In Stories of Hope, we regularly publish the stories of people who have a positive message to share, whether their cancer diagnosis was just recently, or long ago. Our featured survivors share words of inspiration, wisdom, hope, and support in these stories about how their lives have been changed by cancer.
Our editors have chosen 10 of the most inspirational stories of 2016. For many who are facing a cancer diagnosis, or any other illness or hardship, hearing from others who’ve been through one already can be a great source of comfort and support. We hope you will find inspiration in these stories of cancer survivors.
Sophia Anagnostou was in 6th grade when leukemia interrupted her life. She’s endured chemotherapy, spinal taps, surgeries, blood and platelet transfusions, and life-threatening infections. To cope, Sophia wrote and produced a song about her illness and shared it online. “People wrote that I was inspirational and that this will help their daughters and sons get through their illness. It makes me feel like I did something good. I feel like I helped people,” she said.
After a screening mammogram led to a breast cancer diagnosis, Vicky Davis underwent chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. She turned to the American Cancer Society for help dealing with difficult side effects, then started her own support group for other women with cancer. “The thing that gives me power and strength is my deep desire to help others,” she said. “It makes me feel more in control. It gives me a purpose in life. I forget about being scared.”
When Chrissy Dunn was diagnosed with stage III pancreatic cancer in July 2015, doctors told her chances of survival were slim. But against all odds, she made it through extensive treatment. She says, “Every day is beautiful and I’ve learned to look at things as blessings that I used to just take for granted. The shoes I put on my feet, the hot water when I take a bath – every single aspect of my life is a blessing.”
When her doctor told Julie Genovesi she had lung cancer, she was certain he’d mixed up her results with someone else’s. After all, she had no symptoms, had never smoked, was physically fit, and worked out every day. But the diagnosis was all too real, and Genovesi aggressively pursued treatment and a new life outlook. “When you’re staring at something like this, you have to make every moment count,” she said. “That’s the only way to get through it: day-by-day.”
A 34-year-old man with breast cancer is a rarity, but for Aubrey Glencamp, it’s just one more obstacle to overcome. Though he’s still in treatment, Glencamp is looking forward to returning to mud running – a muddy boot-camp style obstacle race, and to the birth of his first child. Glencamp says, “The best thing to do is take one day at a time, be positive, pick your head up when you are down and remember what may seem like the most devastating news in your life, can always open doors to a whole new world of possibilities.”
Jane Johnson worked a second job so she could donate the money she earned to her American Cancer Society Relay For Life team, all while undergoing treatment for colon cancer. “I’m doing something to help other people with cancer, to help get rides to people for treatment, to give them places to stay when they’re coming for treatment from out of town. I feel like I’m a part of all the cancer research and working for legislation that helps people with cancer. I’m giving back,” said Johnson.
Despite aggressive treatment for melanoma skin cancer that included surgeries, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation, Manbachi’s cancer continued to spread for almost a year before showing any signs of improvement. “As scary as it was, I always tried to stay strong and positive,” said Manbachi. “Cancer can go wherever it wants. I can’t stop it, but it can’t take my attitude and it can’t take my faith. I was determined to stay strong and fight until I couldn’t do it anymore.”
After a lifetime of helping others, Ravinia Miles was dealt a blow when she learned she had gallbladder cancer. Miles turned to the American Cancer Society for advice when she needed financial help for herself and her 3 children. Miles says, “I just want to tell other people who are going through it or know someone going through it that even if there’s no cure, keep being yourself and stay positive. Live for yourself; live for your children.”
Seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller says lessons she learned while training for gymnastics competitions helped her endure the rigors of treatment for ovarian cancer. Today she travels the country telling her story. “I use whatever voice I have from my Olympic career to encourage women to keep medical appointments, get more sleep, eat right, get and stay fit, and recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer,” she says.
We first told Michael Veltri’s story in 2009, 6 years after his diagnosis with testicular cancer. Today, Veltri is a professional keynote speaker, author, and leadership expert who combines his background as a US Marine, entrepreneur, and martial arts expert to teach organizations how to work more efficiently and effectively. Veltri says, “It took a life threatening disease for me to slow down, stop, and get the clarity I needed to see what I wanted out of life. You don’t have to suffer like I did to realize that.”
Read more survivor stories at cancer.org/storiesofhope.