Inspiring Okeechobee: Okeechobee woman is ‘larger than life’

OKEECHOBEE — The term “larger than life” seems made for Debi Large. The dictionary defines it as attracting special attention because of unusual and flamboyant appearance or behavior. Debi attracts attention everywhere she goes, and she does it by taking the time to make each and every person she comes in contact with feel like the most important person in the room.

Debi Large with Diamond. Photo by Cathy Womble/Lake Okeechobee News.

Debi has been inspiring Okeechobee since she and her family moved to Okeechobee in 2000 and they joined the First Baptist Church.

She was active in the local home-school community and a founding member of Cornerstone Christian Home Educators. In 2005 she began working for Reach FM as their community relations coordinator.

In 2008, she was elected chairperson of the Republican Party of Okeechobee (serving until her health forced her to resign in 2016).

She became director of development for the Pregnancy Center of Okeechobee in 2011, and in 2015 became activities coordinator for Detox of South Florida. Debi has also served locally on the boards of both Younified and the Rotary Club.

Debi has never been hesitant about sharing her faith in Christ. Anyone who talks to her for more than five minutes has no doubt about where she stands. She has always said, “God gives you the grace you need to go through whatever he allows.” In December 2015, Debi had the opportunity to test that belief when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with a stage four brain tumor and was given three to six months to live.

Her favorite joke after surgery to remove the tumor was, if it meant she could spend time with her three boys for Christmas, then she would take a tumor any day.

She said she would much rather go through this herself than watch any of her friends or family go through it.

Prior to the tumor, Debi was what most would call a Type A personality. If you needed something done, Debi was the gal to turn to.

She was always on the go, and usually what she was doing involved helping someone. After the surgery, Debi found her life turned upside down.

Debi was used to being the woman others went to when they needed to get things done, but she found herself having to rely on others for everything. Not only was she unable to get out of bed, she could not even turn over in bed by herself. She was not able to sit or stand without help and she could not walk.

Debi endured radiation for six weeks, then chemotherapy for two years, followed by six more weeks of radiation. One of the most difficult trials for her was her fear of MRIs. When she first had to have them, she was terrified, but she has had approximately 30 now and they don’t bother her much at all anymore.

Debi was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago and didn’t bat an eye. She just kept praising God. She says that every day God gives her is a gift. The doctors gave her three to six months, and it has been almost three years.

In that time, she has seen her youngest son get married and her oldest son now has three children. Very soon she will get to see her youngest son ordained as a minister. She always says whatever God has in store for her is OK with her.

Through all of this, Debi has maintained her faith in God and her upbeat attitude. She is the first to say she is not perfect. She has her moments of crying.

She is often in pain, but everyone who knows her knows that when they see her, she asks THEM how THEY are doing.

She remembers the names of their children and grandchildren and what is going on in their lives and she prays for them regularly.

Debi spends a lot of her free time at Serenity Coffee Shop nowadays, encouraging everyone who walks through the doors. If you haven’t met her yet, you should go in and do that. Just look for the woman who is larger than life.

If you would like to suggest someone for the Inspiring Okeechobee series, email cwomble@newszap.com.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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