Survivor Series

Follow along with #survivorspark every Sunday, when we highlight a new local survivor’s portrait, experience & words of wisdom. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Know someone who has experienced cancer & should be featured in the Survivor Series? Send us a message

Want to know more about the Survivor Series creative collaboration? Read commentary  from the editor & photographer (also survivors & friends) about the project, produced exclusively for the Cancer Survivors Park & its mission.

Teryi Youngblood Musolf // wife of Steven; mother of Simeon & Sophia // food expert, CHOP! Cancer ‘16 judge, & Chef Coordinator/Emcee of CHOP! Cancer ‘17 (Aug. 25; chopcancerupstate.com) // Ballentine Equipment Company representative // 2016 SC Chef Ambassador for the Upstate // lover of the Blue Ridge, hiking, gardening, canning // survivor of/with the following: Cousin Lee (bone cancer); Grandfather Ebb (passed to esophageal); Cousin Carol Sue, Cousin Kim & Sister Liza (breast); Uncle Bill (male breast); Uncle James (passed to lung); Aunt Janet (liver); Mother-in-law Catherine (passed to lung)

“In my life, I’ve seen a good deal of cancer. It would be easier to tell you how many people in my immediate family DIDN’T have cancer. It started when I was very young, & my first experience was with someone very close to me. I was 9, & my cousin was 7 when he hurt himself playing basketball. We found that he had developed cancer in his knee, & they had to remove his leg at the knee; later at the hip.

“When I was a junior in high school, my dad’s father -- who ate more Tums & Rolaids than anyone I’d ever seen -- got diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which very quickly progressed, & we lost him when I was at a Clemson football game. The wind went out of my sails when everyone else was cheering. I knew something had happened. That one was probably one of the hardest…[Tears & laughter.] I’m sorry, I always get emotional when I talk about it!

“It was 2 years ago when my sister called us from Charleston to say she was having a biopsy. It happened so quickly: breast cancer hit us like a wall. It was luckily very small, & she had surgery immediately to have her breast removed. It was a lot of long distance cheerleading, & at any turning point, we were down there for her -- lots of trips down for chemo & things like that. I’m lucky in my life that I’ve met some of the most amazing women who have survived breast cancer & are fighting it. One amazing group of women, the TaTa Queens, sent my sister a giant box filled with things for treatment, which was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. She just felt so immediately loved & cared for by so many people. The chemo hat -- a little pink stocking cap -- & a little pillow for her to put under her arm post-surgery, which was absolutely life saving. The most important element of it, I think, was the homemade ‘Dammit Doll.’ It gave her the opportunity to just take the doll in her hand & express her anger, frustrations & everything. Just damn it, damn it, damn it! It was incredible, the outpouring of love and care. They had also contacted me almost immediately, & were such a source of support & information. I love these women so much.

“My husband lost his mom in 2005 to lung cancer. It was devastating. He got a little upset the other day, because he said, ‘I don’t like this part of the healing process where you get to this point that you’re healing so much, you almost forget what your mom was like when you were an adult.’ He has all these memories of her from when he was a child, but said he felt guilt because he was forgetting what conversations were like with her as an adult. I looked at him & said, ‘That’s proof right there you shouldn’t feel guilty, because you are still feeling that pain. You shouldn’t feel guilt for that, because when it does resurface, just let it come. It’s OK to be OK with it. You’ll NEVER, ever forget your mom, EVER.' Just because you’re at a healing point where it’s time to let some of that go, it’s NOT wrong. It’ll never just go away completely.

“It’s such a hard process to treat cancer & survive it that you have to celebrate every change, every turning point, every time you have a memory or experience something new as a survivor. It’s so important to always do that. I’m a survivor in that I survived all of these people that I know who are gone; & then I’m a survivor in the fact that my uncle, both my aunts, my sister, & two of my second cousins have all personally battled breast cancer themselves & also survived.

“So I have all of these people who are connected to me -- my cousins, my uncles, my grandfather, two cousins on dad’s side, two cousins on mom’s side, my mom’s sister, who has been through liver cancer -- I look at that family tree & see so many types all around it. It confuses you, because it’s like, ‘Well, which one am I gonna get?’ It scares the bejesus out of you, but you can’t live your life constantly concerned you’ll get cancer. You have to go on, try to find the most positive thing you can focus on, & focus on that stuff. What matters is the quality of life. Yes, I have breast exams, & yes, I wish there was a way to do more testing. You can do tests to see if you are predisposed, but if you look at your family tree & see it so much, you know that already. Geographically -- like if I look at my hometown -- sometimes I think, ‘How many people have some sort of cancer caused by the environment? What were we exposed to? What’s in the water there? What’s under the ground there? What’ve I been walking in? Those thoughts happen, & we just have to try to know that we are ALL going to die of something, & so we cannot live our lives afraid.

“You CAN survive. You CAN beat it. You have to believe, & early detection is the most important thing, I think. Even if you’re a survivor, you just have to carry on, & you have to connect to people; let everyone know that they aren’t alone. You have to appreciate the time that you had with those that you have lost. The worst part is the process. Every day once the diagnosis happens, it’s so hard...either the inevitable happens, or the day happens where they say, ‘You are cancer free.’ There is relief both ways. You can’t feel guilty about someone passing away. My grandfather was so sick, & we loved him so much; but he felt so bad that it was almost a relief for us when he could let go. It’s so heart wrenching to watch that pain, & that hunger for life where they want to live so badly, but it just hurts so much & feels so bad. When they don’t want to let go, because they are worried about us, it’s like, ‘We’ll be fine. We’ll miss you like crazy, but it’s OK to just let go.’

“Sometimes I think you don’t have a zeal for life until you’ve watched someone’s life taken away from them. Sometimes we just need to look at each other & cry, & get that emotion out. We are survivors, & we have to carry on with our lives. We can’t let it drag us down. We have to remember that those with cancer fight so hard for US. A lot of times, it’s not so much for them. The human spirit is such a beautiful thing.”
_______________
Photos by Jose Zurita. Interview by Emily Price. #survivorspark

Deb Osborne // Executive Director at Susan G. Komen MTM // former educator // Tarheels fan // lover of Yorkies (especially her two little ones, Henry & Harley) // Inductee of the York County Athletic Hall of Fame

Photo by Jose Zurita. Interview by Amy Doser. #survivorspark

______________

“I tell women (& men) every day that cancer is not a death sentence.

“I was diagnosed with Stage 3.5 breast cancer in September of 2008. I felt a lump in my breast in April of that year, but did not go to the doctor until September. In fact, up until that point I had not had a mammogram in 10 years. The doctor felt the lump, & said in the office that he thought it was cancer, so he immediately sent me to get an ultrasound -- & yes, it was cancer.

“One specific memory I have of dealing with cancer was when I was sitting in the waiting room after the doctor told me I had it -- I was in shock as I waited for the nurse to schedule the ultrasound. I was really trying to stay strong.

“Another vivid memory I have was when I told the oncologist I didn’t want to have chemo. I had watched a dear friend die from breast cancer, & I saw how horribly the chemo had affected her. I was petrified. My family eventually talked me into it, & I had chemo, radiation, & a double mastectomy.

“I will never sugarcoat my experience. There were dark, dark days. Chemo is horrible, but you see that small light at the end of the tunnel. Every day was a rollercoaster – both bad days & good days.

“I have always appreciated my friends & family. My support system was amazing. I had my family & my ‘Mann Family’ (from JL Mann High School). I had a couple cancer survivors who were a huge impact upon me as well: Catherine Ann Jeter, & Laura Ann Ellison & her husband, Dr. Travis Ellison. Catherine Ann taught me that you have to have a sense of humor. You have to laugh when you can! The Ellisons paid me short visits on Sunday evenings for weeks while I was sick. They taught me the value of simply giving time to someone who is going through an illness.

"Breast cancer made me more aware & more sensitive to the sufferings of everyday people. I learned who was important & what was important. I learned to say ‘I love you’ more than anyone!

"To me survivorship means ‘giving back.’ My favorite quote is, ‘Giving is the price you pay for living.’ The JL Mann community had a race team at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure -- I attended & was overwhelmed at the event. As soon as I was better, I volunteered at the Cancer Center; then became the race director for the Susan G. Komen Race; & now I’m the Executive Director for the Susan G. Komen Mountains to Midlands Race."
_______________

Kristen Carlton (43 y/o) // wife & mother // former elementary school teacher// Lung Force Hero // advocate & volunteer for the American Lung Association & Cancer Society of Greenville County // survivor of lung cancer (diagnosed August 2013; currently in remission)
_______________
  Photo by Jose Zurita. Interview by Amy Doser. #survivorspark

“The best thing you can do for somebody that’s going through cancer is to just tell them that you’re there for them, & do something without asking.

“In 2012, I got kidney stones for the first time. The stone was large enough where they were going to have to do lithotripsy to break it up, so they did the CT to find it. Then urologist says, ‘The radiologist noted in your CT that they got just the bottom part of your lung, & there’s a spot there. We’ll check you in 3 months.’ Three months later, it was still there. She said I needed to go see a lung specialist.

“Like most people, cancer wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t have the risk factors. I wasn’t coughing. I wasn’t sick. Something just told me that I needed a second opinion. So in the summer of 2013, I saw another lung specialist, & he said the same thing -- I just didn’t fit the demographic…but I was home for about three days, & then I got the call that said, ‘You need to have this out within the next two weeks.’ They took me in for surgery at Emory University Hospital on August 14, 2013.

“I lost half of my lung, & it was rough. Having part of your lung removed -- they told me it would be tough, & it WAS TOUGH! Just the pain -- just even trying to breathe… I remember yawning hurt terribly. Sneezing was excruciating, & so was taking deep breaths.

“I went back for another check-up in February 2014. They found a second mass in the same area, & they wanted to watch it…by May of 2014, they believed that it was just scar tissue. So they consider me in remission four years in August.

“Thirteen weeks after my surgery, I did a half marathon. I also got involved with LUNG FORCE, which is a division of the American Lung Association. Last year I was asked to go to Capitol Hill as the representative for SC!

"I’d love to be the person to change the world -- to say this is why no one else gets lung cancer. But then it seems so much more like an uphill battle. I have to focus on ONE person. How can I make that one person feel better, or help guide them through this process? I can’t cure cancer, as much as I’d want to.

“Everyone looks at the person going through it, & they don’t necessarily look at those around the person -- what those people are also going through themselves. It changed our family dynamic in that we don’t take things for granted. We don’t get so upset about little things. It also strengthened my faith incredibly.

“My biggest thing that I’ve gotten out of this whole experience is to be that example to my children. When they get upset about something, or something is hard, or something goes wrong, I say, ‘It could be so much worse! You can overcome! Look what our family was able to overcome! When something goes wrong, you don’t just fall in the hole & dwell on it -- you rise above it, & you push on, & you do for someone else. THAT’S what life is about!”
_______________

 

BRENDON LEE (18 y/o) // also pictured w/ father Dongjai, mother Hiewon Shin, & brother Joseph // rising freshman @ Harvard University // soon-to-be Southside High School grad // leukemia survivor (diagnosed Feb. 10, ’14; chemo ends June 10!)

Photos by Jose Zurita. Interview by Emily Price. #survivorspark

BRENDON: “We had visited the doctor twice before my diagnosis, & each time it was like, ‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s a cold. You just need to get some rest.’ Even my parents thought I was just staying up too late doing homework, & that’s why I was so tired. I had trouble staying awake in school. I had trouble participating in any physical activity, even walking up the stairs. I was very weak. I actually fell & hit my head at school, which made me go to the hospital to get a CT scan & everything. I noticed I was losing vision in my left eye. The ophthalmologist said I had blood in my eyes, so I got a blood test. I was pretty overwhelmed with the diagnosis. I was, in a sense, sad & angry. I was heartbroken, almost. The doctors said it was nothing before, & then said I had cancer. I couldn’t believe it.”

HIEWON (his mother): “Brendon is just amazing. Even after the chemo treatments, he was working like a machine. It’s really unbelievable. As a mother, I just don’t know how he was able to continue his therapy & his schoolwork. He never lost sight of what matters to him. For the first several months after his diagnosis, he didn’t even have the capacity for basic physical independence. He wasn’t able to eat, walk, dress, bathe, get out of bed or go to the bathroom without assistance. Now Brendon seems like, ‘Oh, yeah, that was hard;’ he sees his experiences as matter-of-fact. He’s so calm, but back then, his weight immediately & rapidly dropped down to 80 lbs. He almost died on several occasions. He experienced wrenching pain from his burned lungs; nausea from the toxic chemo. He completely lost his hair twice. He basically took a year off from school. He struggled a lot physically & emotionally – he’s a teenager! The high school experience is really tough for everyone, even healthy kids, & for Brendon, there was enormous pressure & strength. I’m just very proud of him & what he’s been able to achieve through his ordeal. He has been very courageous.”

BRENDON: “It definitely taught me how to be independent. I had a homebound teacher, but a lot of the subjects I had to learn on my own. It kind of taught me that you can still get things done if you put your mind to it, so I tried really hard. I did feel like I was at a disadvantage…it was harder for me to get similar grades as my classmates, because I had not received prior instruction in that material, & still had to take the midterm, final exams, things of that nature. The way it worked is that since I already went through half of my freshman year, the only way I would have to restart it was if I failed the classes. But my grades were pretty decent, so I got to continue, & I got to make up work. For two summers, I was on double duty making up for the last half of freshman year & the first half of sophomore year.

“I was the only one at my school who [got into Harvard]. It’s kind of a roll of the dice to get into one of those schools, even if you’re a qualified applicant. I kind of had this feeling that I might be able to get in, but it was still so surreal to ACTUALLY get in. We were so happy that day – my mom especially. She was the happiest one in the family. Some of my friends thought I had what it took to get in, & they were really happy for me. That day was really great! I’m not totally sure what I will major in – probably either Government or Biomed.”

HIEWON: “Kids recover really quickly, & that’s a strength for Brendon. He’s always looking forward; he doesn’t dwell on the past. He always wants to prepare for the future. But to be honest, the last 3 years were very intense & tough for our family. Now I can smile and share our stories calmly, but throughout the struggles, Brendon & our entire family had dipped in & out of terror & depression – just praying in tears to God to save our son's life.”

BRENDON: “The 5-year survival rate for leukemia is really good, because the chemotherapy treatment plan is so long. It’s about 3 ½ years. The relapse is high if you terminate the chemo quickly. I’m on track with treatment at this moment, & mine will be over June 10. It’s been very intense. In the beginning, my body didn’t initially respond very well to the high doses & combinations of different drugs, including regular spinal taps at least once a week at that time. But my main problems were with the side complications that went on simultaneously.”

HIEWON: “My husband & I were really lucky to be able to continue working full-time; he’s an engineer at GE, & I’m a professor in the English department at North Greenville University. But thinking about those years now, I really don’t know how I was able to do that. I didn’t see it as an option to quit working or go part-time. We just worked as hard as we could. Brendon’s younger brother Juni [Joseph] never missed a single school day. He also never missed a single Carolina Youth Symphony Sunday rehearsal, & he always prepared as best as he could for each one. But he struggled, too. One of the episodes I remember was when I was reading a storybook to him. Out of nowhere Juni asked me, ‘Mommy, why are you, Daddy & Brother working so hard?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Because we are going to die at some point, so what’s the point of working that hard? There’s no reason for that. We have to enjoy our life. I just want to know why we have to strive so hard & work so hard.’ I was speechless, because I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that question. I think he asked me that in 4th or 5th grade. But he cried, & I cried too. I remember it vividly. As a mother, it’s just so hard. It was all quite a journey as a parent. I’m very grateful that we’re able to get through these struggles & for so much love, support & prayers from SO many people...God has been with our family from the very beginning to this moment.”

