This holiday season, the IHadCancer.com team wanted to take the time to highlight the people who have come face-to-face with the monster known as cancer but have still found a way to smile and keep hope alive.
If you take the time to read through the lessons that these cancer survivors, fighters and caregivers have learned, you will realize that you are capable of overcoming any obstacle that you may be faced with, and most importantly, that you are not alone.
1. Life Is Short. Time Is Fast. There's No Replay and No Rewind, so Enjoy Every Moment As It Comes.
"I have often said throughout this journey that I haven't had any bad days, just bad moments. And I attribute that to not only staying positive, but also the network of amazing people that have gathered around me. So if I can leave you with one piece of advice, it would be this: don't "zombie" your way through life and don't wait for something bad to happen in your life to give you a wakeup call. As they say: Life is short. Time is fast. There's no replay and no rewind. So enjoy every moment as it comes." - Jenny, Breast Cancer Patient
Learn more about Jenny's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/jennymccaig
2. Take It One Day at A Time. Things Will Get Better.
"Looking back on what I've been through seems like a dream. I can't believe I actually had cancer. I have no idea why I got Leukemia but who cares, I beat it! I am proud to be a survivor. It's all about your mindset.
You really have to remain positive. Thoughts like: "This isn't going to work", "It's going to come back", "I'm going to die", "I can't do this anymore", "My body can't handle this"
will not get you out of that hospital bed! Always think good thoughts.
Say to yourself: "I am strong", "This too shall pass", "I am going home soon cancer free", "I am going to beat this"
and pray. Pray all the time. I know things are tough but hang in there and take it one day at a time. Things will get better. STAY POSITIVE!" - Nicole, Acute Myeloid Leukemia Survivor
3. Never Take "No" For An Answer.
"I was 35 years old when I was diagnosed with Adrenal Cortex Carcinoma–stage IV, metastasized to the lungs. I was recently divorced, a single mom with a five and seven-year-old. Part of the problem with our rare cancer is the little to no treatment options. We take a chemo pill called mitotane it is a form of DDT and it is not well-tolerated and doesn't really work well. I just finished 4 rounds of an extremely toxic chemo and a ct scan revealed new growth- so it's not working. I wasn't sure there were many, if any options left for me at this point. The doctors said there may be nothing left. That didn't Stop me! I poured my energy into searching for good treatment options- I finally found one!! I just underwent successful lung surgery and await liver surgery. Keep fighting! Never lose hope!!" - Lisa, Adrenal Cortex Carcinoma Fighter
4. Focus on Your Entire Self - Mind, Body and Spirit.
"Today, I am alive well and thriving despite the fact that my doctors told me I would die. Cancer has become my guru, my teacher and my mentor. It has taught me more about health and nutrition than I could ever have imagined. You must address the cause of the cancer and not just the symptom (tumor). By fixing the cause of your cancer, your body is able to reverse the symptoms and continue to maintain a state of health. There are many factors that can cause cancer and it is important to address each one individually. I have not only survived cancer...I am thriving." - Mary, Breast Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Mary's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/maryrust
5. Do Everything In Your Power To Be Happy.
"The Dr. planned for: Liver Re-Section ~50%, Stomach "Wedge", and removal of my Gallbladder. Surgery was scheduled for 3 days after my 50th bday. It was later mentioned that I may have Carcinoid/NETs, which is a rare form of cancer. My Dr. called to tell me that a 3rd tumor was identified in my Pancreas, so he enhanced the surgical plan to also re-section it. When I was admitted to MSKCC, the surgery revealed a lot, Carcinoid/NETs were confirmed by pathology reports. We believed that ALL TUMORS were found and removed, and that the one near my pancreas was the primary. I only lost: my gallbladder, 2% of my Liver, <1% of my pancreas, and "some" of my stomach. I'm not on cancer drugs, no chemo, etc. Since the surgery I've had a number of scans looking for "free-range" NETs. I even had an Ocreoscan. No tumors have been found.
