Cancer Survivor Celebrates with Dream Job at The City: ‘I’m living my best Ozark Mountain life.’

Last Updated:May 14, 2024
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Cancer Survivor Celebrates with Dream Job at The City: ‘I’m living my best Ozark Mountain life.’ Cancer Survivor Celebrates with Dream Job at The City: ‘I’m living my best Ozark Mountain life.’
Heart & Soul

“Silver Dollar City is a place where everything is going to be okay.”
Deborah Croskrey told herself that countless times as a little girl growing up with parents who struggled with their health. The park was a place—her place—where worries drifted away. She’d need that affirmation more than ever as an adult when three words rocked her world: You have cancer.

“I was only 30 years old and it hit me like a freight train,” she says. “Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to one lung and distant lymph nodes. What a shock. It brought me to my knees.”
Doctors told her she’d have three years—at best—to live. She refused to believe it and went online for any comforting statistics to prove them wrong but it was all bad news.

“So, I went to the bookstore and bought every book about breast cancer, studying graphs and studying how to survive. I wanted to equip myself for the battle of my life.”

Part of that armor included surgery two weeks after the diagnosis and chemotherapy two weeks after that. Once she completed her rounds of chemo, she underwent another treatment every two weeks.

“That went on for 12 years,” she says. “I kept passing milestones they told me I wouldn’t. I kept living life in small chunks of time and celebrating small victories.”

The treatment that was saving her, however, took a toll on her body. In 2017, she had her first heart attack.

“That’s when I said ‘no more!”’ she says. “What will be, will be. I got off all medication and decided to focus on regaining my energy and stamina.”

Once she got stronger, she got into patient advocacy work and took policy trips to Washington, D.C. to be a voice for patients.

“I was so broken when I got sick. I didn’t even want to buy shoes or clothes because I probably wouldn’t be around to wear them,” she recalls. “There is such darkness in that kind of thinking and now I want others to know they have value, worth and hope!”

While Metastatic Breast Cancer patients are never considered in “remission,” they can be classified as NED, which stands for no evidence of disease. Deborah has been NED since that first heart attack seven years ago.

Day by day, week by week, month by month, the years she wasn’t promised keep going by. April 1 is always a big day for Deborah.

“That’s my Cancerversary,” she beams. “It’s like a second birthday! A better version of me was born that day, so it’s really important for me to take time to reflect on how far I’ve come.”

To celebrate her 19th year as a cancer crusader this past April, she went after her dream job at that precious place that resides in a special place of her heart.

“When I put in my application at Silver Dollar City, I crossed my fingers that I could be hired and start by April 1,” she smiles as she models her 1880s gown. “I’m about all of this! I’m just over here living my best Ozark Mountain life.”

There's a familiar comfort all around as she shuffles around the Woodcarving Shop.

“When I step foot on the park and smell the asphalt or hear the sound of the train, it’s all just a big fuzzy hug. I lost my parents when I was 19, so to get that feeling back is like the softest blanket. I can feel them in the breeze of the blowing trees here. I can see them in the smiles of my new work family. Just like that feeling I had as a kid, I know everything is going to be okay when I’m here.”

For Deborah, this isn’t only a new job, it’s a new celebration representing brighter days that emerged from darkness.

“You just have to believe that you’ll be an exception to bad news. We don’t have an expiration date stamped on us. We’re all just in a line in life but don’t know when our number is up. Every day is a gift. This life is a gift! It all begins and ends the same—with love. Silver Dollar City is where love and hope grow.”

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Meet Brandei Clifton

As Public Relations Manager for the Silver Dollar City Company, she is eager to tap into her journalism background to hunt down “heart tugs” to write about—those stories that celebrate…

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