BRENDON: “In the grand scheme, I guess that my biggest advice to someone who was going through similar treatment would be don’t lose focus during it, & remember there are others looking out for you, too. Follow through the treatment carefully. If you keep persevering, & you keep your eye on the ball, you can get back on track in life like I did. Work hard. You can still be successful in life & achieve what it is that you want.”
_______________

NANCY WELCH (75 y/o) // mother & grandmother // philanthropist & supporter of the Park // woman of many talents // published author of cookbooks, fiction & articles // public speaker // EdD & MPA degree holder from Clemson University // currently surviving colorectal cancer (diagnosed 2011)
_______________
Read more from the Survivor Series @bit.ly/CSPSurvivorSeries. Photo by Jose Zurita. Interview by Amy Doser. #survivorspark

“I’m enjoying retirement, doing great, & then BAM! In January 2011, I have a colonoscopy. I have three polyps & one is malignant. That started my cancer.

“People say, ‘What do you do?’ I say, ‘I do nothing but cancer. I’m just doing cancer.' That’s what I work at every day.

“You know, it’s funny when people don’t know about getting on & off the chemo & radiation & all of that. They sort of think, ‘Well you have a break,’ & yeah -- you have a break…But you know it’s still coming, & it’s like the sooner I can get back on, the sooner I can get off of it. It’s just THAT hanging over you -- & you know that you gotta do it, so you just want to go ahead & do it! This is probably how I’ll be for the rest of my life: off & on chemo forever. I mean people live with heart disease, diabetes, & other things…you just have to deal with it.

“The hardest thing for me, because I’ve always been a person of my word, is to commit to something & not be able to do it. That breaks my heart, & I’ve just gotten to where I try not to commit to too many things. I realized that I’m just committed to fewer & fewer things, because it breaks my heart to back out on someone.

“I wished I could have journaled every day throughout this whole process, but I got to the point that every day that I was writing, I was consumed with the cancer. The journaling made the cancer much more a part of me than what I wanted, so I just quit writing it.

“One of the first big things I was involved with was when Greenville High & J.L. Mann did their Spirit Week: when we went over there & went out on the field in our colors, & I was in my blue for colorectal cancer, & we all went down on the field to get the check. It was something ELSE to go out there & get that check, & to see all of those young people who had raised money for the Park!

"You are a Survivor, regardless of your state of cancer: cured, remission, cancer free, going through treatment -- if you are still living, then you are a Survivor. It’s a hard concept to get my head around. I’d rather be a Survivor without it being a part of me currently, but it’s not realistic to say that I can’t be a Survivor until I’ve beaten this thing. I may never beat it, but I’ll always be a Survivor.

“I have cancer, but I don’t want cancer to define me. It’s not who I am. It’s a disease that I have. I try to put that on the backburner. I try not to make a big deal about it. I certainly don’t mind talking about cancer, though. I want people to pray for me! I have people continuing to pray for me, & I know that’s why I’m able to do things as well as I can.”
_______________

JAY MOTLEY // father to Lilla (also pictured) // husband & survivor of Lindsey Bates Motley, who passed to colon cancer Feb. 23, 2016 // TOM BATES // “Poppy” to Lilla // father & survivor of Lindsey // photographed here on the Park’s Leap of Faith Overlook, dedicated in remembrance of Lindsey
_______________
Read more from the Survivor Series @bit.ly/CSPSurvivorSeries. Photo by Jose Zurita. Interviews by Emily Price. #survivorspark 

This week, we revisit a family that has been featured in our Survivor Series before. Last year we profiled Lindsey Bates Motley, who at the time was fighting colon cancer. This past Thursday, Feb. 23, was the first anniversary of her death, so we checked in to see how some of her survivors were doing.

JAY: “Everything is going really well, actually. Lilla is doing well. She is in school, & we still talk about Lindsey a lot. She brings her up, & we still have pictures around the house, so we talk about her a lot. Things come up all the time -- she’ll say, ‘I remember this & this with mommy,’ or something like that. One of the things I was most worried about was Lilla, & how she would adjust. How it would effect her. From all that I can tell, it seems that she is doing really well.

“When I knew Lindsey was sick & I might need some guidance on the best ways to talk to Lilla about it, I did a little research on the internet. I found a place out in Portland called the Dougy Center that specializes in children who have lost family members. They had a lot of information on their site about grieving for kids. They actually had a handout sheet, & I looked that over, & I thought that the way they talked about it & their method was a great little tip sheet. I took it to her school & showed it to her teachers, & said this is what I am going to be doing at home, & giving to the aunts, uncles & grandparents. It said things like, speak openly & honestly about death. Don’t hide it, because the children, of course, would be asking. I just say, ‘Mommy had cancer. She was really sick. The cancer made her body quit working, so she died.’ You should make it honest & open, & not make it confusing. They suggested calling it what it was – cancer – and not just saying, ‘Mommy got sick,’ because then the kids would get worried that any time they got sick, or a family member did, that they would die, too.

“I definitely see a lot of Lindsey coming out in her. I think she starts to look more like her every day as she gets older. In a lot of ways, she has the same temperament. It’ll be interesting as she ages how much of Lindsey comes out in her.

“Honestly, for me, I think the most interesting thing from the past year was the surprise…I thought the first few months would be the hardest part. Like right when she died, your world would be turned upside down, there would be all of this stuff to take care of. That was certainly hard, too – but it’s surprising that it gets a little harder I think, the further out you get. I don’t think I expected that. The last few months have probably been harder than it was right when she passed away. I think as time goes on, you just start to miss them more. Right when they pass away they were just there recently. You don’t have that longing – I think that was something I didn’t anticipate going into it, and that would be good for other people to know. To not be surprised & be caught off guard if it gets harder, or if you start to miss them more further out. The grief comes in waves; it ebbs & flows. A wave might come; you have to deal with some sadness or grief; & then it gets better.

“I am still figuring it out myself as I go along. It’s hard, there’s no other way to say it. You can’t really sugarcoat that having a child, losing your spouse, & then trying to put it all back together & still work, figure out about dating again, & all kinds of stuff like that is a challenge. But, you know, you figure it out!”

TOM: “ ‘The next right thing’ was one of Lindsey’s sayings. She always said, ‘All you can do is the next right thing,’ & that’s what she did until she couldn’t do that anymore. We live by doing the next right thing. What has gotten us through this is faith. It’s by faith & not by sight that we know, & that you have to think about this in an eternal sense. I think we’re a blip on the radar. I am at peace with all of that. This isn’t the end. I think wonderful thoughts like, Lindsey’s with my mother, who she never met, & others!

“I lost my mother when I was 10 to ovarian cancer. So I remember as a little boy – that was 52 years ago – riding in the family car from the funeral to the cemetery, & I just saw that life kept on going on. I saw garbage men picking up garbage. I saw kids laughing & playing. I remember seeing all that & thinking, ‘Don’t you know what just happened to me?’ But you know, life goes on. I know I will see Lindsey again. I think in terms of eternity, not just here & now. There I was as a child, watching my mother go, & then there I was as a father watching my child go. I think sometimes maybe this was all preparation. Nothing takes the sting away – grief is like learning another language that we are still trying to learn, & there’s not a Rosetta Stone for this. You’ve got to live & breathe it.

“The first anniversary of Lindsey’s death was a tough day & a good day at the same time. It certainly was a different day. It was a day of remembrance & reflection. How wonderful she was, how many people she touched, how courageous & brave she was. It’s sad. It’s happy. It’s every emotion that you have. There were tears, & there was laughter. It’s kind of like the funeral again – seeing and hearing from people you haven’t seen or heard from in a long time. Their remembrances of her, & how they were affected not just by her death, but just by knowing her.

“I am just so proud of our family. Everyone is doing so well. Everybody has a piece of Lindsey in them, & that’s what’s great. I can tell you from a ‘Poppy’ point of view that it’s amazing how well Lilla is doing. What I follow is Jay’s parenting of her. He does an unbelievably exceptional job. He doesn’t hide things from her. He is very forthright about it. He does it in the right way. He keeps Lindsey as part of Lilla’s life, so that she will always know who Lindsey is. That’s the part that I love. Lilla has a good life. She doesn’t have Lindsey – none of us do – but she certainly has a lot of caring & loving people that are around her all the time.

“I think Lilla is a gift that Lindsey left us. Lilla was part of this terrible disease with her mother & is the end product of a very hard fight. I think she’s kind of a parting gift for us.”

 

Spiro Goulakos (27 y/o) // defenseman for the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack (called up from the ECHL Swamp Rabbits the day after this interview!!!) // Colgate University alum (‘15) & former hockey team captain // Montreal native // survivor of Stage IIA Hodgkins Lymphoma; diagnosed @ 22 y/o, 6 years after 72 y/o grandfather passed to pancreatic cancer
____________________
Read more from the Survivor Series @ bit.ly/CSPSurvivorSeries. Photos by Jose Zurita. Interview by Emily Price. #survivorspark

“The cancer happened during my sophomore year [at Colgate]. It was Stage IIA Hodgkins Lymphoma. Then when I broke my ankle as a senior two seasons later, it was really a tough pill to swallow. I think it set me back in my career aspirations a little bit; the opportunities I think I would’ve gotten, had I stayed healthy. Had I been able to showcase myself a bit more, it might’ve set me up a little better. I always wanted to play hockey professionally.

“The cancer was like a watermelon, apparently, in my chest. I think [the mass] was about 12” x 4”. I didn’t feel any symptoms, which is why we found it when we did, at a physical at home in Montreal. There was just shortness of breath -- but it wasn’t that alarming, like something was wrong -- it was just kind of like, ‘Well I’m not in as good of shape as I should be’ or whatever. But looking back, yeah. My breathing was off.

“At the time, my sister Constance, who is 6 years older, came to visit me at school. We are very close. We went to grab coffee, & she was basically like, ‘Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. You have cancer.’ I mean, I knew there was an issue. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but she confirmed it -- what was to come. She was just practical, like, ‘There’s a 95 percent chance that it’s this.’

“The hardest part of being diagnosed was thinking, ‘I have to put my life on hold for 6 months.’ Not being a part of the hockey team, or the Colgate community especially, for 6 months. Especially that senior class -- not getting to hang out with them, & play hockey with them, & strengthen those bonds. So originally to think I wasn’t going to get to experience all that -- LIVE all that -- I wasn’t as concerned with the chemo. It was the FOMO: the fear of missing out on your life. I was really close with that group in particular.

“When I broke the news to the team, it was a shock to everyone. You don’t really expect to hear that from one of your teammates & friends, especially at that age, so they were all shocked. There were a few tears. When I broke the news, I was like, ‘I’m done for the year, & I’ll see you when I see you.’ They were all extremely supportive, but it was unchartered territory for everyone.

“I did 12 chemo sessions back home in Montreal -- every 2 weeks for 6 months. The first one I did was during winter break, so we were out of school. After that I said, ‘OK, I took that pretty well. If i can continue to feel this way, I might as well try & continue with academics. If I can play hockey, all the better.’ The doctors were all OK with that, seeing how I responded to the first treatment. I dropped a class, but I took 3 others, & I got to play hockey. I just missed every second weekend, because I had to go home & do a treatment; I missed a few classes as well. That went on for a semester.

“I think everyone expects me to say that year with the chemo was the hardest, but to be honest, I think it was breaking my ankle at the end of the year my senior season. Missing out on going to the tournament for a second time...We had a really good team, & injuries cost us a shot at the National Championship. As soon as I was able to put on a skate that year, I was like, ‘Hey, I am ready to play!’ I knew it was my last kick at the can in college.

“But the chemo also took me longer to recover from than even I expected. Going through my junior year, they would give me a day off in the middle of the week to get extra rest. My energy levels weren’t quite there, especially with going to class & practice. Gradually I got in better shape, but not close to the shape I was in prior to being diagnosed. Then senior year, I felt way better than before; I had gone through a healthy, full summer of training. Then after another full summer of training, going into my first pro season, I felt the best I had in 3 years...It really takes a while to flush that stuff out of your system. Nobody really knows how long.

“So then last year, I signed with Rochester in the AHL on a 2-way contract, but ended up playing most of my year in the ECHL, which is equivalent to the Swamp Rabbits. This year I thought it would be a good idea again to sign another 2-way contract with a different organization, so I did that. So far I have been down here [with the SR] the whole year, which is kind of frustrating. I think I deserve an opportunity at the next level, & I think a lot of people would agree with that...but, I mean, it’s the nature of the business. It is what it is.

“My dad has this way of firing me up. For example, when we’d be in the hospital, he would say things like, ‘Your situation isn’t so bad, see? You could be that kid with one leg. You could be that guy with the oxygen tank.’ Which I guess is a weird way to talk to a cancer patient, but it gives you perspective. Like, ‘Look, Spiro, you still have a fighting chance.’”

 

Amy Doser // new Survivor Series co-editor & CSP volunteer // wife to Dave // stay-at-home mom to David Brian (named after his late uncle) & Henry Bruce (both pictured) // consultant to Beautycounter // writer & book lover // avid runner (ran a ½ marathon with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training in SF) // Clemson grad // survivor of brother Brian (passed to leukemia in ’07)

Photo by Jose Zurita. #survivorspark

“As a stay at home mom, I’ve looked for volunteer opportunities with organizations of which I could be passionate. I left the corporate world to be full time with my kids, but I always felt like there was more and if I was going to take away time from my boys, then it had to be something really worthwhile. Kay Roper [CSP Executive Director] spoke about the Park on the 9th anniversary of the death of my younger brother to leukemia. I took it as a sign from God that this is where I was needed.

“My younger brother had been under the weather for quite some time. He’d been to doctors for nearly a month as they tried to determine what was wrong with him. A few years earlier, he’d been hit by a drunk driver, & subsequently his spleen had to be removed. We were told that because the spleen was gone, determining that his illness was leukemia was a bit difficult.

“My two most specific memories both come from when Brian was first diagnosed & then when it came out of remission. First let me preface this by saying, my brother was younger by 6 years. I was always very protective of him; he was like my own little baby. When he was diagnosed, he had just turned 23 years old. He was admitted into the hospital on Thursday, & on Friday, my parents wanted to go see all of our family face-to-face & to tell them about Brian; so I stayed at the hospital with him. That afternoon, he leaned forward on the bed; his IVs dangling from a port; the IV tree obnoxiously taunting him; & said, ‘I don’t want to die.’ I did the big sister approach, & pushing back my own tears told him he wasn’t going to die -- that people beat this all the time, & he would too.

“Flash forward 2 1/2 years to Jan. 3, ’07 -- when we had been told that the leukemia was back, & he had 3-6 months to live. My parents had left the room, so it was just the two of us. I started crying & asked Brian what I was supposed to do without him, & that I didn’t want him to die. He put his arms around me -- instantly becoming the older sibling -- & said, ‘You’re going to keep living, & you’ll do it for me.’ I think these two memories stand out because they show how much he had grown spiritually in his years fighting leukemia. He ended up dying 29 days later -- not even making it a month after the leukemia came out of remission.

“Cancer isn’t just about the radiation & chemo treatments. There’s so much more to it. We all became more educated; we found out there were burdens in life we could easily shoulder. We all experienced a lot of change, a lot of heartbreak, & a lot of laughs during the 2 ½ years Brian bravely fought this disease. I try not to have regrets in life or spend my days thinking, ‘What if?’ We fought this battle together as a family, because I believe it’s what God felt we needed. My parents & I came out of it broken but able to piece our lives back together. Almost 10 years later, I still have my days of just sitting in my room and crying my eyes out. There’s a piece of my heart that’s gone, & I still have my days of asking God, ‘Why?’ But in the end, I’m grateful not necessarily for the experience of cancer in my brother’s life, but for the way I came out of it & what I learned from it. I’d spent my entire life looking into the future & not living in the moment. I stopped & breathed more often, took in the wonders of God, & even found out new things about my brother.