Strive to lift yourself toward a place and time from which you may look back and know that you did everything in your power to be happy, be healthy, and survive. It's how I have lived since receiving my diagnosis and I think it's critical to me winding up on the right side of the 50% chance of recurrence that I've been given! This was a big wakeup call, and I've learned so much. For me, it was the end of my old life and start of my next! - Todd, Pancreatic NET Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Todd's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/tstempel
6. Don't Ask Yourself "Why me?"
"Naturally I was very upset and went through a grief reaction. I thought I was going to die. I kept asking God "why me?" But one day things changed to "Why not me?" That is when true healing starts! I began to meditate, do biofeedback, eat better, pray and think positive! I did my gratitude and smiled through it all. I joined 'what would love say' and began doing random acts of kindness. It truly has made a world of difference. Always have hope." - Giuliana, Peritoneal Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Giuliana's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/GiulianaAngelgirl1
7. Help Yourself by Helping Others.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, 12 lymph node removal, 3 surgeries due to infections, and 2 additional surgeries for reconstruction. The scarves I used to cover my baldness, and the prosthesis bra. I thought all these things would provide normalcy, instead they made me hyper aware of my cancer. I was off of work for 9 months and found it difficult to resume my "normal" life. I joined group therapy at my cancer center and instantly found it helped me tremendously. Share your story, it can help you heal and could possibly help others through their journey." - Lorena, Breast Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Lorena's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/scorpion32
8. Just Because Your Life Changes Doesn't Mean Your Spirit Has To.
"I battled through three different kinds of chemo, a blood clot to my heart, a five hour surgery that required 25 staples, a week where I lost 16 pounds, and a couple of blood transfusions. But I would not quit. My life changed during this time, but my fighting attitude didn't. I knew I was going to beat this thing. My biggest life lesson learned was how I take little things in life for granted. Also I learned to appreciate walks in the park, not to worry about minuscule things, and last but not least, to appreciate the people in my life." - Mark, Testicular Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Mark's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/maktoledo.
9. Search For Serenity Every Day.
"I firmly believe you can't just cut the cancer out of you, do some chemo or radiation, and think you're done. You have to cut the cancer out of your mind. You have to live, eat and breathe positive intention. You have to find a way to forgive so that the healing can begin. You need to search everyday to find serenity. And you need to make sure that you are throwing every healing modality; Western, Eastern and otherwise, that you can, at that disease in your body." - Laurie, Non- Hodgkin's Lymphoma & Marginal Cell Leukemia Survivor
Learn more about Laurie's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/lobeck
10. Turn Something Ugly Into Something Beautiful.
"I'm a 7 year Breast Cancer Survivor who had given birth to my first and only Child in March of 08, however, she died at birth and three months later I was diagnosed with HER2 POSITIVE STAGE II-III Breast Cancer. I've had sixteen bouts of Chemotherapy along with ten surgeries that range from implanting a port to removing Lymph Nodes, a Mastectomy and reconstruction. I was given six to eight months to live if my Chemo had not worked. I can no longer have children because the chemo messed up my Uterus so bad that it caused me to have a hysterectomy among other things. But wait...no one told me that I would not be able to taste food or that my hair would fall out with my first treatment while walking through Wal-Mart. Or that I would lose my sex drive and almost stop feeling like a woman. My nails turn black and some fall off. A few of my teeth rotted and fell out, the scares on my body look like someone threw me though a plate glass window and the list goes on. But even with all of that, my Cancer is beautiful because I made a choice to take something ugly and make it beautiful and I call this MY LIFE!" - Tina, Breast Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Tina's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/tdmcgarity
