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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinOctober 12, 2007 Issue 

Deanna Favre says faith guides her life

While football fans count Brett's NFL records, Deanna counts her blessings


By Sam Lucero
Compass Staff

photo of Deanna Favre
FAITH GUIDES FAVRE: After battling breast cancer and several other family tragedies, Deanna Favre said she could not imagine facing these adversities without her faith. (Photo courtesy of Deanna Favre)

GREEN BAY -- Most wins by a starting quarterback. Most consecutive games played by a quarterback. Most touchdown passes thrown.

Fans of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre relish counting the number of National Football League records their hero owns. But Favre's wife Deanna, a breast cancer survivor, finds comfort in counting something else: her blessings.

Deanna Favre was diagnosed with breast cancer on Oct. 13, 2004. She spent four months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In February 2005, following her last radiation treatment, Deanna was declared cancer-free. The experience was life-changing and has brought Deanna closer to her husband and her Catholic faith.

"I just feel like, with faith, it helps me see the good in everything," Deanna said in a telephone interview with The Compass. "I thank God all of the time that I have faith because I don't understand what people would do without faith."

The Favres are members of St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Since overcoming breast cancer, Deanna has become a spokesperson for breast cancer prevention. She founded the Deanna Favre HOPE Foundation in 2005, which provides grants for uninsured and underinsured women battling breast cancer.

'Don't Bet Against Me'

Deanna's latest fund-raising effort is the release of a book, "Don't Bet Against Me." The inspirational memoir, written with Angela Hunt and published by Tyndale House Publishers, was released Oct. 1 to coincide with "Breast Cancer Awareness Month."

Favre to sign new book

GREEN BAY -- Deanna Favre will appear at three Fox River Valley bookstores this weekend to sign her new book, "Don't Bet Against Me."

• Oct. 13, 10 a.m.-noon, Family Christian Stores, 1400 W. College Ave., Ste A, Appleton. For more information: (920) 731-5829.

• Oct. 13, 1:30-3:30 p.m., Lighthouse Christian Books, 2781 S. Oneida, Green Bay. For more information: (920) 497-0636.

• Oct. 14, 9-10:30 a.m., Shopko at Bay Park Square Mall, 301 Bay Park Square, Green Bay. For more information: (920) 499-2122.

This weekend, Deanna will sign copies of her book at three Fox River Valley locations. (See sidebar, at right.) Last Sunday, Deanna joined Brett at Lambeau Field for a pregame ceremony to mark the NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness Weekend.

According to Deanna, stepping into the media spotlight wasn't something she wanted to do following her diagnosis with breast cancer. But she believes it was part of God's plan.

She remembers vividly her reaction upon learning of her diagnosis. "My body started to tremble as soon as they said (breast cancer)," she said. "It was like I was standing naked, freezing in 20-degree weather."

At the time, Deanna and Brett were dealing with several family tragedies. Four days before her diagnosis, Deanna's younger brother, Casey, was killed in an ATV accident in Mississippi. Ten months earlier, Brett's father, Irvin, died of a heart attack.

Public battle with breast cancer

Because of Brett's status as an NFL superstar, Deanna quickly learned that dealing quietly with her personal struggles wouldn't be possible. She resented the fact that her diagnosis made front-page headlines.

Through prayer and her faith in God, Deanna said she came to understand that good could come from her public battle.

She began receiving letters from women around the country who had heard about her diagnosis. They wrote letters of encouragement and offered their prayers. Later, as Deanna began treatment, other women wrote, telling her that they were motivated to get breast examinations after hearing about her.

"There were women who kept coming up to me and telling me that they found a lump and were diagnosed with breast cancer, and that they went in to get checked because of me," said Deanna. "That was a huge impact. It was like it was meant to be in the public eye for that reason. So many women are being saved. I think God was very evident through all of that."

Today, Deanna said her view on life changed. She no longer takes life or relationships for granted, and she cherishes every day with Brett and daughters Brittany and Breleigh. "It has made us a better family," she said.

