Survivor Stories

23-year-old cancer survivor, graduate student, traveler, and lover of the outdoors

I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 10. At the time, I didn’t understand what terms like malignant, cancer, or chemotherapy meant. All I knew, from watching my parents’ reaction to my diagnosis, was that it wasn’t good. In all honesty, I was lucky to go through my treatment while I was a kid. When you’re young, you spend your time wondering what you might grow up to become. Never do you entertain the notion that you might not grow up at all.

Thankfully, after a year of treatment, I was able to walk out of the hospital, cancer free. Despite this, I still did not have an adequate understanding of how cancer had changed my life. In 2015, I got involved with Above and Beyond Cancer on their mission trip to Nepal. While at a children’s hospital in Kathmandu, I saw the same look of despair on the parents’ faces that I saw on mine when I was diagnosed. Yet, when I was introduced to them, their eyes sparkled. Standing before them was a childhood cancer survivor, healthy and alive. For them, I represented hope, a hope that their children could still fantasize about what they will grow up to become and that it could be a reality. In that moment, I realized my cancer journey was not about my personal battle with cancer, but about how I could use my own experience to better the lives of others.

Above and Beyond Cancer has taught me that because each day is not guaranteed, we must strive to live every single one to the fullest. The real value of life is that it is finite, moments are fleeting, and the future is uncertain. Therefore, we must seize every opportunity as they present themselves, climb that mountain, and extend a helping hand. For when it comes time for us to leave this Earth, we should make sure it matters that we were there in the first place.

62-year-old mother, wife, daughter, sibling to six, friend to many and a two-year cancer survivor

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, naturally I was shocked. However, once I got through surgery and treatment, my thoughts turned to improving my health via exercise and nutrition, and soon I discovered the Above & Beyond Cancer program.

To begin with, I signed up for Mary’s Total Training Class for Cancer Survivors. Not only was the class challenging with cardio and strength training, but I also learned yoga and meditation. Learning to care for my whole being – mind, body, and spirit – became the essence of this class. In addition, the incredible support of the others in the class was inspiring. To this day, we remain friends and appreciate each other through our common bond.

If ABC has taught me anything, it is to push yourself and try new things. Although I have “graduated” from the class, I continue to participate in ABC events such as canoe trips, hikes, and bike rides. I would not be doing these things if I hadn’t discovered ABC. It changed my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this supportive organization.

21-year-old leukemia survivor, humble Christ follower, life-long student and professional people watcher

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as a junior in high school when I was 16 years old. Even though I may have been dealt a difficult hand, I wasn’t about to let it take me out of the game. Just like any teenager, I wanted so badly to be “normal” and to fit in. For me that meant going to school whenever I could, running on the track team, playing soccer, going to school formals, going to youth group and enjoying life even though I had cancer. And because of this mentality, having cancer didn’t have to seem like a disadvantage in life. In fact, as I reflect upon my experiences, having cancer has been one of the most bitter blessings I have ever had. I’ve met so many amazing people because of my cancer. I have seen and done things I would never have gotten the chance to do because of my cancer. I have experienced life in a way that many people will never be able to understand because of my cancer. I may sound crazy for thinking this, but I wouldn’t want a single day removed from my life because every challenge and every struggle has only added a new level of enrichment. I want to live my life in full and every day I get is another chance for that fullness to be met and exceeded.

The trip I took with Above and Beyond Cancer meant more to me than I can explain with words. I was coming up on my one-year anniversary of finishing chemotherapy and it really just felt like I was where I was supposed to be – thriving in the wide-open world as a cancer survivor. When I was originally diagnosed with Leukemia, I couldn’t see past the seemingly insurmountable obstacles placed in my life’s journey. I spent three and a half years of my life enduring cancer treatments and I forgot how to chase after my dreams. I wouldn’t let myself hope for the future because the future was on the other side of this mountain called cancer. This journey with ABC served as a tangible representation of what it’s like to suffer through the valleys of life in order to stand upon a mountain with an unobstructed view of the endless possibilities of places to adventure to next. I returned from the summit of Kilimanjaro feeling empowered to hope for my future and chase my dreams. Currently, those dreams involve becoming a physician and practicing medicine to help other people become their best selves for living their lives with passion and a purpose. I have no doubt in my mind that the future I dream of is waiting for me to simply put one foot in front of the other until I’ve reached the summit.

35-year-old mother, compassionate friend, ambitious busy body, and 2-time breast cancer survivor

In 2012, at 30 years old, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Right Breast Cancer. I underwent a lumpectomy, chemo therapy, and radiation therapy. Almost exactly two years later in 2014, by the Grace of God, an attentive and thorough Dr. Deming, and a patient aware of changes in her body, a new cancer was found in my left breast. I was again diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Left Breast Cancer. I underwent a bi-lateral mastectomy, chemo therapy again, radiation therapy again and reconstruction. My last radiation treatment was August 27th, 2015 and I will celebrate two years cancer free in August this year.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was in the best shape of my life. To say that two cancer journeys had taken a toll on my body is an understatement. I was thrown into chemo induced menopause not once, but twice. I was given steroids to stay strong during treatment and also developed a pesky snacking habit to fight nausea. I also spent a lot of time resting with fatigue and lack of energy. With all of that it is no wonder that I gained A LOT of weight, I lost muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density. When it was all said and done, I felt awful.

I was so nervous for my first exercise class with Above and Beyond Cancer, because I knew my physical condition was not good. Little did I know I would find the most accepting family that was not so different than me. We all had our side effects from our cancer and cancer treatment to overcome. At the head of this loving family was the most amazing, compassionate, mother that offered just the right amount of discipline to help us gain back what we had lost in our cancer journeys. She is not nearly old enough to be any our real moms, but she made me feel the comfort my mom would make me feel. She is perfect and she is Mary! Getting involved in Mary’s class made me realize that I can work out and I can do more than I thought possible in my condition. So it was a no brainer when I was called and asked if I still wanted to join Above and Beyond Cancer on their journey to Africa to participate in a medical mission and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I know, I know…nailing a beginner work out class for cancer patients is a lot different than climbing a mountain, but not one person in my Above and Beyond Cancer family discouraged me. They knew my current condition and they believed and encouraged me to dream big and achieve big and I did that and I am still doing that. That journey was way bigger than climbing a mountain, in fact, it opened my mind to a world I had never known and opened my mind to the possibility that I really can dream big and achieve big. It’s just not a phase people say. One of the most important things I have learned being a part of the Above and Beyond Cancer family is to be kind and compassionate to everyone and don’t ever let what you have been through in your past affect where you are going in your future. That’s why my ambitious busy body and compassionate soul is working on her own nonprofit to help those fighting cancer in Africa. I am confident I wouldn’t be here and achieving this big dream of mine if it weren’t for the influences of Above and Beyond Cancer. Thank you ABC!