“I would like to think that watching how well my brother handled all of his treatments -- & suffer with grace & dignity -- has encouraged me to be strong in life, to never give up, to always fight. My mother taught me how to be strong for her child. You know, in the 2 ½ years Brian went through this, he NEVER saw her cry. She saved that for me, my dad or her friends. As a mother, I’m still in awe of her strength as to how well she kept everything together for my brother’s sake.

“I never really considered myself a survivor until I met Kay. For me, a survivor was always someone who was diagnosed with cancer & then beat it -- not the people surrounding that person. Then I recall my brother’s words to me that day when we were told his leukemia was back: ‘You’re going to keep living, & you’ll do it for me.’ When I have my days that are bad, I think about how worse his days were at times, & how well he handled those days. Everything that I do in my life, no matter how minute it may seem, I always think, ‘How would Brian handle this? Would he be proud of me?’”

 

Caroline Grigg // daughter to Kelley & Gordon // Public Relations major @ University of South Carolina (’17) // member of Delta Delta Delta & philanthropist w/ St. Jude Children's Research Hospital // participant in other campus service organizations such as Greek Impact // JL Mann High School grad (’14) & former student body president // Charlotte born & Nashville raised before she moved to GVL a week before high school & “she took Greenville by storm,” as Charles says
_______________
Charles Stone // son of Rita & Chuck // Animal Sciences & Entomology double-major @ Cornell University (’18) // Greenville High School grad (’14) & former student body president // “He is smart as heck,” Caroline says; to which he replies, “No, I am just a nerd…I really like bugs.” She agrees, “You should see his SnapChat stories. You’ll get a daily dose of any sort of insect you can imagine.”


CHARLES: “Caroline & I were friends in high school, & I think we both had our minds set on becoming our student body presidents. That actually ended up happening! We both won our elections, so that was pretty cool. Our schools [Greenville High & J.L. Mann] independently started brainstorming charity options for Spirit Week [the 2013-14 school year]. The schools had always chosen different charities, but we thought it would pretty cool to choose the same charity: one that truly gives back to our community [like CSP]. We thought it would be neat to do a Spirit Week together to show the unity that cancer brings to the community -- because everyone has been affected by it. So the idea snowballed from there.”

CAROLINE: “At first when presented to my student council, it was sort of like, ‘What…?’ It’s never been done, so at first it was a lot to take in, because it’s such a rivalry between the schools. So it was a big deal -- like, ‘Wait what? We are going to work with them on a lot of things & still make it a rivalry?’ But we simmered on it, & it started to become really exciting for everyone on my council, I know. It became more like, ‘Oh my gosh! Let’s go! Let’s meet with them, talk with them, figure out what we want to do.’ [Both schools] were able to do a couple of events together. It was cool to brainstorm about things we could only do when coming together at a time like that. J.L Mann ended up raising $214,203.93 for CSP.”

CHARLES: “Yeah! Additionally, my school raised $298,266.47 that week. It’s definitely an important cause. Cancer hits home pretty hard for me personally. We lost my maternal grandmother before I was born – my mom was 27, & it was right before her wedding -- & my maternal grandfather my sophomore year of high school to rectal melanoma, which is really rare. That was very tough. I was very close to him. My aunt – my dad’s sister -- is also battling cancer. She’s been in & out of remission for 8 or 10 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, but most recently has battled colon cancer with a few spots found on her lungs as well. Even my close friends – I am affected by when they are affected. Cancer’s impact is far reaching. It’s truly like a web.”

CAROLINE: “Cancer was not something I had dealt with in my immediate family, but growing up my mom’s best friend battled it. She’s beaten breast cancer twice, & just growing up with her daughter being one of my best friends as well, [my family] was always doing stuff like taking food to the hospital for them, being the support system behind helping another family deal with that. My roommate’s mom has beaten breast cancer since we’ve been in college. Also since I got to college I joined Tri Delta, & our philanthropy is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So for me, CSP led to this soft spot in my heart for working with people who have or have had cancer; working with others on certain cancer initiatives; doing things like meeting pediatric cancer patients with St. Jude, & seeing & being able to work with families that have been affected. So I have been more affected by cancer now than ever before. I was just at St. Jude’s in Memphis this weekend, volunteering & doing a private tour, getting to see where the money we have been raising has been going, & meeting with some of the patients there."

CHARLES: “As far as the Park, I definitely think it was a new concept for me: just thinking about continuing a legacy, & the people left to do that being survivors as well. It had drawn me to fundraising for CSP since I have been personally impacted. I think it’s such an incredible way to go about thinking about cancer -- either way, if you defeat it or you don’t win, the people who you love will go on to be your survivors. It’s a really nice sentiment to have a park that represents that, & embodies this mindset you would want anyone battling cancer to have, because it’s an awful thing. It’s nice to have an environment & a place to go that embodies this idea that, ‘You are fighting, you are doing your best, you are not alone, & there are people here to support you.’ There are so many people that go through the ordeal, & it’s nice to have the Park as a physical place -- but also conceptually this mindset that survivors are not just those who have fought the disease & won. It’s also about the others who are carrying on the legacy of those lost.”

CAROLINE: “Yes. Charlie has said a lot. It’s really the same thing for me. I can think of the times growing up around Jenny (my mom’s best friend) & having those times with her daughter, Kristin. Being young, not really knowing what’s really going on -- but we’d see family members reaching out, ambulances coming to the house…I think about if we had had a place to go back then. Having a place like CSP where my mom could drop us off, & we could walk around, look at things, take it all in. I think about being a child, & just having a place to be able to breathe & try to understand; a tranquil place when other places could be not-so-peaceful, with a lot of adults all around you, acting as your parents while your parents were dealing with such a difficult thing. It would’ve done wonders, & to have that in Greenville now -- when I tell people I meet through St. Jude about the Park, they are like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to go! We have to visit!’ It’s relieving for people to know that there’s a place like that to go & relax, rewind, be with nature -- a place to find some peace & time to let it all settle in.”


Stan Von Hofe, M.D. // husband to Barbara & father to Johanna (an Ob/Gyn) // teacher @ University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville (“I love it,” he says) // endocrinologist (retired from private practice) // runner & active member of The Life Center // horseback rider // Clemson Athletics fan // currently surviving gastric cancer (diagnosed Stage 3B in ‘07)
_______________

 “Being a survivor is basically about wanting to stay alive & not let cancer define who you are as a person. Many people deal with adversity. You just keep plugging.

“I was diagnosed with stomach (gastric) cancer in ‘07, treated with chemo & radiation therapy Oct. ‘07 to April ‘08, & then had surgery to remove my stomach (gastrectomy) in May ‘08. My mother also died from ovarian cancer the year I graduated from college.

“I did well from a cancer standpoint until April this year, when I had a recurrence (metastasis) to my brain. This presented as sudden leg weakness & inability to walk; & subsequently, I had surgery to remove the tumor in my brain, followed by radiation therapy. Currently I’m doing well, & I’m back to my hobbies of working out at The Life Center, running & horseback riding.

“Regarding treatment decisions, the fact I’m a doctor has played a major part in my treatment. I visited Duke, M.D. Anderson in Houston, & I had phone or email consults with friends at Mayo, Harvard & Vanderbilt. After gathering all data, I decided my best treatment options were here in Greenville. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the patient being his own advocate. It’s easy if you’re a physician, but not so much if you’re not. Educate yourself, & ask questions. Because my cancer was Stage 3B at diagnosis, surgeons were reluctant to operate on me; only Dr. [Steven] Trocha here in Greenville was willing to ‘go for it.’

“I’ve always been the spouse responsible for finances. My wife, Barbara, is the educator, intellectual & moral anchor to the family -- & she found the undertaking of such duties to be extremely stressful. While my recent recurrence portends an equivocal prognosis, I don't fear death so much as worry about how such an event would affect my wife. Fortunately, Johanna (my doctor daughter & joy of my life) understands my medical issues, & is thus better prepared to deal with whatever comes.

“My advice is to take care of yourself starting in high school & college. I’ve been a runner since 1967, & I’m convinced I had as good an outcome as I have had because I was in good physical shape & able to tolerate chemo & radiation therapy. In other words: be prepared. Also, try to be as physically active as tolerable while undergoing therapy.

“I’m very tuned in to friends & patients who have cancer, & have tried to support several of them on a one-on-one basis by sharing my experience & encouragement. This experience has made me a better doctor.”

_______________

Read more from the Survivor Series @bit.ly/CSPSurvivorSeries. Photo by Mark Kirby.#survivorspark

 

Julie Cline // mother to sons Davey & Wade; grandmother to 4 grandchildren // speaker at our Phase II groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 27 @ 10 am // survivor of husband David (diagnosed w/ single cell lung cancer July ’97; passed away Father’s Day ’11) 

"They didn’t expect David to live long at all, but he ended up living 14 years almost to the day. From the very beginning, David was determined that whatever time he had left, he would make the best of. He was a very positive person. He was like a magnet – people were just drawn to him. He laughed a lot & joked a lot.

“At that time, when he was sick, there was not all of the help outside of the medical field there is now. We had to find everything on our own. We drove to Columbia for an acupuncturist. We drove to Atlanta for massage therapy. We drove to Tryon for another kind of therapy. The muscles behind his lungs got scarred through doing chemo & radiation at the same time, so the muscles were rigid, & he had a lot of back pain. He went anywhere to try if something could help him with his pain. Now they have all those things in house. I know he would be pleased about that. But there was no support group for lung cancer patients; they didn’t usually survive long enough, so he was really out there on his own to find resources to make his quality of life better.

“He also never gave up. Until the very last weekend of his life, he was determined to fight. He gave it all he had for 14 years. People at the Cancer Center called him the miracle man. He took a gift bag of fun-sized Snickers every time he went to the doctor, & he would give one to everybody who touched his life: the doctors, the nurses, the receptionists, the patients in the waiting room who looked like they needed a little smile, children there with their parents.

“He was a very caring & loving person. After it looked like he wasn’t going to die right away, he wanted to do something for the people who had helped save his life. Dr. Giguere was his oncologist, & he and Jeff had formed a good friendship. They both had wonderful senses of humor. David said, ‘Jeff, I’ve got some money, & I want to do something in the realm of cancer – do you have a pet project?’ Jeff said, ‘Well, as a matter of fact, there’s this group trying to get off the ground, & they are struggling a little bit. It’s called Patients First (now Cancer Survivors Park Alliance).  It’s a patient advocacy program. Their mission is more educational, but the first project they are going to have is a big Cancer Survivors Park.’ So David got interested in that. At that point, they had a committee & ideas, but really didn’t have any funds. The gift David gave was really the seed money that helped them get things off the ground -- pamphlets printed & mailed to get the word out & things like that. We ended up being on the board. It became too hard for him to do it, but I stayed on for a number of years. It started getting momentum, and the Park was going to be the flagship program. Patients First eventually became the Cancer Survivors Park alliance.

“A few months after he died on Fathers Day in 2011, we had the opportunity to make a donation in David’s memory. I knew that were he alive, that’s what he would’ve wanted. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to get involved. It was proposed that we give the money for the Pavilion.

“When we first were on the board and talking about the Park -- that was before HIPAA was created. One of the things that excited David the most was that they said there would be an educational center & there would be a computer there, where you could type in your type of cancer. The names of the people in the area around Greenville who had that would come up, so you could contact those people & talk to them. You wouldn’t have to feel like you are hanging out there all by yourself. He said, ‘I want to do that. That’s what I want to do for the Park. I want to provide the resources for that to happen.’ Well HIPAA came in & you cant do that now -- they can’t give you the names & contacts of people. But they are going to have this educational center underneath the Pavilion, where you can read about whatever type of cancer you want to read about & other resources.

“I like the idea of this Park being a community-wide thing – cancer doesn’t just effect one person or just the family. I think it’s so widespread there are very few people in Greenville who haven’t been touched by cancer in some form, & to me, this is making a statement to let people know that there’s hope. Don’t give up. The Pavilion we are giving comes up to a point that reaches up to the sky. I think that’s one of the best symbols, & to me, the hope is not on the ground. The doctors & people around you give you hope, but your biggest hope comes from above. We wanted this park to be a place of reflection. I hope it is going to be used & enjoyed by everybody -- whether you’ve been touched by cancer, had it & survived cancer, lost someone to it. It’s for everybody.

“Within the confines of David’s illness & him being on oxygen for 10 years, he lived his life as fully as anyone could’ve lived it. He lived to see all 4 of his grandchildren born; both his boys graduate college; one graduate from seminary. He lived to see both of his parents pass. He lived a long time well, & that I think is his legacy. He taught people how to live through trials with grace & dignity & humor. If he was sitting here right now, he would probably say, ‘Don’t put my name on that building. Just build the building.’ He was a very humble person, but he had the biggest heart -- & actually, a large heart is what took him, & when I called a friend to tell him he said, ‘Well, he always had the biggest heart. I am not surprised.’”
_______________


C. David Tollison, Ph.D. // pictured w/ wife Linda, daughter Courtney Tollison-Hartness, & son-in-law Sean Hartness; also father to David Tollison, Jr. // practicing clinical psychologist // author/editor of 10 medical textbooks on pain diagnosis & treatment // former ‘60s & ‘70s rock radio disc jockey, ‘Dave Tolley’ // fan of Clemson, Furman & baseball // survivor of throat cancer (diagnosed July 13, ’15)

  “An estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2015, & I was one of them. At age 65, a malignant tumor obstructed 90% of my throat, complicating my ability to eat & breathe. The diagnosis was throat cancer, & unfortunately it was growing. My father & his brothers had all died young from heart disease; consequently, I hadn’t given much thought to cancer.

“Most fortunately, treatments exist. Within days of my diagnosis, I arrived in Charleston at MUSC, where additional diagnostic tests were performed & treatment alternatives outlined. One approach involved the surgical removal of my ‘voice box’ (larynx). This broad intervention offered optimal clinical effectiveness, but with the extreme disadvantage of losing my ability to speak without electronic assistance.

“A second & less extensive treatment involved an effort to isolate & surgically remove the offending tumor, while salvaging the ability to verbally converse. Following detailed deliberation & discussion with family, I chose the second, less invasive surgical option. I wanted to maintain the ability to talk to my wife & children & furthermore, as a practicing clinical psychologist for the past 37 years, the ability to verbally communicate has served as the foundation of my professional life.

“I sailed through surgery with minimal difficulty. However, subsequent chemotherapy & radiation treatments were not as easy. Amongst other complications, I developed pneumonia & later, diverticulitis -- both requiring additional hospitalizations; & don’t think that you get time off from cancer treatment simply because you develop additional & complicating medical disorders. Radiation treatment & chemotherapy take priority.

“I was diagnosed with cancer only weeks before my wife [Linda] & I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. My wife was recovering from a fractured kneecap. Upon learning of my diagnosis, however, she abandoned her own local treatment, & we relocated for several months to Charleston. For 40 years I have considered myself particularly fortunate to have her as my life partner, but never more than our time in cancer treatment. Despite her own discomfort & difficulty walking, she stayed with me around the clock in the hospital. She tirelessly attended every medical appointment, every lengthy chemotherapy session, & didn’t miss even one of 35 daily radiation treatments. My daughter [Courtney] & son-in-law devotedly visited on weekends, held my hand & kept me laughing. Dozens of family, friends & acquaintances send cards & care packages, & offered untold numbers of prayers. Faith & the steadfast devotion of a remarkably loving & optimistic family afforded me an enormous advantage. My wish is that every cancer patient may be so fortunate.