Knowing that early detection of breast cancer can mean the difference between life and death, Deanna has transitioned from a reluctant celebrity spokesperson to an outspoken champion of breast cancer prevention.

Focus behind HOPE Foundation

She believes God has given her the opportunity to help other women, and through the Deanna Favre HOPE Foundation, this opportunity is being realized.

According to Deanna, she chose to focus her foundation's efforts on underinsured and uninsured women for personal reasons.

"I was a single mother for six years," she said. "At that time, I didn't have any insurance, and I thought, 'What would I have done if I were diagnosed with breast cancer at that time?' There are a lot of single moms with breast cancer, women who don't have insurance, or maybe they have medical assistance but not enough to pay for all the costs."

Deanna said she has received letters from women who have been helped by her foundation, including a letter from the daughter of an elderly woman.

"She had some other form of cancer before, then she was diagnosed with breast cancer a year or two ago," said Deanna. The woman could not afford drugs for her cancer treatment. "She was like 80 years old. Her daughter wrote us back and said, 'You don't know how much that meant to us, because I know my mother wouldn't have gotten those drugs.' So that was pretty awesome."

To date, the Deanna Favre HOPE Foundation has raised about $500,000.

When she is not promoting her foundation or cheering on her husband at Packer games, Deanna enjoys reading devotional books or attending Bible study. "Normally I'll just go in the Christian book store and go through until something hits me and I'll use it for my devotional," she said.

She and her mother-in-law, Bonita Favre, also enjoy exchanging religious books.

Credits mother for strong Catholic faith

Deanna credits her own mother, Ann Byrd, for giving her a strong religious foundation.

"She was a huge influence. We were brought up Catholic and we're still strong Catholics," she said, adding that she attended Infant of Prague Parish in Kiln, Miss., as a child.

"I just remember my mom always being involved in the church, reading the Bible every night," said Deanna. "She was just very adamant in teaching us and getting across the faith, all about being Catholic and the importance of going to church on Sunday."

When she's in Mississippi, Deanna attends a women's Bible study. "Usually there's a couple of Catholics in there," she said, "but a lot of times it's mostly Baptists. But it doesn't really matter. My mom's always taught me that Christ is the church."

Deanna is excited about the release of her new book.

"It talks about all of the adversity we've been through," she said. "It talks about me as a single mom. It talks about Brett's addiction (to Vicodin painkillers), about losing loved ones, and then breast cancer."

Deanna said she had been contacted by other book publishers in the past. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that, to have my story out there," she said. "I like my privacy, but after thinking and praying about it, I thought I could probably help a lot of women. They needed to be aware of early detection, of how it can be life-saving. I decided I would do it and all of the money would go to the Hope Foundation."

'Pray for a Cure Bible'

Accompanying her book is the release of the "Pray for a Cure Bible." It is bound in pink and features the iconic ribbon image. The Bible, a New Living Translation version, includes a foreword by Deanna, followed by a selection of key Bible quotations aimed at breast cancer patients and survivors.

Deanna said she is honored to be associated with the Pray for a Cure Bible.

"I thought it was a great idea, but it was kind of scary. You don't want people to think that I thought I was so great, that I can put my name on a Bible," she explained. "I would never put myself in that category. It's just a neat way to get the Bible into the hands of many people."

For each Bible sold, $1 will go to Deanna's foundation.

Deanna said she knows from personal experience how Scripture can offer solace and strength to women facing breast cancer. In her book, she offers several Bible passages which have given her encouragement.

"My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28 (We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his decree)," said Deanna, because it relates to her suffering and survival from breast cancer. "Being able to see God's hand, using things for his glory" has motivated and inspired her to help lead the fight against breast cancer.

It's a fight she'll lead, she added, while continuing to count her blessings.

On the Web: To read more about Deanna Favre's story, visit the Deanna Favre HOPE Foundation Web site, www.DeannaFavre4Hope.com.


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