11. Get Rid of The Toxins In Your Life. (Even People).
"I had cancer. Multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer. Tom Brokaw has it, so does Mat Damon's dad. This disease mostly hits older men. But I was 44 when diagnosed. Otherwise very healthy. I ran five days a week, ate mostly organic fruits and veggies, took my vitamins, and was extremely health conscious. The minute I was diagnosed, I left my alcoholic husband (who, by the way, screamed and spit in my face on the day I was getting tested for said cancer, calling me a drama queen, lazy and a loser) and moved my daughters and I two states away, into my parents basement, and entered treatment immediately. I got loads of chemo, lost all my hair and eyebrows, got two stem cell transplants within a four month period, and got into remission. It's been three years since I was diagnosed...sometimes it's really hard, sometimes I struggle with fatigue and neuropathy and chemo brain. But I live, breathe, love and laugh--as trite as that may seem. I fear less- I went hang gliding for my birthday. I took my kids to Italy this past summer and we ate untold amounts of gloriously fresh pasta and cappuccinos. My body isn't perfect anymore but it has survived and it's thriving. Hooray for that!" - Lizzy, Multiple Myeloma Survivor
Learn more about Lizzy's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/Lizzysmilez
and at her blog lizzysmilez.blogspot.com
12. Don't Forget About Life's Little Things.
"I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer stage 3 , had surgery to remove four tumors followed by six rounds of chemo. I still continued to work full time and keep up with everything. I was only in the clear for 15 months and continued to get CA125 every month until again my life was interrupted by that word, "Cancer". In June 2014, I started another six rounds of chemo and just finished up again. I again worked full time and did everything else I could have done without the Chemo. I focused on life's little things and my family to keep me busy. I was told that it might come back again, I will continue to pray, have faith and live life everyday from morning till night to the fullest. If I could, I would tell everyone not to give up. Fight because it's all about winning the battle." - Tina, Ovarian Cancer Survivor
13. Trust That One Day The Benefits Will Outweigh the Sacrifices.
"As mentally and physically exhausting and difficult as treatment was, the only days of work I missed were the days I spent in the infusion room at my oncologist. The ability to keep working gave me the normalcy I so desperately needed at that time. As much as I had days were I didn't think I could take another moment, all I had to do was look at my children and realize I didn't want to miss one moment of their precious lives.
Here I sit, 4 years and 9 months after my diagnosis Cancer-free. I've since had a radical hysterectomy and battle side effects but I know just being able to proudly call myself a Survivor is worth every sacrifice. Although the reality of a Cancer diagnosis is that it is a lifelong "battle", I find comfort and therapy in reaching out to others in need and sharing my experiences."- Ann, Breast Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Ann's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/AnnRD1971
14. It's Okay To Ask For Help. We're All In This Together.
"LIFE has been...ridiculous, to say the least, for the last two years - but I landed a new job last month that pays the mortgage and more importantly, our friends and family mean the world to us and I've taken some opportunity to become much more involved in volunteer activities, becoming a mentor, joining Taproot to find some pro bono opportunities with non-profits, and trying to enjoy every moment! We're all in this together; it's scary -life can be scary- but it's also an adventure. Reach out and together we can do this!" - Conallee, Uterine/Endometrial Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Conallee's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/clyonmoss
15. Always Find Something To Look Forward To.
"Normally we always try to make something good come out having to deal with cancer. Well, when my close friend, Pennie was diagnosed with metastatic vaginal cancer and had less than 3 months to live, I just couldn't think of anything positive that could come out of her fighting cancer and having to go into hospice care. We were super close friends; I went with her to every doctor's appointment and stayed with her when she had a few stays in the hospital. I stayed with her every day as she battled cancer.
As she suffered with massive pain and was on all kinds of medications, she always wanted to know what we were going to do the next day. She was always looking for some glimmer of hope or joy in every day that she was alive and that she was going to make it through another day when she was in hospice care. Every day I would make it special for her. One day we had a mani/pedi day, one day we just watched her favorite television shows nonstop, and another day we listened to 80's music and talked about our high school days. After Pennie passed away in her sleep (May 18, 2014) I decided in her memory, I would start trying to spread hope, joy and love to as many people battling cancer as I could." - Lacie, Vaginal Cancer Caregiver in memory of her friend Pennie
