2012-12-28 / People


Mom gets better with help from sons
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Debby Porter with her sons Max, left, and Dane Porter. (Courtesy photo) Debby Porter with her sons Max, left, and Dane Porter. (Courtesy photo) Last Christmas, Debby Porter’s son, Dane, was taking direct fire in Afghanistan. This year, he is spending Christmas at home in South Portland.

Dane Porter, a U.S. Army specialist, is on leave for 20 days in Maine. He’ll return next month to Germany, before flying back to the states to finish out his three-year term in the service at the Fort Drum army base in New York.

Debby said the last two and a half years away from her son have been a challenge, especially when she learned after-the-fact her son had been under fire last Christmas.

“I was sort of anxious the whole year,” Debby said. “I tried not to get too scared but it was hard not being able to see him or talk for weeks at a time.”

Debby was supposed to pick her son up from the airport Saturday, Dec. 22. Instead, Dane surprised his mom and his dad, Mike Porter, at Sebago Brewing Company in Scarborough on Thursday night, Dec. 20.

Debby said she suspected a plan might be in the works when her youngest son Max invited her and his dad to dinner and told them he had some good news. But after about 15 minutes of conversation, in which Max told his parents he’d be applying to colleges this year, she had become less wary of a possible surprise.

Then the waiter came to the table to take drink orders, and Max, 19, ordered a midnight porter. When the waiter asked for some I.D., a temporary wall separating two booths slid back, and Dane, 21, handed his I.D. to the waiter and took the beer, surprising his parents two days before his scheduled return home.

The surprise was retribution, in some ways, for a “flash mob” that Debby Porter organized in July to welcome back her son when he returned on a brief leave from Afghanistan. She told Dane she wanted him to see the improved Veteran’s Service Monument, with his name written on it (it was actually written on duct tape).

When the family arrived, bagpipe players emerged out of the woods, friends and family joined from the surrounding bushes,and everyone sang the “welcome back” refrain from the theme to TV show “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

Just a few days before the flash mob was to take place, Debby was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She had surgery to remove the cancer on June 28, then began chemotherapy treatments in late July.

She is now finished with chemotherapy, but has 14 radiation treatments remaining that are scheduled to end in mid-January. Dane and Debby have not seen each other since her chemotherapy started.

Debby said organizing the flash mob helped her through a difficult period of her life.

“It was really helpful to concentrate on something positive through my surgery,” she said.

Max, with the help of numerous family members and friends, also lent Debby support through the treatments, she said.

“(Max) decided not to go to school when we found out about my diagnosis. He didn’t feel like he would be able to focus while he was away,” Debby said. “He stayed home, worked full-time and was around when I needed him.”

This winter, Max plans to apply to the University of Maine and Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. He hopes to walk-on to the football team at either of the schools and follow in the family tradition of the sport. His father was a college football player, as was his uncle Quinton, a star at Boston College who played briefly in the NFL.

With her treatments scheduled to wrap up, Debby said she hopes to become more involved with programs at the Cancer Community Center in South Portland in coming months.

Debby has attended a few programs with friends, including a gingerbread house design competition on Wednesday, Dec. 19, but she hasn’t felt like herself through chemotherapy, she said, and it was difficult for her “to get out of bed, let alone take advantage of what (the Cancer Community Center) has got over there.”

Now, with the end of treatments in sight, Debby said “I’m going to want to reach out and help someone else going through what I’ve been through.”

She also hopes to pursue her goal of opening a center to help young women in what she called “crisis pregnancy.” Debby had her first son Chris when she was young, and he was adopted by another family. She hopes she can use her personal experience, and some help from her church, New Life Church in Biddeford, to help young women facing difficult decisions.

“The cancer put things on hold for a little while,” Debby said, “But it’s made me clearer and more determined than ever to do it and to do it sooner rather than later.”

About Neighbors

Neighbors is a weekly profile that features a community member from South Portland or Cape Elizabeth. Know someone you would like to see featured in the Sentry? Contact Jack Flagler at news@inthesentry.com.

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