“For me, a diagnosis of cancer was a game changer, & triggered examination of priorities that sometimes become imbalanced due to our pace of life. I had shortness of breath & difficulty swallowing long before my family finally insisted I seek medical attention. For several months I largely ignored those symptoms, because I was too busy with life in motion -- & dealing with multiple but routine responsibilities to take the time to investigate. Cancer erased such foolish perceptions, & replaced distorted distractions with a calm, focused clarity.

“I am amazingly fortunate! I have a raspy voice, & some minor difficulty swallowing solid foods. However, overall I feel good, & enjoy encouraging medical evaluations to date. Faith & family -- coupled with expert medical care & the prayerful support of friends -- have enabled me to gratefully count myself among a growing number of cancer survivors.”

_______________

 

Fritzi Barbour // wife to Steve Barbour (commercial airline pilot & AF vet) // residential real estate broker (C. Dan Joyner Realtors) // SC Association of Realtors president // ovarian cancer survivor (diagnosed with stage 1 3C March ’15 at 51 y/o; finished treatment Oct. ‘15) 

“When I went to the doctor & she gave me a pelvic exam, the whole time I kept saying, ‘I am sure its nothing.’ & she said – literally while she’s giving the pelvic exam – ‘Fritzi, it’s not nothing. You have a mass in your pelvis. We are sending you to St. Francis immediately to get an ultrasound.’

“It’s funny, because the hardest part was hearing the diagnosis – coming to grips with the fact that I had cancer. That was the shocking part. I have a maternal aunt who died of ovarian cancer, & I have my girlfriend Maggie who had gone through it so many times [over 12 years]. So to hear the words ‘ovarian cancer’ scared my husband & me tremendously.

“My last treatment was in October. I did 3 rounds of chemo, then 28 sessions of radiation, & then another 3 rounds of chemo. I lost my hair twice in the process. Just as it was coming back in, radiation was over, & it was time to do chemo & shave my head again. My oncologist, Dr. Larry Puls, wasn’t originally going to follow this new kind of protocol. But he found some research between the time of my hysterectomy & my treatment started, & he & his partner decided they were going to change what they were going to do. I had these interesting little bulls-eye marks all over my abdomen & my back from the 28 radiation sessions. I was quite an interesting sight for a while! I would get out of the shower, & my poor husband – his wife was bald, she had a huge scar from the hysterectomy, & now she’s got these little black bulls-eye Sharpie marks all over her body from radiation every day – & I said, ‘Well, I was trying to convince you that I was hot for our entire marriage, & now I am REALLY hot. I am radioactive!’

“So I am married to the great explorer of the world, Steve Barbour. We’ve done Mayan ruins, underground rivers & caves, the Galapagos Islands, Europe, volcanoes in Hawaii...He’s had me hiking 1600 feet up a volcano in Ecuador. I never would’ve done that if not married to Steve. We just returned from Iceland! He’s been talking about Iceland since we got married in ’98, when he was in the Air Force & was there for 2 weeks. We hiked ice caves, & I went down a teensy little rabbit hole to hike a lava tube underground -- I didn’t even know those things existed! We snowmobiled & ATVed & walked on black sand beaches. It was cold as hell, & we had a ball!

“One of the most remarkable things about Larry Puls was that the day of my surgery, when we went in for the pre-op, & they get you ready -- he comes in just before to give you an idea of what’s going to happen that day & take questions. My husband Steve & I were sitting there & said, ‘No, no questions.’ He totally caught us off guard; he kind of rolls his little stool over to where I am on the bed & Steve’s standing next to me, & [Dr. Puls] said, ‘Alright, the next thing I would like to do is, I would like to know if I could pray for you before we go into surgery.’ We all grabbed each others’ hands, & he said the prayer. He asked for guidance before going into the surgery, & he prayed for healing if [cancer was] what [he found]. When he ended that prayer, & he walked out of the room, we were thunderstruck! We looked at each other & were teary. I said to Steve, ‘We are exactly where we are supposed to be.’ It felt so good to us to know Dr. Puls had faith & was a spiritual person, & wasn’t acting like everything that was going to happen was because of him or his skills or his training.

“When he told me in November that I am officially in remission, at the end of that appointment he rolled his little stool over to the end of the examining table & he said, ‘Give me your hands. I would like to say a prayer.’ & he gave a prayer of thanks that my counts had consistently fallen to a level of naming in remission at this stage. He has a gift I think. He’s not just talented. I think he’s gifted.

“When you go through cancer yourself, you’re obviously much more attuned to it, or people bring it up in conversation more often & share. Weekly, I get messages from different people I have known from different walks of life -- some I haven’t seen in 25 years -- & they’re telling me about theirs…It’s one of those things -- it’s an unforced gift of cancer. It’s a strange thing that brings together lots of people.”


Loria Hopkins // employee of the Department of Health & Human Services in Spartanburg // loves cooking & Jesus // church secretary // church choir member (10 yrs) // 2x survivor of breast cancer (diagnosed ’98 & ’15)

“[They] had to remove my right breast. Then two weeks after that, I started doing chemo. I did chemo for quite some time, & then I did radiation for 6 weeks. I had to stop one week because it had burned me.

“The other treatments had worked, but the cancer was so deep, they wanted me to do a stem cell transplant as precautionary measure. My [still current] doctor was talking to me about doing it ASAP; but I said, ‘Nah nah, nah. I am going to have to pray about this before I can do anything!’ So my family & I got together, & we prayed & we prayed. After a week, the Lord spoke to me & told me, ‘You know, it’s time. Go ahead & do it.’ So I did, & the first Tuesday after Labor Day in ‘98, they put me in the hospital. They had been running tests & all that, & pulling my cells. They froze those, & then they put me in the hospital & did chemo 24 hours a day for 4 days. Around the clock for 4 days straight! After that, they gave the cells back that they had taken from me & frozen on that Monday. So I had to stay in the hospital 21 days.

“At this point in time, you couldn’t eat out; you couldn’t go out unless you have a hard mask on; you had to stay in your house when you got home. You can’t eat any salads or bananas or apples or anything with a peel, because it might have bacteria on it. You couldn’t be around any children under the age of 10, because they carry germs. I had to sit at the house all day. I read the Bible; I studied; I watched TV; I slept. I played games & all that stuff. I couldn’t be out for long periods of time. I still had to wear that mask for quite a while. People look at you like you’re crazy! You couldn’t use the little paper ones – you had to wear a hard one, like the ones people wear when they cut grass, so nothing could get through it…It was like sometimes, the walls would start to close in on you. If you went outside, you had to go & get in a car. You couldn’t just walk around outside.

“I was like the 6th or 7th person to do [stem cell transplants Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute]. It was very new back then. You had to run through all types of tests to make sure you’re strong enough, like bone scans.

“I had been in remission, but last year, I had breast cancer in my left breast. It wasn’t as big as a pea, it was so small – they caught it on the mammogram. So I went ahead – I had a choice – & I had it removed. I had genetic testing. They have a new process that they go through, where they send your cells off to a big lab in California, & they tell you if you need chemo or not. I didn’t need it! It was great! I had been praying about it.

“Everything I do, I turn it over to God. I have to pray about it! The doctors – they are good doctors. But I have to listen to Dr. Jesus. That’s my doctor right there! If he says no, I don’t do it. If he says yes, I do it. I have to pray about it & give it to him before I do anything. It’s just like – I don’t know – it’s just something all of a sudden in my mind that says, ‘Now go ahead. Everything’s going to be alright.’ It’s hard to explain.

 

Rich Groom (44 y/o) // husband to Kelly; father to daughters Pearson & Holland // CEO of Sparks Research // Clemson football fan & graduate (’93) // runner, hiker, beach bum & surfer // survivor of stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (diagnosed at 35 y/o in Feb. ’06; entered “molecular remission” May ’06)

“I was diagnosed officially & started treatment in February of ’06, & when I see Dr. [Larry] Gluck now, he says that is ‘my date.’ I just passed [10 years], literally now! But I had tumors in the lower & upper quadrants of my body, & I had evidence of cancer in my bone marrow. The good news is, I’ve heard once you’ve reached 10 years you can go back to some sort of a normalcy. By no means am I getting yearly PET scans or CT scans anymore, but on the frontend, I was doing that really frequently, because that’s usually when [non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma] pops back up – & then you have to do other things. I’ve actually had friends that I’ve known that have had to do multiple other types of treatments to get it to go away.

“Life is good. My doctors were, at first, saying that ‘This is a good one to get,’ & of course my mind is like, ‘There is no such thing – a good cancer to get?’ But you know, I sat back & had an epiphany & said, ‘Well, I was dealt a crappy card in life. I could sit back & cry about it & be negative, or I can just do what I need to do. I have other things I need to be doing. I have two young children.’ I never really sweated it. I truthfully didn’t.

“I had 6 rounds of chemo. I never got sick. I missed 3-4 days of work. Funny enough, I gained a ton of weight because of the steroids. I gained 20-40 lbs., but I’ve lost it. It’s amazing how much chemo takes out of you. I remember doing simple things such as going up & down stairs. I mean at 35, you’re young…I’m cutting grass, picking up my kids, doing things I needed to do – & all of a sudden after 2 treatments of chemo – yeah, I was bald, but I felt like I was hung over most of the time. It wasn’t like I was dying, but I would go up a flight of a stairs, & I was huffing & puffing. It was like we were in the Andes Mountains or something.

“My funny story with the kids…they were too young to know. My 5-year old at the time knew daddy was taking medicine that would make his hair fall out. Other than that, there was never any thought in her mind anything was really wrong. She was a kindergartener, so we never got to that level. But I always wanted to have a Mohawk, & so my wife videotaped it & my girls, my wife & I shaved a Mohawk. I had longer hair, & I spiked it out, & we shaved the sides. Right on the 19th day, your hair will literally fall out in clumps, & so knowing that I was like, ‘The hell with this – I am going to shave a Mohawk.’ So I did! I walked around town, went to the mall. I was in khakis & a dress shirt with a full Mohawk. I looked like a punk rocker from the ‘80s –just to thumb my nose at the fact that, ‘Yeah, I have to deal with this, but I am not going to be sad about it.’ My wife & kids were instrumental – I mean, we had fun.

“It’s funny – that surfboard [in my picture] is my old one from college that has seen some fun days. Now my oldest daughter Pearson uses it. Hopefully we will get Holland to start using it. But yeah, my oldest daughter has surfed on it now, so there are stickers on it that are girl oriented, which makes me laugh. It’s fun to pass that down.

 
 

Jenny Clanton Bright (31 y/o) // sales rep for LifeHME // mother of Maddy the beagle // (cool) aunt // house fixer-upper (backyard shed currently under construction, with dad’s help!) // survivor of husband Tim Bright, diagnosed with colon cancer Jan. 25 2010 (27 y/o); passed away Oct. 4, 2014 (32 y/o) 

“Tim was the one who wanted the wedding. We were engaged for almost 18 months [when he was diagnosed]. Everything planned & everything done except getting out invitations – those final little things. We decided to make our lives as normal as possible, & try to make the cancer disappear in the background & not have to think about it. In the hospital, we were literally putting the bands around the invitations & getting everything stuffed into envelopes. Family & friends would come to visit, & we had them helping out in the assembly line getting everything together. That was early February; he started his first round of chemo March 3. The wedding ended up being a fun day. It ended up being a much bigger wedding than we could’ve ever anticipated having! We had a quick little mini-moon to Old Edwards Inn & came back for him to get his next round of chemo that Wednesday.

“I was so naïve at that point in time thinking, ‘Oh, he will have treatments & be in remission & be fine.’ Then the other part of it was we were just an instant thing, from the minute we saw each other when we met after college. I was planning on marrying him for so long that, for me, [the illness] was just part of the wedding vows – part of the ‘in sickness & in health.’ I guess my thing was, those don’t start the day that you say them; they start the day you decide to share the rest of your life with someone. For me, it wasn’t a choice. We were going to have a big wedding or get married in a courthouse, but one way or the other, I knew I wanted to marry him no matter where we were with everything.

“Obviously the hardest part now is him not being here – the constant companionship. We just were so bonded, you know? Another person who you can just feel off of – where they are, what they need – & you can communicate with without having to speak too much to each other. Having to reach out to people to explain what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling – it’s just extra work that for almost 10 years, I didn’t have to do. That’s been hard, but the other part of it is that we were so closely integrated with one another, I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what I like, what I want. We did everything together…we found things that we both liked, & then too many of those things became a reminder of Tim. It was months before I could even think of drinking a Coke.

“But God’s there where you need him. He shows up. All these mysterious things happen right when you need them to. Lately those things have held to be true more than I’ve ever seen before.

“Tim’s favorite number was 8. He was obsessed with that number, & all his jersey numbers were 35, or 17, or 53 & so on. The other night before that big lottery, I was really frustrated, & thinking about how I wished there was some clear & obvious sign that Tim was still around, & I was also kind of writing a list of things I needed to do or get the next day. I included getting cash at the ATM so I could buy a lottery ticket, & in that same moment, I was moving some stuff around & found $8 in cash. It’s things that I can’t really describe or make sense for – weird stuff that when you’re experiencing it, it’s completely surreal. There’s a bigger power watching over me.”

 


Sister Dorothy Brogan (80 y/o) // nurse & practitioner of love @ Bon Secours St. Francis Health System // Irishwoman // avid reader // fan of walks, swims, classical music & art // survivor of sister Maureen (passed in ’82 from lung cancer); currently surviving with the many people she serves

“I was born in Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland. Bon Secours brought me to Greenville through a very long road! I have worked as a nurse for 60 years, most of the time with oncology; but we didn’t call it that way back in my day. In the Depression, my parents lost everything they had in the U.S. My father’s parents had a farm in Ireland, so they went back there from Philadelphia; but the 3 of us ended up coming back here when I was 17, because Ireland was in a depression itself in those days – there was nothing there. So we were immigrants!

“I met the Sisters of Bon Secours when I finished my schooling, & I don’t know – I just found them attractive. I just wanted to be a nurse, & that was their calling. In the beginning of our congregation, most of us were Sisters, & that changed along the way; but the particular calling of our congregation was to care for the sick & dying in their homes. Women didn’t have many opportunities in those days, so you became a housewife, a secretary, a nun or a teacher – so it’s all related to what was going on in society at the time. It’s about evolution! I worked with hospice; then I came here, & I did chaplaincy with hospice & home health patients. Presently I am working as a chaplain at the St. Francis Cancer Center.

“Day-to-day I visit the patients that come on their first visit for chemo. Mostly I just listen. I really, really listen. I try to hear where their pain is, & most often, I receive so much more than I ever give – it’s a give & receive. My faith & my life are enriched because of the experiences I’ve shared with people on a journey of suffering. That’s a mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours: to be good help to those in need.

“Suffering is a mystery, & it’s only revealed in the depths of a relationship with someone. I think through the relationships I’ve developed working with cancer patients, I’ve seen that when we are vulnerable & needing, we are so much more open to love. I journey with [patients] just as a person; I share their history, & share their pain in that moment, but also with their families. You see the pain, the love & the commitment of spouses – couples that have been married for years. You just walk with them. Just listen; be there with them; just walk along. Be there on the days were there is desperation & depression & hopelessness. It’s just about being present. It doesn’t matter what they believe in – I think it’s the love dimension. I find that faithful presence is being faithful to show up, to be there, to be sensitive to others. I often meet with people, & we don’t say a word. If they reach out to me, I hold the hand. I see the tears come down, & I hold the hand. I don’t say anything, because what is there to say?