16. Don't Underestimate The Power of Humor.
"My poor doctor was searching for the words to tell me what I had without being unfeeling. He's such a sweet doctor. When he told me, I had breast cancer, I was in disbelief. He showed the diagnosis in black and white. I honestly thought I saw a tear in his eyes. I started crying, was in shock, and disbelief. But after I cried in the doctors office at the diagnosis, I didn't cry about it again. I never asked why. I wanted to fight this and win. And so far we're doing it. I've kept my humor throughout this journey. I've got a nickname now..."BOOBIE BOBBER". - Cathy, Breast Cancer Survivor
17. Be Patient. Change Takes Time.
"Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with stage 3B Signet Ring Stomach Cancer and told to PUT MY AFFAIRS IN ORDER! At that time, they had no knowledge or even ideas about this cancer or how to treat it - since it was so RARE. Following a total Gastrectomy, then Chemo and Radiation "together" I began a very long battle for my life. They created a "Pouch" to replace the stomach from my intestine. This has taken significant time to adjust but works great now with very limited problems. My weight pre-cancer was 156 lbs (at 5'7 height). After Cancer/treatments - 80 lbs! Today - 13 yrs later - 162! Going strong." - Millie, Stomach Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Millie's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/missmillie57
18. Never Give Up On Faith, Family, Friends and Yourself.
"I was saddened when I got the news that I had both Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and that there was no known cure. I worked both of my jobs during treatments, taking a day or two off each round because the pain got to be too much, but tried to fight through the pain. In September of 2012 I finished my last round. The C.T. Scan showed that the cancer was gone. I had beaten both Lymphoma's. In the past two years one tumor came back, it is on my pelvis, but even it is falling apart, and never became cancerous. My faith, my friends, and my family never gave up on me, and I never gave up on them." -Thomas, Hodgkins & Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Survivor
Learn more about Thomas' journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/thmdefensetm
19. Don't Waste Time Worrying About What Others Think.
"Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of fourteen has taught me more than any schooling could ever teach me. You learn to grow up extremely fast, whether you want to or not. You have to put on a brave face and fight for your life not knowing if you're going to wake up tomorrow. You learn to treasure the smallest things. You learn not to take the littlest things for granted, like walking "normal". People look at my scars and give me disgusted looks. But what they don't know is, I fought for my life and every single one of the scars I have." - Lexi, Osteosarcoma Survivor
Learn more about Lexi's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/lexxlyn95
20. Your Ability To Achieve Does Not Define You.
"I was first diagnosed in 2010, had a mastectomy and doctors felt they "got it all". In July of 2013 the Dr. in the emergency room told me my severe back pain was metastases cancer. It had spread throughout my spine, liver, pancreas and lungs. He told me I had 6 months to live and I was luckier than most folks because I was going to get to tell everyone goodbye as opposed to a sudden death of course. He brought in a brace that looked like a heavy duty flak jacket, strapped me in and said something along the lines of this will slow the deterioration of your spine because if he had to do surgery, he hated to deal with crumbly bones. And then he left me sitting there in my flak jacket alone. This is not happening...I have a little girl, I have to raise my little girl. I will never forget the emergency room treatment by an old school orthopedic doctor who happened to be on call.
Fast forward a year and a half - with God's grace, a wonderful Oncologist, radiation, chemo, wonderful natural healing experts, and the most loving, supportive family one can have...I'm here. I fell into a very small percentage of individuals in my situation who go into complete remission. I did spend a year knowing I was dying and wondering if the cancer was killing me or the chemo. I wrote in journals (which I still do today, just not with the same urgency), I left keepsakes, and called people that I hadn't spoken to in years to make sure they and everyone else knew what they meant to me. I begged, not prayed, but begged God to let me raise my little girl. I just had my one year check up and am still in remission and getting better and better.
The biggest change in me is my humility. This life is a gift, every day is a gift. Your ability to achieve does not define you! Your ability to love and be compassionate to others using whatever gifts God has given you is what defines you. Do what you can while focusing on what's important. My doctor talks about another small percentage I might fall into...the ones who go on to live without recurrence. That sounds wonderful doctor but I thank you for the good news today. TODAY is gift -a gift filled with good news!" - Tammy, Breast Cancer Survivor
Learn more about Tammy's journey with cancer here: ihadcancer.com/tammyw
Do you have an inspirational story to share? Comment below and let us know what advice you have.