Deanna for all the Advent news today and your message at Prince of Peace recently. Hi to all the family. Praise be to God,
1 person hearted this
peter paris
By Peter and Adrienne Paris
Deanna, as always, your updates uplift our hearts and souls. You are certainly a blessings to us all. Many continuing blessings to you and your family this Christmas season and beyond.
1 person hearted this
Judy Lindell
By Judy Lindell
Thank you for your beautiful update and we all celebrate with you on your good health at this time. Every Day is truly a Gift from God!!
1 person hearted this
Polly Bergerson
By Ron and Polly Bergerson
Blessings to you and your family as you grieve and give thanks. It is something we all do each day and we live in the midst of it with gratitude winning out through love!
1 person hearted this
Meg Hobday
By Meg Hobday
Beautiful. You are a gifted writer with so much to share. I feel blessed to have you as a colleague.
1 person hearted this
Thomas Oelkers
Sweet blessings to you and your family. We all experience challenges and gratitude in different ways but, in truth, gratitude is the common denominator. Love to you all this holiday season. judy and tom
1 person hearted this