“Prayer is powerful, because I believe that being present is prayer, in a certain way. When a person is sharing their struggle, or their rollercoaster journey with cancer, that’s their prayer: struggling to live with this, struggling to believe there is a God who loves with them in the midst of this apparently hopeless & desperate situation. Especially the caregivers, the significant others – they often suffer more than the person being treated, because of the feeling of hopelessness. That was Jesus’s prayer when he was suffering – ‘My God, my God, have You abandoned me?’ – so my experience is THAT is prayer.

“We all deal with things differently. We react differently. As far as suffering, I would encourage a person to go deep inside the self & discover where he or she might find meaning. I would try to get the person to explore his or her own inner journey. I don’t give advice…I think we have to find our own meaning. I think we have to explore the things that happen to us by exploring what’s important to us. It’s a big struggle! It doesn’t just happen – it’s a huge journey."

 

Bob Cardone // husband, father & grandfather // retiree (formerly in IT management @ Michelin North America // active volunteer with SCORE, Us TOO, American Cancer Society & Meals on Wheels // world traveler // survivor of prostate cancer (diagnosed & cleared in 2013)

“I was diagnosed in early May of 2013 with prostate cancer. It was very well advanced, despite the fact that I had physicals & PSA tests every year. I had robotic prostatectomy surgery in June – June 6th as of a matter of fact – D Day. I was supposed to retire at the end of June from Michelin North America & go on a retirement cruise with my beautiful wife, Sandy, though the cancer put a little damper on retirement plans. (She & our family have been very supportive during this journey.) Despite the staging of [the cancer], I was rather lucky I didn’t have to have any other treatment whatsoever; which surprised some of the doctors, frankly, because it was so advanced. But the surgery was so successful that I was able to get away without any additional treatment.

“There’s a benchmark when they do those PSA tests, which are blood tests: if the number is around 4 or greater, [the doctors] start to raise the flag a little bit. As you get older, that number can be a little bit higher & not be a problem. But once it gets between 4 & 10, there’s a 25% chance statistically that it could be prostate cancer. Mine had played around in the 4 - 5 range for 1 ½ - 2 years; there were no other symptoms. Having said that, the doctors were not convinced enough to say I needed to have a biopsy done. Hindsight being 20/20, had I known what I know today about it – I’ve done a lot of studying on it – I would’ve made sure it was done earlier. At the end of the day, did it make much difference? Fortunately it has not appeared to, because my recovery has been great; but it could’ve. Had I not had an annual physical that April, & [the tests] showed [the PSA number] had bounced up again, then in all probability [the cancer] would have spread to other parts of my body, & I would not be a happy camper right now. So it’s testimony to the need to have testing done – & the blood test is a very simple, painless thing.

“Surgery was very, very easy, because it was simple. I had no problems. I went back for my first checkup in 3 months, & [the cancer] was gone. I recovered very, very well. I retired a month later, at the end of July. We started to travel & do a lot of things in the area. I am very active in volunteering. I spend maybe 15 - 20 hours a week with an organization called SCORE. It’s basically a partner of the Small Business Administration, & we do a lot of outreach to people trying to start their own business, & mentoring and so forth. I run education for the Upstate chapter – I run about 75 workshops a year. In a given year, we will probably touch over a 1000 people with our workshops. I’m also on the executive team with the Us TOO prostate cancer support organization, & beginning this month, I am now part of the American Cancer Society of Greenville County Executive Leadership Council. Besides that, I do Meals on Wheels every other week – so I have kept very active in volunteering & in the community. To cite the words of my wife, she doesn’t think I ever really retired! I got involved with all of this after retirement. We also do a lot of traveling. We travel to different places 6-7 times a year. We stay busy! It’s enjoyable.”

 

 Zeb (11 ½ y/o), as told by owner Thornton Kirby // chocolate lab // loving canine devoted to Thornton & Jim Kirby (brother & father of Survivor Series photographer Mark) // survivor of a prosthetic cyst (abdomen); mast cell tumors (skin); & currently surviving lymphoma  

Dogs are pretty special. They're our partners, our wingmen & our teammates. They are protectors, herders, retrievers, search & rescuers, providers of service & comfort. They guard our children, our homes, & our livestock. They watch over us, hunt with us, walk with us, sniff for us, listen for (& to) us, sit with us, play with us, & let us hold them while we cry. Dogs share our lives with us, & in doing so they help us live; they are home, & they are family.

So it made sense to specifically incorporate these best friends of ours into our Survivor Series, because you know what? They can be cancer survivors, too – just like Zeb, this 11 ½-year old chocolate lab, who is currently undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

But there’s a greater reason we felt it was important to highlight dogs in the Survivor Series: Dogs teach us how to love & nurture. As someone who has been a full-time caretaker for someone fighting cancer, I think that there are a lot of parallels in the rewards & lessons of that experience & in this ancient pact of man & dog. Both teach us about “unqualified devotion” (to use the words of Zeb’s owner, below) to another being through a relationship bound by complete trust & selflessness. It is through this symbiotic legacy of man & dog that we first learn how to be in tune & useful to another being, even when language as an expressive faculty isn’t an option.

I think that I speak for all our featured Survivors when I contend that the rewards of love are not found through the ambiguity of emotion, but through the act of love itself – rewards many of us have most profoundly realized through our dealings with cancer. No matter what side you’re on – that of leading & feeding, or needing to be led & fed – it is through these acts that we discover the most beautiful parts of living & of living together.

It won’t be long until we’ll all have a grand new place to walk, play, sit, heal & celebrate life with our dogs…Shiloh (my collie, who was appropriately featured with me in the Series a few months ago) & I can’t wait to see you in the Park!

Written by Emily Price, Survivor Series editor & interviewer
____________

“Zeb has lymphoma, & hopefully he’ll be a two-time cancer survivor! He had a knot on his snout; a big lump that just all of sudden appeared…He’s getting chemo now. They decided there was no need to do surgery [this time, though he had tumors removed the first time]. Mark & I’s mom died of lymphoma…It’s is a system-wide cancer, so you can’t really fix it with surgery. The first chemo – he did not respond well to; the mass continued to grow, so they switched up the formula a little bit. The first was intravenous, but this one is oral. He takes it with treats.

“They don’t give dogs doses of chemo that are toxic enough for them to lose their hair. Humans understand what’s going on, & why they are losing their hair – but animals don’t. They don’t push animals that far with their treatments, & the result is that they don’t get as long of a remission. We’re kind of watching the intersection of cancer & arthritis, & which one will be a bigger problem with him down the road.

“[The great part about dogs] is the unqualified devotion; they are constantly happy to see you. I’m driving up to home right now, & they’re running out to the car. It’s the companionship, the constancy of affection & loyalty. There’s a lot of medical literature that suggests that animals are good for blood pressure & stress & everything else. But you don’t get a dog because you want to lower your blood pressure. You get a dog because you love having a companion that’s always around you, & there is some gratification in taking care of another creature that depends on us, & returns that with loyalty & devotion. It’s different than raising a child or taking care of an elderly parent – a different level of dependence; the all-out dependence & reverence for you as the master, or the alpha. They bond with their pack leader.”


Gloria Gonzalez (56 y/o) // wife of Luis (pictured) // ace DIYer // hobbyist craftswoman & painter // gardener // Texan // survivor of breast cancer (diagnosed in ’96 & ’06) & ovarian cancer (diagnosed in ’08, ’10, ’13)

“Seven of my family members have had breast cancer, & 2 have had ovarian cancer. I’m unique in that I have survived both.

“I was first diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 36. I was afraid this dreaded disease was going to take me like it did my mother, who passed away when she was only 40. I had a mastectomy on my right breast…I have to say, the prosthesis wasn’t fun. It was a constant reminder of a battle lost but a war won. Then 10 years later, my other breast got cancer. You can imagine how angry I was that this disease was claiming another portion of my body. This time I decided against chemo, but I underwent breast reconstruction. I felt I was too young to lose my self-image -- darn those supermarket magazines!

“I wish this was the end of the story, but 2 years later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The disease is bad enough, but the timing was worse. My husband [Luis] got a new job, & we were planning to move to SC. It was quite a test of spirit to have surgery & chemo while being apart from each other; but all went well & after 6 weary months, I joined him in Greenville.

“In 2010, I had some discomfort on my right side. The CT scan showed no evidence of cancer, but I agreed to have laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder, & they found ovarian cancer on top of my liver. Even the doctor was surprised with what he saw. I believe it was divine intervention that guided me to have surgery once more. In 2013 cancer came calling for my spleen, & I had to sacrifice another body part in my war against this disease. Then yet again, 2 years later, I began experiencing some digestive problems & thought, ‘Might the enemy be knocking at my door once more?’ Though I was diagnosed with abscess diverticulitis, a follow up colonoscopy revealed ovarian cancer cells in my colon. Once again, divine intervention led to the discovery. A partial colectomy was done & once again, I decided not to do chemo, even though the doctor strongly recommended it based on my history. But I believed God was leading me, & I wasn’t afraid.

“…Wow! I’m a cancer survivor of 19 years already…I have been blessed over & over again. My last CT scan showed NO evidence of disease and my CA125 blood work was low.

“My husband has been my strength & my rock. He makes me laugh when all I want to do is cry or be angry. He’s dealt with this terrible disease with faith as well. You might say he’s been a prisoner of war in my battles with cancer. I’ve also been blessed with good friends, neighbors & family members, who see me as normal and don’t treat me like someone who has been afflicted by cancer, or like I have a contagious disease. There are so many of us from different ages, races & religions that are affected by cancer; but at the end of the day, we are all the same. We are one…Modern medicine has been a big help for many of us. It’s created treatments so that cancer is no longer a death sentence. A positive attitude goes a long way. I always say that when we’re at a low point, there are others who are worse off than we are; I need to focus on my abilities & not my disabilities, & to cherish what I have now.”

Paul Mehaffey (39 y/o) // art director of TOWN Magazine // photographer // musician // whiskey & tattoo enthusiast // survivor of father Gerald; lung cancer (diagnosed ‘03; passed ‘04)

“After he found the tumor, he got a letter from the VA saying various people exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam were coming down with various types of cancer. He had been disabled most of my life; since 1988 with pancreatitis, & almost died from that. So he was disabled in 2003, when they found the tumor. He did his own research in ‘88 & ’89, & did it very privately. They did discover Agent Orange poisoning in his blood. Nobody at the VA took it very seriously. They basically said, ‘Well, it’s there, but you’ve been fine for all these years’ – but he was never happy with that conclusion. My dad’s relationship with the VA – & the fact he was in the army anyway – was really a disappointment all the way through. He joined the army out of a broken heart, even though he would’ve been drafted anyway…

“Pancreatitis added 10 years to his life mentally & physically. He was legally blind. He couldn’t use his hands as normal; couldn’t drive; couldn’t work. He basically stayed in the house I grew up in in Travelers Rest for 15 years & did his own thing…he was depressed, really. But if anything, what he did his entire lifetime was have a great sense of humor about everything with me. He wasn’t a great talker, but he was a great listener. He was my buddy, my best friend – the best listener in world. No matter what I was going through, my problems were always bigger than his...Thankfully, nowadays, my mother MaryAnne plays both parenting roles.

“I didn’t know my dad was depressed until I was older enough to understand it. My dad had an immense amount of guilt for not being the father he wanted to be. If I gave too much attention to him because of his disability, he felt guilty; or it hurt him in some ways. So I did anything I would’ve done as a normal teenager. I chased girls; I went to shows; I tried to go on road trips. I was just trying to be a boy in his 20s, & it took him to really die before I actually became a man. It was a wake up…He lasted a week after my birthday. He made a point to stay here until my 27th birthday.

“What kept him going was me being happy, me achieving. I really didn’t start achieving in life until he died, because I promised him minutes before he died that I would continue to make him happy. If I am successful now, that’s why.

“I’ve been a visual person all my life, & my dad was especially. Looking at things calms me. My dad was a really good artist, an amazing illustrator. A lot of his work – which were just doodles to him – there’s hardly anything left, which sucks, because he would do it all the time. I was an illustrator & did more cartoonish kind of things growing up, & when he died, I promised him I would continue it. That’s why I do what I do now.

“When I was younger, thunderstorms were a big thing for my dad & me – they’re a huge thing for me still. It’s kind of like Mother Nature’s way of communicating with itself, in a weird way…Weather has always been very interesting to us. We had this little converted garage that was a game room & my dad’s hangout, where a lot of this [storm watching] was done. It had a pool table, a bar, tons of art books, Shakespeare books – just all the kind of the stuff he was into. Then there was the screened door, & the backyard & enough area to see the sky. So when it was storming, we would just sit there. I had my first beer with him there. Just the sound of it in general, we loved.

“For his funeral, we had two visitations: one in the Knoxville, Tennessee area – Maryville, where he’s originally from – & one in Waynesville, where he’s buried, & where my grandmother is. So during that one, I got up & said a few things about my dad unannounced, & I remember that the whole time – I think the song was called ‘A Quiet Storm,’ & I think it’s Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – that was playing. My dad LOVED Motown, so it played very softly during the whole service. At the end [of my remarks], I said, ‘Every time it rains, every time it storms, that’s his way of communicating with me.’ So after that particular service, we started driving home. It started raining in Waynesville. It rained all the way into Greenville, & for 22 days it rained here. 22 days! That was an unreal phenomenon.

“Then the first time I went & visited him in Waynesville – the first time is always the worst. You never know what to say, & once you leave the first time from visiting a dead parent, it’s always very confusing…I remember I called him by his nickname. Every time I visit him now, when I leave I honk the horn three times for ‘I love you.’ But when I came back from that first visit; the next day, it flooded in Greenville…I actually now have a tattoo of a thunderstorm that I got 5 years ago.

 

Dr. Janet Kwami // Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Furman University // mother to Nicole (pictured, 3 y/o) & Natalie (6 y/o) // wife to Nathaniel Buah Kwofie // singer, artist & baker // acrophobe // currently surviving breast cancer (diagnosed April 28, 2012; one week after her 38th birthday)

Christmas is here in two sleeps! So on a special night this week, we bring you no truer, wondrous testimony than that of a living, breathing "miracle," as this week's survivor so aptly describes. 'Tis the season, so let this serve us all a reminder of what it's really about; & that the "season" does not – & should not – end.
__________

“I was informed about two life-changing events at the same time: I was pregnant with my second child, & I had breast cancer. The results of the biopsy shocked us, as nothing prepared us for a stage III breast cancer diagnosis & a five-week pregnancy.

“We met with several specialists, & the options presented to us were grim; we couldn’t be assured of a positive outcome if we chose to keep the pregnancy. Because the cancer was HER2 positive, it was believed that the pregnancy was actually fueling the cancer. The doctors recommended I terminate the pregnancy & focus on my treatment. Actually, one doctor asked, ‘What’s the point of having a baby & not surviving cancer to take care of the child?’ My husband [Nathaniel] & I had been trying for [one], & we did some further research, & decided to keep the baby. It was a difficult decision, as we did not know how the chemo would affect the baby eventually. We are glad we did, as Nicole is perfect in every way – our little miracle.

“I was at a pivotal time in my academic career, & then with the diagnosis, everything changed…my life came to a screeching halt. I informed the Furman administration, & I went on medical & family leave. I had just received a NSF grant, had my research trip planned out & had two international conferences I had to cancel. The support from my colleagues at Furman was phenomenal & helped me through this difficult time.

“Treatment & pregnancy was difficult. It was not easy to comprehend how I could be nurturing – & loving a tiny living being in me – while aggressively killing a deadly disease at the same time. Many people wanted to know how it was possible to undergo chemo & grow a baby at the same time. It was nothing short of a miracle. When I was diagnosed, there was not much out there about pregnancy & cancer, so I felt really lonely & was not sure what to expect. There were days that I felt very sick & couldn’t eat, but the fact that I was pregnant actually gave me the extra determination to fight this.

