Many of us have someone in our lives from whom we find hope and encouragement, and for those who know Debbie Simpkins, you know she is a true inspiration. So, we had to nominate her for the NatWest EWiF awards this year. The Awards event was held on June 30th in London, and Debbie was there, along with husband Alan, and business partner Bill, his wife and others from InXpress Liverpool, to enjoy her day – even though she didn’t think she’d win, “I checked out the competition, and thought the winner was amongst them. The other finalists were all so amazing!”
As if the last couple of years weren’t challenging enough for running a business – thanks to the pandemic and Brexit – there are people who also embarked on an unexpected extra journey of their own. Debbie is one of those people. Just days after celebrating her 60th birthday, in July 2020, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within a month, she’d had a mastectomy to try and remove the cancer. Three months later, she started chemotherapy, over Christmas and into 2021.
However, in January things suddenly went wrong: The chemo led to a blood infection. So, where Debbie should have been able to give her body a two-week break before starting radiotherapy, unfortunately after recovering from the infection, she had to go straight into it. “Radiotherapy was particularly bad: every day for two weeks.”
In May, after completing radiotherapy, Debbie was hopeful to receive the all-clear. “But, I ended-up going for scan, after scan; things were showing-up. Six months ago, I had the news I desperately didn’t want: They’d found secondaries. I’m currently on a new course of treatment, which started the day after the awards event. I’m hoping it will continue to help me manage the cancer, and enjoy every moment I have.”
Throughout all this, Debbie focused on running her franchise, providing herself with something to think about, other than the treatment she was going through. As a result, InXpress Liverpool thrived, growing substantially – thanks to the support of her family, her team. “They actually benefited from me being on steroids, because I couldn’t sleep! I’d send emails at 3am telling them what I’d done, or customer enquiries I’d dealt with! Having something else to focus on was a positive distraction! There were bad days when I felt low: So, I gave myself permission to have an off-day, before giving myself a firm talking to, and pushing myself to do one small thing for me.
“InXpress are absolutely fantastic – not just my team, but the girls at Head Office; in fact the whole network are incredibly supportive.”
Debbie is already thinking ahead, and knows what she wants to do, once the treatment allows her to. “When I can, I want to give back. Because of the covid-rules, everything I went through, I had to do alone, which was really hard. Some people have to face it alone, anyway. I don’t want them to. I want to be there for them. But, in the meantime, I’ve taken a bit of a backseat from the business, and am spending precious time with the people I love – especially my gorgeous new granddaughter.”
It's all this, and more, which led to the judges recognising something special in Debbie. So, when her name was announced by award sponsor, Suzie McCafferty of Platinum Wave, Debbie was given a standing ovation as she made her way to the stage. There were a few tears as people connected with her story – some of whom related personally to the journey Debbie has been on.
Debbie, you truly are our inspirational role model. Congratulations on your NatWest EWiF Inspirational Woman in Franchising 2022, award!