Eel River Valley resident fighting third brain tumor; community comes together to hold fundraiser

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

Deb Austrus and her husband Cas are beloved members of the Eel River Valley who have now found themselves facing an unseen evil for the third time.

Deb Austrus has worked for the City of Ferndale and her husband Cas is the janitor go to fix it guy at Loleta Elementary. They are well known for their annual softball tournament -- "Battling for Boobies" -- where all the proceeds go to Humboldt Breast Cancer Research.

The community is coming together to have a fundraiser to help with the extreme medical expenses associated with fighting this ongoing cancer battle. On Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. there will be a tri-tip dinner and auction in honor of Deb Austrus at the Fortuna Fire hall.

Deb Austrus began this journey of courage and strength in 2009 after finding a lump in her left breast and being diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer a month later in January 2010.

With the wedding of their daughter Cassie on the horizon, Deb could only respond to her doctor, "Well, let's get started. I have a wedding to plan," reflecting the true grit that has carried her over the past three years.

"30 doctor's appointments, six chemo infusions, six neulasta shots, and numerous other scans and tests we had the most beautiful wedding ever," said Cas Austrus. The wedding was still swirling in their minds when only four days later Deb started her 33 radiation treatments that would eat up the rest of 2010.

The following year would prove one of healing from the unimaginable mental and physical strain of treatments. Christmas came into view and so did weakness in Deb's right arm and leg. With a heavy heart and a trip to the ER, tests revealed a brain tumor. In true form, Deb responded: "Well, I kicked this thing once, let's go!"

After surgery to remove the tumor that was located close to the surface, 12 rounds of whole brain low dose radiation, and in-home and out-patient rehabilitation, Deb worked on her physical and mental recovery.

In September 2012 after a routine MRI to follow Deb's condition, doctors again reported a tumor about the same size and in the same location. Deb was not messing around: "I want it out!" It was removed only to return this month.

Cas reflects, "Deb has never asked, 'Why her?' She has been a model patient and is by far the strongest person I have ever known. I am so proud to call her my wife."

Tickets for the event are available at Rings Pharmacy in Ferndale, Green's Pharmacy in Fortuna, Anderson Lucan Somerville & Borges in Fortuna, and Linden and Co. in Eureka.

Amy Wilson, niece of Cas and Deb, is organizing the event with help from many community members. Wilson encourages anyone who is interested in donating to the event or would like tickets to contact her at 496-3273 or Angela Johnson at 599-5547.

"My aunt and uncle are two amazing people who would do anything for anyone," said Wilson. "This is going to be an amazing event for a great family. I am so grateful to this wonderful community who has stepped up to make this event possible."

The tri-tip dinner on Feb. 15 will be available as a to-go meal and a live auction will be held after dinner at 7 p.m.

A bank account in the name of Deb Austrus has been set up at Redwood Capital Bank. Donations can be made at either location.

Facebook is being inundated with well-wishes by family, friends, community members, and strangers for the fast and healing recovery of Deb Austrus. Danielle Hinrich's posted, "I'm very proud to live in such an amazing community that is always willing to lend a hand to people that need support. I'm amazed every day that the abundance that I have been blessed with and the importance of continuing to give and bless other people."

Austrus is currently with her family at UCSF and was planned to undergo gamma knife surgery on Wednesday. Austrus is said to be in good spirits and overwhelmed by the community outpour.

Photos by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

1. Deb Austrus holding tight to the hand of her beloved Cas walk into their daughter Cassie's wedding in September 2010 shortly after beginning her first battle with cancer.

2. Cas and Deb Austrus hold an annual softball tournament where proceeds go to Humboldt Cancer Research. Pictured (from left) Mandie Jaso, Cas Austrus, Cassie (Austrus) Coppini, Deb Austrus, and son in law Steve Coppini at last year's tournament.