“Fighting cancer has given me a new perspective about life. I really take each day at a time; I try to make memories with my family & not stress about little things. My husband & close family members have been supportive – I’m not sure how I would have made it without the support of my family. Through cancer, I have grown to connect with a close-knit group from my church family at Disciples United Methodist Church. They have become my family away from home; with my parents living in Ghana, West Africa, my network of friends has become my family.

“I think Natalie, my 6-year old, is pretty aware that I am dealing with some health issues & is, unfortunately, very conversant with terms like ‘chemo’ & ‘radiation.’ She is very empathetic, & knows when I am having a rough day after treatment. I have been journaling my experience, & hope to share it with [my girls] when they grow older. I have learnt through this journey that it’s not what happens to you that matters, but it’s how you respond. I tell my friends: This is my new normal.

“I love this saying: ‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.’

 

Our Survivor Series photographer Mark Kirby was so inspired by this week's featured survivor duo, he wrote a little something himself to introduce them to you all. Stay tuned for another post, with their story in their own words; but for now, meet Julia & Ernie, as told by the man behind the lens.
____________

This is the story of “We.” Throughout the Survivor Series, we’ve met amazing, strong & inspiring survivors. We’ve heard stories about family, spouses & friends who helped survivors get through their battles. Julia Dandeneau & her grandfather, Ernie Dandeneau, are the epitome of that teamwork. This is their story of “We.”

Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes in Starbucks on Main Street has seen Ernie & Julia sitting at the bar, both studying. I had no idea this seemingly typical high school student was one of the strongest & most amazing people I’ve ever met until we spent a morning together. Julia – just 16 years old – has endured three brain surgeries, 27 MRIs, over 30 radiation treatments, & at least 40 sessions of chemotherapy. But, she’s too busy doing her homework to talk much about it. You see, through all the treatments & time in & out of hospitals, being treated by 19 different doctors, she has not fallen behind her classmates. As Ernie explained their journey to me, Julia was busy with American History, occasionally correcting a fact or adding an aside, multi-tasking with the best of them.

But this is the story of “We.” Julia’s tumor was discovered when she was in 3rd grade, but things got worse two years later. That’s when Ernie retired from his career as a COO/CEO to be Julia’s “Treatment Chief Of Operations” which he has being doing everyday since. While they now have Julia’s treatment history computerized, Ernie still proudly carries the notebook that contains Julia’s band-aid collection, the precise settings of every radiation dose Julia ever received, & anything else that can possibly support Julia’s fight. Their first Make-A-Wish Foundation grant enabled them to go “electronic,” which ensured Julia could continue her studies while going through chemo. The seats near the Apple Store above Starbucks became their base of operations, so Julia could use the store’s faster Wi-Fi to finish her studies before heading to the hospital for treatment. Ernie, who managed hundreds of subordinates during his professional career, now manages hundreds of complications & challenges with the same skill & attention to detail.

As I sat & listened to the incredible journey they’ve been on together, it is always “We.” Ernie has fought the battle at Julia’s side, every step of the way; & then there’s “Dr. Pumpkin,” Julia’s therapy dog who is at her side every moment. Pumpkin was critical during some of Julia’s toughest treatments; & opened doors to many nurses, technicians & specialists who always wanted to visit with her.

I liken Julia to a prizefighter & Ernie, her manager. Julia has bounced back from every jab & upper-cut, while Ernie has been right there in the corner, feeling every punch, & still coaching & training every second of the way; & one thing this corner man will never do is throw in the towel. Julia has beaten the cancer. Their fight now is with the aftereffects of the disease & treatment. But, they are winning. They WILL win. 

 

Stephen Shuford (26 y/o) // research scientist @ Kiyatec // Clemson grad, ’10 (BS) & ’11 (MS); Bioengineering // sports (especially Clemson) fan // new homeowner // cancer survivor (diagnosed in 2010 @ 20 y/o)

“After my surgery, I missed two days after spring break, & then I was back in school. Then I had chemotherapy in the summer after school ended. I had about 3 1/2 cycles. I had to stop because I got MERSA from one of my ports, so I was hospitalized for that & had to stop. I had IV antibiotics for a while until that was cleared up. Then I restarted again, but I developed an allergy to the antibiotic they were using -- so I was hospitalized again for that. Each [hospitalization] was about a week. So it took a little time, but I’m cleared. I’ve been good.

“A lot of what we do [at Kiyatec] is trying to model cancer as best we can so we can test it as much as possible. So we can use people’s actual samples to do a bunch of different tests, or we can use cell lines that can mimic everything. We try to make the environment as much like it is in the body as possible, so we can have the most accurate testing of drugs & stuff. Most of the drugs we test are FDA-approved for the specific type of cancers we test.

“The main goal is to give information back to the doctor that can help the patient. I was sort of on that [career] path already [before I had cancer]. I’ve always been a math & science & biology person. But it makes me appreciate what these people are going through -- even though I don’t know them personally. We don’t know the patients we work with; it’s a double blind study.

“If you have to go through treatment, make sure to take care of yourself & have a good support system. If you don’t take care of yourself going through it, you can feel a lot worse, & it can get pretty ugly. Listen to your doctor; take your medications the way you are supposed to. Eat the way you are supposed to, definitely. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will feel throughout the entire process.”

 

Stephanie Whittenberg // wife & mother // pianist & trumpeter // music teacher @ Cherrydale Elementary // Columbia College SC grad (music education) // survivor of osteosarcoma (diagnosed Nov. ’93; finished treatment Feb. ’95) & currently surviving breast cancer (diagnosed Dec. ’14)

“When I was 19, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. At the time when all that happened, I was like, ‘OK, let’s just do this & get it over with.’ I knew what cancer meant, but at the time, my attitude was, ‘Well, I’m going to be OK.’ I think maybe there was one instance where it crossed my mind I could have a bad outcome, but it never really occurred to me until later, when I got older & I kind of realized what happened. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily automatic pilot, but I was like, ‘OK, let’s do the chemo, let’s do the surgery, & let’s get on with life.'

“Then 20 years later -- last December -- I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve already had reconstructive surgery. I am almost done with what is technically a chemo, but it’s more of an antibody – that I’ve had to do for a year. I’ve already done all the bad, ugly chemo that makes you sick & you lose all your hair – I finished that in May. This other treatment I do every 3 weeks, & I have 2 left, & I will be done...

“The first time, I had other people worrying for me. Now I have a son, a husband -- other balls in the air that you’re thinking about… You want to make sure you get better so you can be there for them.

“Obviously the second time, you know a lot more. You could probably throw a rock outside your door & hit someone that has cancer, or has a friend or a family member with it. Maybe when I was younger, I just wasn’t aware about what all could possibly happen. I am sure I was stressed, but as far as the fear factor – I just didn’t think in those terms when I was younger.

“I remember the first thing my orthopedic doctor said to me was, ‘I am going to save your life, & then I am going to save your arm.’ He just had such confidence; I just trusted him totally. Plus, I was a teenager, so I didn’t know not to trust him as well. I think as you get older, you just don’t trust people as much, & you question things more.

“I haven’t ever been [like], ‘Why me…’ With the breast cancer, it was scary, & initially I was like, ‘Am I going to be one of the people that doesn’t have a good outcome?’ But after the PET scan was clear -- after that moment, I just felt really blessed that whatever told me to go to the doctor (well, God) -- I just felt really fortunate, & like I had protection. The two cancers are not linked…It’s just one of those things -- just for whatever reason, I just ended up getting two types of cancer. Obviously I felt frustrated & scared & all that. But I just feel protected & blessed that I have done so well, because overall, I have.”

Ron Hoffman (53 y/o) // business management & supply chain logistics professor Greenville Technical College // Marine Corps veteran (24 yrs) // survivor of wars & Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (diagnosed ’03; cleared ’05)

Veterans Day may have been exactly one week ago, but particularly in light of the past week's events, it's never been more apparent how we need to revere these survivors every week, every day. So meet Ron. He's endured some major deployments -- & cancer, too.

“I loved [my time in the military]. Serving your country has a lot of privileges, & it has consequences. But the biggest thing I loved about it was being able to go places & realizing what we have here.

"I was deployed to Iraq in 2003. While I was there, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My cancer -- they declared it as being a service-connected disability.

"We were exposed to some levels of nerve agent in the Gulf War. Depending on who you were, where you were, & for how long, really depended how long you got hit. The army units carted all these ‘weapons of mass destruction’ from all over the country into Khamisiya, Iraq. When you destroy a nerve agent, it’s supposed to be incinerated at 2500 degrees in a scrubber, so basically nothing escapes. Well obviously they didn’t have that. They just built these huge open-air pits, & they made them hot as Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace & thought, ‘Well, this will take care of it.’ So they burned tons of nerve agent for days & days…if you look up ‘Khamisiya plume,’ you can see where it was by day & by concentration. Yes, unfortunately, I was right underneath it for quite a period of time; which would explain why all the British gas alarms would go off 2-3 times a day. Nobody was dying or shaking, so we just assumed it was the oil smoke. But as time goes on, there are some people who have issues with some of the symptoms from the nerve agent.

"What I have is a compromised immune system, & also a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system. [So the cancer] was just one of those things that [would most likely emerge] some place, some time. It ended up happening in 2003 under a lot of stress…my immune system gave up.

"Long story short, [I went from Kuwait City to Germany for a biopsy], & my wife flies in from the States. She was only the 4th Marine wife to fly into Germany – & the rest were dying. So [the doctor] cracks my ribs, splayed me open, takes out a softball sized mass, sews me back up, & 14 hours later I am on a plane back to the States. So I flew back to Camp Pendleton [in California]…It was a really aggressive form of lymphoma.

"I brought my family with me to CA. But it was August, & I wanted my kids to be off doing their stuff. [So I asked to return home to Greenville], & we got to go to Greenville Cancer Center. The really cool thing is that before we left, my oncologist said, ‘I am so excited for you.’ I said, ‘Why is that?’ He said, ‘Well, you go to Greenville, & you’re going to get an experimental immunotherapy drug that is rock star solid. When you go into remission, it’s because of THAT drug. In the military system, if it’s not FDA approved, you couldn’t use it. We couldn’t have gotten it here. You’re going to be fine.’

"The cancer went away & never came back.”


 

Lindsey Motley (with daughter Lilla, 2 y/o) // mother & wife (to husband Jay) // photographer & creative // lover of the arts & animals // lost to colorectal cancer

(diagnosed April 8th, 2013, at 26 y/o; left us February 23, 2016, at 29 y/o)

“My colorectal cancer diagnosis was during a colonoscopy while I was 17 weeks pregnant. I have exhausted all standard treatments for my cancer, & it’s specific cancer genetics. Earlier this year I enrolled in an immunotherapy trial at Duke; however, just a few weeks ago, I had to jump ship because I had progression/spreading. I've found another trial at Duke, which I will start this week on Wednesday.

“…[Being a first-time mother with the diagnosis] certainly isn’t the pretty picture I dreamed it would be. In a lot of ways, it’s been so much better. It's forced me to cherish many, many moments that I probably would've otherwise zoomed right past. It’s encouraged me to be more present, which in return helps me manage our day-to-day routine, emotions & priorities.

“…I do think that every person’s diagnosis is different, & certainly each pregnancy is different. It’s a path that I would choose for no one to have to endure. For me, however, it gave me SUCH strength - strength that I don’t think I would have had otherwise, without Lilla inside me. I felt such excitement & responsibility that I truly feel like this was the way that I was supposed to have become a mother & a survivor.

“Lilla has started to understand lately that ‘Mommy doesn’t feel good.’ While I’m glad she’s learning about other people’s feelings, & how to be empathetic, it also makes me a bit sad that my illness is starting to impact her daily routine in a way that she is aware of it. I do (one day) want her to know about the whole experience that we’ve gone through - & continue to go through - especially about the lengths that we took to make sure she made it here safely. I’ve made a book about my pregnancy, which includes all of my blog posts & updates through the time that she was born. It’s pretty awesome, & something I cherish myself. I hope that one day she will be able to read it & understand just how much she is loved.

“…It’s pretty scary to be given drugs that we basically don’t know what exactly they’ll do inside my body. I’ve never been more hopeful, that’s for sure. It's definitely just an uneasy feeling of anxiousness in comparison to the standard treatments.

“For someone looking to participate in a clinical trial, I would first tell them to rank trials by location, & how much they’re going to effect your quality of life away from home, family, work, etc. Second, I would rank them by any kind of data or promise they show. They’re often very early studies that don’t really have much data to back them up. I put a lot of trust in my oncologists & care teams at each of the facilities that I’ve been treated in. Get opinions, but eventually you just have to go with your gut feeling. There isn’t a right or wrong choice in the clinical trial world, unfortunately. It’s a difficult decision.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Lindsey's Leap of Faith Overlook in the Cancer Survivors Park

 

 

 Babette Alvarez // mother to twins Max & Kaylee (10 y/o) // native of Germany // gym rat at Pivotal Fitness // lover of travel, cuisine & experiencing other cultures // currently surviving multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer); diagnosed Oct. 20, 2014  

“Last year on my birthday, I found out I had multiple myeloma. I will never be able to get rid of it, but it’s manageable. We knew I had cancer, but we didn’t know what kind of cancer it was, & when my doctor told me, I said, ‘OK, what is it? Is it going to kill me?’ He said, ‘No…but it’s not curable.’ & I clasped my hands, & I said, ‘Yay!’ He said, ‘OK, I’ve never had this reaction,’ & I said, ‘Well, for the past couple of weeks, I thought I was on my deathbed & you were going to tell me there was nothing you can do. This is a pretty good consensus I think. I am not going to die -- I will have to have multiple chemos & treatment, but I can do that, you know? Give me my plan & what we’re going to have to do, & I am going to run with that. I don’t have time to waste here.’

“My life hasn’t really changed that much, just because I don’t let it. I take the daily chemo pill & other medications, because the chemo can cause [other issues]. But other than that, I swallow my pill & off I go. I’m not about cancer, if that makes any sense. Cancer is not who I am. I just happen to have it, & I live with it. I’m like, ‘I have to pop a pill.’ I am trying to be very nonchalant about it; it’s what I am dealing with, but it’s not going to influence the way we live our lives. I have two kids. I am a single mom. I have an amazing support system I have to give total credit to, since I have made it through all of this.

“[Telling my kids] was terrifying, to be honest with you. You don’t want to hurt them, & I knew that telling them would put fear into them, not knowing what was going to happen; & being the mom going through all of this, I wanted to keep them in a bubble. But I believe in honesty, & I believe that they needed to know. I would be seeing so many doctors, & they would be able to know something was wrong. I sat down & told them sometimes there are ups & downs, & right now we’re hitting a low; but we would have to put up a fight, & they needed to be strong with me. We would cry together & laugh together, but we would get through it together.

“I think they became very protective. When I go to the hospital or the doctor, I tell them exactly what’s going on, so it’s very truthful. But they’re very protective -- I mean constantly holding hands, or hugging me, or being close to me on the couch -- looking at me & saying, ‘Mom I love you.’ I think [there’s an increased] awareness a little bit that life can be really rough, & you need to be there for each other, so I think that has brought us closer. I think also that I never wanted to take away from their childhood – I would say, ‘You guys go play,’ & even when I didn’t want to sometimes, I would, too...I ran a 5k with them with a broken rib, because my bones were compromised from the disease. We did a color run with friends of ours in Charlotte, but I walked it with them, so that they saw no matter what, we’re doing stuff. We’re not giving up. We are trying as much as possible, no matter what, to live our normal lives.”

