Mitchellville Woman Takes Life ‘One Step at a Time’ Towards Miraculous Journey

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  If the longest journey begins with a single step, Mitchellville, Iowa's Debbie Gunn is well on her way to something incredible as she toes the line at Des Moines' Grand Blue Mile.

"It was hard, but I just kept thinking, 'one more step, one more step,'" said Debbie.

Having that mindset is almost unthinkable, considering she was diagnosed with Paraneoplastic Neurological Syndrome in 2012.

Debbie said, "They didn't know if I'd ever walk again. They said probably not."

Her husband, Randy Simerson, has been there to guide her with each step since the diagnosis. He said the condition caused Debbie's immune system to respond to a cancerous tumor but mistakenly also attacked normal cells in the nervous system.

"She couldn't feed herself, she couldn't do much of anything," he said.

Just as records are made to broken during the Drake Relays' events, so, too, are any restrictions the diagnosis may have placed on Debbie six years ago.

"So I put in a lot of hard work to prove them different," she said.

Much like life, the Grand Blue Mile presented some adversity as Debbie attempted to beat her personal record of 41 minutes.

"I just thought I was going slower than last year," she said.

As she crossed the finished line, though, doubt turned into something else. She finished with a new best of just over 35 minutes and the same chip on her shoulder.

"I gotta beat that now!" she exclaimed, proving that the condition may be attacking her brain, but clearly it cannot touch her heart or willpower for one more step.

She said, "I just want to walk again."


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