Deb was planning to compete in a triathlon when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31. Instead of training, Deb found herself undergoing surgery and chemo.
Three years later, Deb learned that the cancer had spread to her liver and bones. In response, Deb re-started treatment, co-founded BAYS and competed in her first triathlon. The following year, Deb led a group of BAYS members to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. And the year after, she led another BAYS team to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, just five days after an MRI showed four small tumors in her brain. Shortly after the trip, Deb had gamma knife surgery to treat the tumors. Five days after the surgery, she climbed Half Dome again.
Deb was recognized by the Susan G. Komen Foundation for creating BAYS, a support group specifically for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. “I am driven to take my body beyond certain physical limits that people may be tempted to apply to me because of my diagnosis,” she said after receiving the Susan G. Komen Hope and Inspiration Award. “I hope to challenge the way we think about what it means to live with metastatic disease. … Every time I endure, I come face to face with my ability to persevere and I am reminded of my body’s incredible resilience.”
Deb and her longtime partner were married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a private ceremony on June 17, 2008, the first day that same-sex marriages became legal in California. Deb died later that summer, at the age of 40.