Survivors: Words of Inspiration

"I have a second chance at life. If I really want to do something I am going to go and do it and not put it off."

Casey Leach
photo of Casey Leach with his nurses and friends

On Sunday, June 2, the American Cancer Society will honor all cancer survivors, including the nearly 14 million survivors living in the United States, in observance of National Cancer Survivors Day. Organized by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation (NCSD) as a way to celebrate life after cancer, the day features activities in local communities that include inspirational programs, parades, carnivals, walks, races, art exhibits, health fairs, and more.

NCSD calls it a day for cancer survivors to stand together and show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful, productive, and even inspiring.

These inspiring words from cancer survivors describe the insights they’ve learned and challenges they’ve faced as they’ve lived through cancer.

“What helped get me through was my innate and very deep love for life mostly, my belief that life is worth fighting for, as well as my knowledge that even cancer is treatable and beatable.  And I think, too, my ability and willingness to think outside the box and do my own research, to ask questions and discover on my own how to really survive and thrive.”

Jamie, non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

close up portrait of Sherrie Grasty

“You have to be knowledgeable and aware of the latest research. Knowledge is power. You and the doctors are working together for the greater good of your health and your survivorship. I’m blessed to live in an era where there are treatments that can help me live.”

~ Sherrie Grasty, breast cancer survivor

“There is always hope, and that hope is sometimes changing.  It means something different for each person in any given situation.  When one doctor tells you there is nothing more that can be done, he is merely saying that he has exhausted his expertise.  The next oncologist may have more up his sleeve.  Hope may come in the second, third, or fourth opinion, or totally evolve into a different form." 

Suzanne, colon cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

J. Dee Marinko playing sitting volleyball

“I want people to know when they hear the word cancer, it’s not associated with death anymore. When the doctor told me I had cancer I thought about death. Then I found a way to beat it. I want to share my story and the glimmer of hope – I want to let people know that this isn’t a death.”

~ J. Dee Marinko, synovial sarcoma survivor

“Today, I find it hard even to remember most of that time, which is so strange because in the beginning, it consumed me.  Every waking moment dealt with cancer in one way or another.  Sometimes I feel like it happened to another person…and then I realize, it did.  I will never again be that person who felt a lump in her breast one night and knew intuitively, ‘I have breast cancer.’ “

Pat, breast cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“I’ve coped with the ‘mack truck’ collision that occurs when news of a cancer diagnosis brings your life and your plans to a screeching halt.  I’ve known what it’s like to be sicker than I ever thought possible…and to get better; to be so fatigued that I couldn’t sit up; to know the kindness of hospital workers and friends; to feel so very alone...and at the same time part of a huge community of people out there who also proudly call themselves cancer survivors.  To me, cancer survivorship is not about getting through cancer without dying.  To me, it is about living through cancer treatment and then finding a way to integrate the impact of that news and that treatment back into your life.”

Andrea, Ewing sarcoma survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“You cannot be impatient with yourself.  Chemo is almost like trying to self-destruct.  Let the internal forces play.  Relax.  You will emerge again.”

Suza, mantle cell lymphoma survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

photo of Arthur Fowle

“The worst thing you can do with any life-threatening disease is sit around all day waiting for the next test. If I die tomorrow I think I could look at myself in the mirror and say I tried everything I could to live as healthy a life as possible. I didn’t just sit around and hope that the next treatment might work.”

~ Arthur Fowle, prostate cancer survivor

"Using the term survivor to describe myself was one of the hardest things I had to overcome.  I was superstitious about it and afraid to use it.  It took me years to feel comfortable with it and to be able to say (in the past tense), ‘I had cancer.’”

Janet, colon cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“I’ve been a cancer survivor so long I don’t know anything else.  It means my life is different from that of most people at my age, and it takes a lot of strength to keep going.”

Pamela, Hodgkin disease, basal cell carcinoma, and breast cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“I don’t like the term ‘survivor.’  I prefer ‘conqueror.’  To me, survival seems like something blew in and out like a storm, and somehow you made it through.  No matter what, I want to be who I am and become a better person through my experiences.  I want to take it almost as an opportunity to learn what I need to learn, to appreciate every little thing, to see the world from a different perspective.  No matter what, I want to conquer a sense of hopelessness.”

Judi, breast cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

photo of Cullen Forrest

“I’m proud that I have survived this and have come to learn what is really important in my life.  I don’t have a lot of time for worrying because that just wastes energy that could be used towards doing something meaningful.”

~ Cullen Forrest, brain cancer survivor

“Cancer cannot take from you what you refuse to give up.  After two diagnoses of advanced cancers, I am cancer free!  I have not lost my joy, my peace, or my laughter.”

Angie, vulvar and breast cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“I’m proud to be a survivor, but I wish I had never been put in the position to play that role.  Survivorship means you are alive to advocate for research, to help those who need help, and to gain a better perspective on what life is really about – loving and being loved, giving and sharing.”

Kathie, kidney cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“I have found that the human spirit is much more resilient than I had imagined.  I have found that friends appear, unasked and undemanding, just when they are needed most –the love of friends is incredibly reaffirming.”

Bill, prostate cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

headshot of Ginger Jordan at Relay for Life event

“I have my life back, but now it’s even better. I appreciate every day, every smile I see on my children’s faces, every laugh I share with a friend.  It’s important to keep the faith.  Brighter days are ahead.”

~ Ginger Jordan, ovarian cancer survivor

“To be a survivor is to –
Celebrate every day that both feet hit the floor and you can take a step.
Celebrate every time we get together with friends, no matter what the reason.
Not assume that tomorrow will come; cherish this day for what it is.
Just smile; everything is so much better with a smile.”

Mike, rectal cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

“To me, survivorship is very much an attitude; it’s a state of mind. How we interpret the experience of cancer and integrate it into our lives is fundamental to how we coexist with it.  I have learned that hope is forever changing, and healing can come without curing.”

Selma Schimmel, breast and ovarian cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

photo of Casey Leach with his nurses and friends

“I realized how quickly life can be taken away. I learned to appreciate what I have and just enjoy life and live in the moment. I appreciate just being able to see my friends and hang out and appreciate all the other people around me that I have. I realized not to take things for granted.  If I really want to do something I am going to go and do it and not put it off.”

~ Casey Leach, testicular cancer survivor

“Cancer is a very individual experience.  Each and every survivor (and we are all survivors from the day of diagnosis) will have a unique walk down the cancer path.  However, we will all meet challenges and successes and failures that have been met and dealt with before us and will be met and dealt with again after us.  It behooves us, therefore, not only to avail ourselves of the knowledge of those who have gone before us, but to endeavor to leave behind whatever we can that will benefit those who walk the path after us.”

Barbara, breast cancer survivor
~ From What Helped Get Me Through

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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