 

Kim Eades // mother // director of sales for @Table301 // lifestyle writer & columnist // girls youth soccer coach // volunteer mentor, tutor & overall champion of education // (multiple) board member extraordinaire // survivor of carcinoid tumor (right lung; diagnosed & cleared post-surgery, 2001)
Poster October 25, 2015
 

“I was visiting my mom in FL when I came down with pneumonia…they found a carcinoid tumor in my right lung. It had grown large enough where I had to have 2 of my 3 lobes removed -- a 'partial right lobectomy.' Luckily it was isolated. I didn’t have chemo, & actually for that reason, I don't put myself in that 'cancer' category; because SO many people had it -- & have it -- worse. I look at my situation as another surgery & not cancer.

“My mom doesn't understand that, because honestly, she's proud to say I'm a survivor -- but really it makes me uncomfortable. People can live with one lung, so I wouldn't say I'm handicapped because of it. But it's been 15 years, & I feel and see the scars everyday. The memory never leaves you. I can still see the look on my grandma's face as they wheeled me into the operating room. She was so scared.

“I'm one of 8 kids & to date, & I'm the only one with cancer. It's ironic; at the time, I was the healthiest of the bunch. My brother Tim climbs mountains all over the world -- so he's the healthier one now! But it just proves that cancer can affect those you least expect.

“My upbringing was unique. Not just because I come from a large family, but because my parents were involved with so many different types of business, that I experienced & witnessed [a lot of] things. They owned motels, so I was put to work at a very young age. Summers were spent cleaning a few dozen motel rooms every day. I've been robbed by gunpoint, & was sent to collect rent in areas most 12 year-olds shouldn't be -- my skin has grown thick through the years. Someone at all times has it worse off than you, so you just grin & bear it!

“My brother-in-law [said tonight], ‘your family DNA does not allow you to slow down.’ It's in our genes! The experience of surviving cancer increased my sense of diligence, & making decisions I'd normally sleep on. I'm now quick to make things happen. Adversity makes you bitter or better. What's inside of you comes out when life squeezes you. Surround yourself with family, friends & help others with like battles.

“Sticking with a routine is important. The busier you are, the less time you have to feel sorry for yourself…Make the best of it, because life is short.”

 

 
 

Renee Gossman (73 y/o) // mother & grandmother // instructor of the YMCA’s “Circle of Hope” water aerobics class for cancer survivors // volunteer in the GHS Cancer Institute lobby // former special educator at JL Mann (taught there for 28 years; retired in ‘01) // survivor of endometrial (uterine) cancer (diagnosed ’12); & of husband (passed away from heart disease, ‘05)
Posted October 19, 2015

“I have an undergrad degree from Kentucky & a grad degree from Furman, but I went to Greenville Tech when I was 65 years old & got my personal training certificate. I have always been a water person, always been a swimmer; so I turned all of that personal training information to personal training in the water & water aerobics. That requires another certification from the Aquatic Exercise Association. I took a year off when I had cancer…I was really too sick to work. Now I teach a cancer survivors water aerobics class to the most brave, courageous & remarkable people. They are so much fun, & they are gaining so much strength in their bodies! You can see them improving month-to-month, gaining strength & flexibility, balance, improved coordination – water work is fabulous.

“I was diagnosed in 2012 with endometrial cancer. Dr. Larry Puls is my oncologist, & I still go to see him. I’m just a few years out. He’s one of my great supporters, & really likes the idea of water exercise for people. He helps me with that by sending me folks.

“The Y offers the class free of charge. It’s called ‘Circle of Hope.’ So people who don’t have a lot of resources are able to come. Oncologists are getting very good about sending people to me. That’s huge! We have these wonderful people in the water. We get a lot done, but we’re also very friendly with each other, & we have a lot of laughs.  I have men & women, all ages, from 35 & up – I’d say the average age is in the 50s. Well, I’m always the oldest person -- I am 73. But that doesn’t bother me!

“I’ve had this little cottage in Pickens County for 24 years. A few years ago, I decided to sell my home in Greenville & move out here fulltime. I have a little garden, & I grow a lot of my own food. I’ve been blessed with a lot of energy. I am living the life I love, & loving the life I live. This is so cool! It’s like I’ve dropped off the grid, but I go to Greenville twice a week to teach my classes, & to volunteer in the lobby at the GHS Cancer Institute. Because when I was in treatment there, I never met one frowning, crabby person -- & you know when you are in a bad way, you start to bargain with God? I was like, ‘OK God, if you let me get better, I want to be one of the people here that greets other people coming in that might get a bad diagnosis, or already have one. I want to be one of the happy people here that gets people to where they need to be.’

“It’s really interesting. I’ve lived a long time, which means I’ve had a lot of life experiences. Some of them have been great, some of them not so great. I’ve had a lot of personal loss in my life. But I am convinced that I do not let one event -- no matter how awful it may be -- define me. I always try a way of reinventing myself after every negative life encounter.”

 
 
 
 

Charles Russ (34 y/o) // financial advisor // fitness freak  // former SC state champion & collegiate wrestler // West Point graduate (2002) // former Army captain (was deployed overseas for the Iraq War) // survivor of girlfriend Jessica (passed away from breast cancer in 2013, at age 32)
Posted October 11, 2015

 “Jessica & I dated in high school. When I came back here from Germany -- where I stayed for 10 years after being deployed overseas for the war -- we dated again for about a year. When we started dating, she was in full remission. The year before, they had told her she would die in 12 months. 12 months passed, & the doctors ended up basically saying, ‘Everything’s in remission. We don’t know what happened -- we thought you were gone.’ So when we talked about dating again, that was a pretty big deal – to know that she was probably going to be here. To believe she had beaten it.

“She was healthy for the first 4 months, but it went downhill really fast. We had a rapport from high school, & we knew each other. We had stayed in touch over the years. It was a different dynamic than it probably would’ve been if we didn’t have all that.

“…I’m not a doctor, & I don’t understand the workings of the disease. I just always thought there was a cure. Deep down somewhere, there’s this weird little thing that makes you think you’re the cure. As silly as it sounds – that’s what I thought: ‘I’m going to be with her, & she’s with me, & she’s going to be ok.’

“I was hurt. I had dated someone for 9 years in Europe, & we split up because I was coming back here. So the person that ended up being in my life – I prayed on it. I thought, ‘I’m in her life because I am her solution,’ & when she died, I was mad. I went through a rut. It wasn’t a good time in my life. I was next-level angry. But you have to think about it outside of yourself – the world is more than just you. When I thought about what happened & the things we did, I really thought God brought me here for her & her kids. She wasn’t supposed to be here for me – I really feel like I was here for them. Life isn’t about one person – me. Life is about the world, & us, & how we can act as a family with one another. You don’t ever know what’s going to happen. Maybe it works out & maybe it doesn’t.  Sometimes when you can just help someone do something that’s outside of your entire normal realm of thought as far as how difficult it is…I mean she had to leave two kids. But she’s still blessing me to this day. I mean look at this opportunity -- to talk about what I learned from the experience with others. I see it as a blessing.” 

 
 
 
 

Kerrie Sijon // Greenville Track Club administrator // wife & mother of 2 sons // owner of the Palace Billiards // devoted fundraiser for cancer research through C3ride.org // survivor w/ father (prostate & rectal; cleared 2 yrs ago) & so many others
Poster October 4, 2015

 “My father survived both prostate & rectal cancers, both of them found through his yearly physicals. He’s retired military, & so he was so used to getting them. I think that’s why he’s still alive today. It was still in the beginning stages, so he was able to combat it.

“I have a friend [Ron Jerina] that I’ve had for years & years. He & I started running & doing marathons together – I’m primarily a runner. His father got sick with cancer [& ultimately] died, & my friend said, ‘I want to raise money for cancer research, but I want to ride my bike.’ So I said, ‘I’ll go with you,’ & I bought a bike.

“So the money we raise for the Challenge to Conquer Cancer [c3ride.org] -- a very significant amount goes to Greenville Health System for ITOR & research drugs. Two of my friends – one with breast cancer & one with kidney cancer – they’ve both been recipients of those drugs. To me that means our money is going to something significant; it’s saving peoples lives. That’s why I keep doing it. What they go through is so traumatic, the least we can do is fight for them.

“We went to Austin, TX 5 years in a row [because of the Livestrong program]. The past 3 years, we’ve been riding to Lewiston, MN [where The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing is]. We go to the Patrick Dempsey Challenge. Each time ride, you have to raise $5,000. Since my father got cancer the same year we started doing this, I was able to ride in honor of him. I was able to raise money through his friends & my friends. I started by sending out letters to my father’s Christmas card list. It’s the generosity of others that lets me continue to go on this ride. There’s no two ways about it. I just can’t get over the generosity of people. I just feel really blessed that I’ve been able to raise money, & have the fitness to do the bike ride.

“This year we have 12 riders. Most of the people who do this ride have had cancer themselves, or have been affected like I have through family & friends. There’s no one that hasn’t been touched by cancer. Once I started doing this ride, I found out about so many of my Greenville running friends; many who were doing, or had done, chemo for breast cancer.

“What I’ve learned about cancer is the people who go through it have such amazingly positive & resilient attitudes. We can learn a lot from them. I can’t get over the love I’ve seen in the chemo room. Isn’t it crazy that we know so many people that have fought & won? It’s a great thing. It’s a great, great thing.

“I can’t NOT do this ride; it’s helped too many people. As long as I am physically able, I will always, ALWAYS do this ride. We’re leaving! We’re leaving Oct. 10 -- Saturday.”

 

 
 

Michael Pratt // collector (artwork & butterflies) & naturalist // Mark Catesby (English naturalist & artist active in colonial SC) expert // American history buff // survivor of prostate cancer (diagnosed 1999); currently surviving pancreatic cancer (diagnosed 2011)   ///   w/ wife Joyce Pratt // companion to Michael on world travels & in the every day // philanthropist // book & garden club member // CHOP! Cancer contestant
Posted September 27, 2015

Michael: “We’ve been here 30 years now. We came here from Scotland by way of India. I worked all my life in a Scottish textile company. We came here in 1986 for me to run the American subsidiary. That’s how we got here, & we liked it; & this is our home now…[We’ve been married] 50 years."

Joyce: “51 years! Our son was 50 yesterday.”

M: “We still made it, darling.

“My hesitation in getting involved in this thing…I support the basic concept of [the Survivor Series]. It demystifies & makes people see that [cancer] is quite a normal thing. But obviously when you are diagnosed with it, it’s a tremendous shock to the system. Initially, oh my God, the ‘c’ word, you know? But there’s a lot of sentimentality that gets involved. Joyce said this is about fighting cancer; one doesn’t fight cancer. One recognizes it, & learns to live with it, & to carry on life & make it normal.

“Cancer is natural. It happens. We are a very complex biological species, & the longer we live the more likely we are to develop cancer in some form or another. So the sort of things you’re doing are valuable; having people realize that they haven’t been sort of picked out, or selected personally; but it’s all part of the process of living. Some of us get away with it, & others of us get caught in it. Whether you get run over by a motorcar or fall off a cliff, sooner or later death gets you anyway -- so cancer is part of living.

“I’ve been lucky to live this long with it. I’m in pretty good health. I am still subject to various forms of treatment…I think I’ve had 70 sessions of chemo. I suppose it speaks of my stamina if nothing else.

“Joyce has been fantastic, of course. She’s done everything to make sure that life is as normal as possible. She’s gone to a lot of trouble with the food that I eat. I’ve not much desire to eat, or drink wine for that matter.”

J: “Well, I haven’t exactly gone out of the way to force feed you wine!” 

M: “But she does make sure to feed me with a diet of attractive & interesting food, which is also beneficial in helping keep the cancer under control, & of course she’s encouraged & badgered me to do things I didn’t necessarily want to do.

“The initial shock – ‘oh dear, I’ve got cancer’ – & then you begin to realize there are ways of managing cancer to minimize its impact, which enable you to live a fairly normal life.”

J: “& you do. You live a completely normal life, basically.”

M: “I still play an indifferent round of golf every week, & take my dog for walks.”

J: “That’s the hardest part of this business, because the dog doesn’t enjoy walking. [laughs]

“Michael is truly inspiring. I’ve never heard him complain, not once. He’s joyful…He goes about his business, & does what he’s always done: listens to his music, gives talks to clubs & strange historical societies, & does all his weird & wonderful things. That’s why I am surprised that he’s talking to you about it -- because it never features in his life.

“He has this wonderful Chinese doctor -- who is totally without emotion -- who has been reduced to tears over Michael. We went to England, & when we returned Dr. Yang [at Bon Secours St. Francis] just threw his arms around Michael; & Michael said, ‘OH, whoa! I guess you were more worried about me than I was!’”

M: “Yes, we managed to persuade the doctor to let us off the leash [from the bi-weekly chemo cycle], & fortunately we got back safe & sound.”

J: “It was a wonderful trip! We had a wonderful time.”

 

 

Mary Hazel Hinson (5 y/o) // kindergartner, ice cream connoisseur, adventurer, soccer player, My Little Pony enthusiast // survivor of kidney cancer (diagnosed 1 y/o)  ///  w/ mother (of 3) & fellow survivor, Erin Hinson // professional bed tucker, technical editor, part-time blogger, ultra marathoner, power Google Calendar user (color-coded by kid)
Posted September 20, 2015

Erin: “Mary Hazel had a radical nephrectomy where the affected kidney, the size of a grapefruit, was removed. The surgeon seemed confident that the operation was the only treatment she would require, other than quarterly scans & lab work for the next 5 years. We were lucky. We got to go home.

“The relief was overwhelming & not to be taken for granted, but another feeling crept in the shadows…Guilt? We got to go home, when so many other kids we met were just starting their treatments – hours of chemotherapy, radiation, multiple surgeries. I remembered the mother I met, whose son was admitted in the room next to ours after his chemo meds made him sick. He was entering his second year of treatment. The mother was exhausted. I felt sheepish when answering her questions about Mary Hazel. Yes, she was lucky her cancer was contained. Yes, she was lucky to be able to go home so quickly. Yes, we surely were thankful & relieved. Sensing my hesitancy to sound outwardly victorious, she held my hand & told me not to feel guilty because my child was a survivor. Because my child gave other parents of newly diagnosed children something vital -- hope.”

Mary Hazel: “I don’t really remember too much about [having cancer]. I just know I had a bad ol’ kidney & now it’s gone. I remember Green Monkey having to get all those shots & Band-Aids. But he is pretty brave.”

E: “Green Monkey was her first lovey & goes to all the major checkups with MH. The child life specialists at GHS use him to demonstrate what to expect next. They are amazing.”

MH: “[I remember] Dr. Bryant. She always asks me to tell her a joke. Like, where do dogs park their cars? In the barking lot -- get it? Barking lot!

“I remember I always get chocolate chip pancakes at Mary Beth’s when we leave the hospital. One time I wore that purple hat (the clinic) gave me…& then we usually go to Falls Park for an adventure. Sometimes we have ice cream, but sometimes we just feed the ducks or play in the river. I like it when [my mom] twirls me in front of the [TD Stage at The Peace Center] & it makes you all dizzy!

“Can we have an adventure on Friday?”

E: “I don’t see why not.”

 

 

Carmen Brotherton // volunteer & mentor // survivor of ovarian cancer (diagnosed in 2009)
Posted September 13, 2015

"Being a cancer survivor is a gift -- a gift from God. What we do with this gift is up to each of us to discover. 

"For me, it has allowed me to tell my story of cancer diagnosis, treatments & how I live a full life; a life filled with passion & purpose. Volunteering at the hospital has given me the opportunity to talk with other cancer patients to encourage, give hope, & sometimes bring smiles to patients' faces. Then to hear some of them say that I can do this, too -- that's when I know what I went through was worth it all. 

"Cancer will change your life. My hope is for each one that is on the journey of being a survivor is to find your passion & use ALL your energy to fulfill it. God has taken me & used me in some powerful ways to help me move on, reach out to others, & to live a very fulfilling life as a survivor."

