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Joe Girardi's salute to Debbie's Dream Foundation hits close to Yankees skipper's heart

NEW YORK - Back in April of 2008, Debbie Zelman, a 40-year-old mother of three young children, was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer; she was told it was inoperable and incurable, and Debbie was given just a few weeks to live.

Flash forward nine years later: Debbie has beaten that prognosis and is still living today, and on Monday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi used the time he dedicates to charity before every home pregame press conference to salute her Debbie's Dream Foundation.

"Debbie's Dream Foundation is dedicated to stomach cancer; raising awareness about it, advancing funding for research, educating patients, families, and caregivers about the disease, and obviously, finding a cure," Girardi said. "Stomach cancer is the fifth-leading killer among cancers in the United States, and usually, by the time it's detected, it's pretty late, because the stomach is so big."

Cancer awareness is a cause close to Girardi's heart; he lost his mother, Angela, to ovarian cancer when he was 19 years old, and stomach cancer in particular has also affected his extended family.

"I learned a lot about (stomach cancer), because that's how we lost Kim's sister," Girardi said, referencing his wife's sister's passing from the disease in December 2009.

When Debbie Zelman was diagnosed, she was told that there were few effective treatment options because of the rarity of the disease, and she had just a four percent chance of being alive in five years. She's one of the four percent, though, and now her mission is to help make that number increase.

And as he has been at every pregame press conference at Yankee Stadium since the beginning of 2016, Girardi was happy to help do his part to spread awareness.

"She found out that treatment options were limited and there probably wasn't a lot of hope, because the disease is very difficult to detect," Girardi said of Zelman, "but she's still living today, so obviously she is a miracle."

To learn more about Debbie's Dream Foundation, please visit http://www.debbiesdream.org.