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Deb gave her boyfriend an 'opt out' option when she got cancer. He went another way

Deb Merchant's unsung hero, Scott Stevens, was at her side through two separate battles with cancer.
Deb Merchant
Deb Merchant's unsung hero, Scott Stevens, was at her side through two separate battles with cancer.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series from the Hidden Brain team about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


When Deb Merchant of Albany, Ore. was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, she gave her boyfriend a choice: he could "opt out" of their relationship.

His response?

"He didn't hesitate to say, 'No, we're a team, we're doing this together,'" Deb recounts. "And so we did."

Merchant had been dating Scott Stevens for a couple of years at that point, and together they navigated the path through treatment.

Stevens was with Merchant through the biopsies, the radiations, and heavy medication. He was there when Merchant beat the breast cancer, and he was there a few years later when her cancer came back.

This time, Merchant would require surgery as well as six months of chemotherapy treatments that started in early 2007.

"Our first visit, I thought for sure that Scott would drop me off, head back to his office to continue his work and come pick me up at the end of the day," Merchant said. "And instead, he stayed with me all day, making sure I had the right food and tea, being comfortable in a chair with the right pillow and warm blanket."

Then, he went one further.

"He went to the next person and asked them, are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? Would you like a warm blanket or a pillow? How about some hot tea?"

"Then he went to the next person and the next person and the next person."

Merchant says she thought it would stop after the first day, but that Stevens stuck it out every week through chemotherapy. And every week he went to every person in every chair to check on them.

"Scott's care and love of people comes first," Merchant said. "He has actually said to me 'I will take love over money any day.'"

That love is the reason she didn't have to face cancer alone.

"We went through chemotherapy together," she said.

Today, Merchant has been cancer free for 13 years. She and Stevens love to hike, snowshoe, and camp in the Cascade Mountains.

"It's his commitment to be present for someone he loves that made a huge difference in my life and that is why he is my unsung hero," she said.

To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.