 
 
 

Jacob Farley (26 y/o) // CrossFit coach & athlete @ CrossFit Reaction // personal & small group trainer @ The Life Center // Master of Sports Science (health & fitness) graduate // survivor of Osteosarcoma (bone cancer); diagnosed Dec. 26, 2012 (23 y/o)
Posted September 10, 2015

“I was participating in a CrossFit competition, & one of the exercises was box-jumps. I flipped at the top of the box & hit my shin on the way down. I didn’t think much of anything about it over the next month & half, but there was a little lump that was getting bigger & more painful instead of healing. They took a biopsy on Dec. 23, & we did a bone scan on Christmas Eve, so we knew that we were waiting to find out something on Christmas Day. It was a weird Christmas.

“Recovery was, honestly, very painful. They took out a whole bone in my leg -- my left tibia. It was rough. It never fully healed the right way, & I got MRSA. It’s tricky to get rid of it, & we did a total of 7 - 8 total surgeries to clear everything up. This was AFTER going through therapy to learn how to walk again.

“[Eventually] my doctor told me I would only be able to bike, swim & walk. I told him to just cut it off. I kind of got what I wanted, because I was sick of the whole thing. After talking to some people & realizing how active I could be with an amputated leg, it was kind of a no brainer for me.

“… I’m a fairly spiritual person. I just had a crazy, weird peace – I don’t know how to describe it -- that came from praying & knowing that other people were praying for me. It got to the point where I was like, ‘It is what it is.’

“Being worried is something that I haven’t been in a long time. I learned what battles to fight.

“I have gone back & ventured into doing those box jumps again, but I take my leg off to do them, & as far as lifting weights goes, I’m to the point where I can pretty much do everything. It’s sort of fun learning how to do these things again.

“I really learned patience more than anything, because it was all a waiting a game for me. You wait in the hospital to get done with chemo. You wait for results of how your chemo is going. You sit on the couch all day long, because you can’t walk. I went from being a really active person to being on a couch or in a chair 24 hours a day, because I was always getting over a surgery during that whole time period. It was an awful, awful, awful experience, but it did teach me patience. I had to move back in with my parents. I couldn’t work.

“…But I grew up. “

 
 
 

Ben Geer Keys (77 y/o) // 5th generation Greenvillian // husband to Martha & father of four sons // outdoorsman & nature photographer // CSP volunteer // prolific board member //master of the printing press // tennis champion // survivor of sister Crawford Keys Small (passed away from cancer in 2013)
Posted August 30, 2015

"Kay Roper called me one day to photograph the banks over there [at the park’s site], because I do have a camera, & I do enjoy photography. That’s how I got involved [with CSP]. As Kay knows, my sister was a victim of cancer.

"I’m so addicted to wildflowers, that when they bloom, I’ll drive anywhere in the country just to see one. I have 1,000 pictures of the same flower. I’ll leave here in the morning & drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway just to look at the vistas; & why that’s restoring to me -- & it is to a lot of people – I’m not sure. It’s just natural beauty. I get an emotional high. I don’t do well in the city.

"My sister went to New York with a lady named Betty Hipp. They lived there, & both met their husbands there…the last three or four years of her life, she came back to Greenville.

"We were fortunate to have a close family on both sides. My grandfather, who was the president of Furman, & my grandmother lived over on Broadus Avenue…we lived with them. My grandmother on the Keys side had fried chicken dinner for everybody that lived in Greenville every Friday night.

"We always had family events, & so when [my sister] came here, & especially when she was ill, we reconnected & got to know each other pretty well. She would always remind me of things I shouldn’t have done as a young boy, like pull her hair & do little funny things. She was two years older than I was. But we did catch up, & my wife of 50 years & my sister were good friends. We would go out to dinner & converse about how it used to be.

"I’m a very positive person…I’ve had the good life. But I feel like there are a lot of people – & I hate to be negative – but there’s too much talking about the shortcomings of family members rather than the beauty of the heritage that they have. These days, nobody has Friday night fried chicken dinners. I’ve had the good life."

 
 
 

Yuri Tsuzuki // Heart of Steel // welder // creator of 'Do Butterflies Dream?' art project // survivor of father (stomach cancer), grandparents (stomach cancer) & uncle (lung cancer)
Posted August 23, 2015

"In Japanese, cancer is written . It is pronounced 'gan' which sounds like 'gun.' I remember when my father was going through his rounds of chemotherapy & radiation treatments. One week was particularly hard for him, both physically & mentally. A shy man, my father rarely spoke & even more rarely made a joke. But as he sat propped up by pillows, no longer the intensely, imposing father I grew up fearing, he said, 'You know…Cancer is a gun. You feel like someone has put a gun to your head. You feel helpless. I’ve been thinking, & I have the perfect gift I’m going to give my oncologist...I am going to give him a gun so that he can take care of cancer before it takes care of me!

"Another memory -- quite different -- is the morning we saw a butterfly: fragile, beautiful, unexpected. 'Look Daddy, it’s a butterfly,' I said. Even in his weakened state, I was able to discern as he glanced upwards, a slight smile in his eyes…

“[In regards to the 'Do Butterflies Dream?' art project], imagine butterflies fluttering here & there. They hover & land on a tree, a bench, or perhaps playfully dance on a bridge: reflection, movement, whimsy...A metaphor for life, hope & rebirth. Each butterfly is a gift to commemorate, remember, cherish & celebrate the life/lives of those whom cancer has touched. 'Look! There’s a butterfly!' -- what magic & joy in those words not only for children, but also for each of us. I imagine a special place filled with butterflies. A place that is sacred & honors life’s metamorphosis, beauty, fragility & magic."

 
 
 
 

John Ford // high school freshman // reader, video gamer, lover of classic movies // survivor of leukemia (diagnosed 4 y/o; cleared 9 y/o) // son of CSP volunteer Lloyd Ford
Posted August 16, 2015

“It was hard being a child with cancer. I wasn’t able to do a lot of things other kids could do. Despite this, the staff at the hospital would play games with me. I used to run around the hospital with my cowboy boots on, putting the nurses and doctors ‘under arrest.’ This caused me to have a lot of embarrassing photos down the road!

“I received two & a half years of chemo therapy, & two & a half of occupational therapy to help me recover from the effects of the chemo. The hardest part was the emotional burden on the family. My grandparents would come down from Pennsylvania (a 10-hour drive) twice a month to be with me…seeing my mother try to smile through the tears as we watched Disney movies together…There were a lot of Disney movies. During the process of going through chemo, my mother & I have become closer than I thought possible. We watched Disney films to keep my mind off the immense bone pain that was a side effect of my treatment.

“The support of both of my parents & my family lead to the foundation that I needed to survive treatment. No one should have to go through cancer alone; the support of family makes the pain easier to bear. Seeing me in pain for such an extended period of time was a battle within its own right. I understand the pain & struggle of both the families of the patients, & the patients themselves.

“[Being a survivor] makes me cherish each day, cherish my family, cherish my friends, & cherish the little things in life that make it so great.”  

 
 
 

Sonya Caldwell  // real estate broker // yogi & healer // wife & mother  // survivor of her mother (passed in 2010 to pancreatic cancer), her heroic brother (passed in 2008 fighting a fire), her father (chronic leukemia), & husband (Squamous cell carcinoma)
Posted August 9, 2015

My brother was a firefighter for 17 years, & died in the line of duty in 2008. After that tragedy, my mom … It just took a lot out of her, & that’s when you get cancer, & the cancer can creep in … To me, I also feel like a lot of the cancer (& this is me) is a little stress-related. I can see that sometimes when people hold things -- but maybe not manifest it -- cancer comes out in different ways. By 2010, my mother had passed. My father had had chronic leukemia YEARS before – a decade before.

“When I lost my brother, I began to hike & hike & hike, & I needed to go to my mat to breathe. I had been doing [yoga] like everyone else just kind of like, asanas … but I began to get more into the pranayama, because I really needed to breathe through it. It’s really been a tool for me.

“I’m working on my advanced [yoga] certification, because I want to teach continuing education classes on how to get back to happy, how to come out of a grieving situation, how to live a compassionate life -- because those are all tools to move through valleys in your life. We all hit a valley -- just like with cancer -- & with my husband, yoga was a great tool for him to move back out of it. To move back into & give back to himself, because I knew that for him, he felt like a shell after it. It was interesting when he began to gain his weight back, the physician said you kind of fill back up; it’s kind of like pouring water into a glass. You have to gain your weight internally before you see it externally.

“Mindfulness is a big part of my life, because losing my brother and my mother & all these challenges: I am learning to live in the moment. I am in the moment of today. I want to live this moment with zest & zeal.

“You want to revel in the moment of the bird singing, the breeze on your face. You just want to be there. You begin to cherish & value it all so much more. That’s exactly what I came away with; that’s the good in it. It teaches you to be so much more purposeful. It’s given me a greater curiosity too, in the moment I am in. If I’ve gotten anything from it, that is the best thing.”

 

 

Janet Archer (52 y/o) // booking agent for independent musicians at Bad Blood Productions // purveyor of treats at Coffee Underground // Washington State University alumnae (architecture) // former construction project manager // survivor of thyroid cancer (diagnosed 19 y/o)
Posted August 3, 2015 

“I had a really bad cold. I couldn’t shake it.

“I remember my dad showing up in the middle of the night -- at 1 in the morning -- & I happened to be at home studying. My dad came up & got me. I didn’t know he was coming. He took me back to where I lived. They did a bunch of tests, & stuck needles in my throat, & took biopsies.

“They found out it was cancerous, so they removed the entire thyroid. I went through radiation treatment; I think I did it over a course of a year. I’ve just been on synthetic thyroid medicine since then.

“I don’t remember a lot of details of it, quite honestly. I remember it being scary … I was pretty mature for my age anyway. I don’t feel like it made me grow up, or become more serious about things because of the cancer. I already was; this is kind of my personality. I am very intense & serious about everything, so I was already there. Maybe that helped me to just get through the cancer thing.

“I have my dad’s personality. He never really showed his emotion…I know he was scared, because I remember him walking into my dorm. That was probably the most frightening thing of this process -- I thought something must be very devastating for my dad to show up at 1 in the morning!

“I have always come from a very strong family. I think a big part of dealing with cancer -- & I see this from so many, like my grandmother, who had a double mastectomy when I was a teenager -- I think it’s just in your attitude. You have to have a sense of humor with it. I think you have to remain positive. I think that is really a big part of the battle. You just can’t give up on it. I am a firm believer of that.

I think that for many, it’s the unknown -- that’s the scary thing.”

 

 
 

Emily Price (30 y/o) w/ Shiloh (7 y/o) // Survivor Series editor & co-creator // educator // internet nerd & sometimes writer at Upstate Business Journal, TOWN magazine & Greenville Journal // survivor of mother Gayle (ovarian cancer) & maternal grandmother Helen (leukemia)
Posted July 26, 2015

"When my friend Emily -- who usually edits & posts the stories for S3 (Sunday Survivor Series) -- told me she simply couldn’t connect this week, I completely understood. Emily, who has undergraduate & graduate degrees from the Clemson English department, just like her mother -- & who is now a college professor, just like her mother -- lost her mom to stage 3C ovarian cancer. Emily is a survivor, & July 23 (Thursday) was her mother’s birthday. Emily couldn’t celebrate it with her, & I know how she felt. I lost my mother to cancer, too.

 “As I reflected on this, I remembered something Natalie Hahn (last week’s featured survivor) told me while I was photographing her for S3. Natalie, who survived stage 3C ovarian cancer as a college student, told me she & her friends also battling cancer agreed: the experience was worse on their loved ones than it was on themselves.

“Because S3 is about survivors – both those who fought cancer & those who lost loved ones to it – the stories must unavoidably be about happiness & sadness, strength & weakness, living & losing. But most importantly, these stories are about love, & (hopefully) providing inspiration for the many battling cancer now.

“While our series aims to inspire & provide strength to others, it can never be sugarcoated or always end happily. Cancer is a terrible disease. Having it or experiencing a loved one fight it are both brutal experiences. Losing someone to it is arguably the worst. But I believe realizing this is an important part of making it through -- part of surviving.

“As I photographed Emily today, I met her mother, even though I’d only seen photographs. Emily’s mom was an incredible professor, & ended a long & distinguished career that included Dean of Graduate Studies & then Associate Provost at Gardner-Webb University. Emily is following in her mother’s footsteps as she enters her third year of teaching at Furman University. Her mother inspired countless students to embrace literature, to use language as a tool to reach & touch others. Her daughter does that today through S3, teaching, & writing for ‪Community Journals. While I didn’t have the honor of personally knowing Gayle Bolt Price, I feel as though I did; because I know her survivor, Emily.”

 
 
 

Natalie Hahn (22 y/o) // speaker, soon-to-be published author & CHOP! Cancer contestant // Wofford College grad (’15) // survivor of stage 3C dysgerminoma (ovarian cancer, diagnosed 19 y/o) 
posted July 19, 2015

“It was not until after the surgery that we learned it was ovarian cancer. The doctors were fairly certain that it was a malignant tumor, but ovarian cysts run in my family, & the ultrasounds weren’t able to give us much information other than there was a mass in my stomach. Halfway through the surgery, the doctor asked to speak with my parents. They had to make the decision whether or not to leave my right ovary, which the cancer had already spread to -- something we had not expected. I am very thankful that they made the decision to leave [it], giving me a chance to one day, have a family. 

“Being a survivor is someone who is able to tell a story after facing adversity with grace. Not only those who experience cancer firsthand, but I also believe that family & friends share in this survivorship. 

“When I was diagnosed, I looked for books on how to cope with ovarian cancer at a young age, & there were none. So, I decided to begin writing my own book, which I hope to have finished soon. This will serve as a guidebook for other young women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, & will touch on everything from being a teenager & losing your hair, to coping with life after cancer. I think it’s very important to focus on living your life after treatment, because that’s the goal, to survive and beat cancer & continue living life. 

“The title of the book is Nattitude, which is a term that was coined by my boyfriend, Ragland Coxe, & his family. ‘Nattitude’ was the attitude that carried me through treatment, & what helped me focus on the positives in life rather than cancer as a disease. I have always seen my diagnosis as a gift, as strange as that may seem to some people. Having cancer has given me the opportunity to speak & share my story with many people -- & show how even when you are dealt bad cards in life, you have the opportunity to play them in a way that benefits you.”  
 
 
 
 

 Linda Satterfield (60 y/o) // avid marathon runner // former radiologic technologist for Greenville Health System (25 years) // survivor of breast cancer (diagnosed 47 y/o on May 14, 2002 on 8th wedding anniversary w/ husband Kent)
posted July 12, 2015

“This year was my third Boston Marathon & my best one yet. My training went well, & I had a solid run & it was fast enough to qualify me to go back next year, which among runners is kind of a big deal. I've run 20+ marathons over the last 30 years. It may sound odd, but marathon running is probably good training for going through cancer treatment -- both are hard & sometimes painful, but the key is to keep going & don't stop until you finish! The main difference, of course, being that people choose to run marathons -- but no one 'chooses' to get cancer. During my five months of treatment, I was able to continue to run a little, although I mostly walked. I was on a three-week chemo cycle, & usually by the end of the second week I'd be strong enough to run slowly.

"I adopted the philosophy that if I couldn't run, I'd walk, & if I couldn't walk far, I'd walk as far as I could. My running buddies were great support & would walk with me when I wasn't strong enough to run. After the treatments, it was great to get back to normal running. While I was in treatment, I set my sights on running a half marathon in Williamsburg, VA several months after the treatments ended, which I did with my husband [Kent], sister, & a good friend -- it was awesome. I've run 12+ marathons as a 'survivor'. The message in that for people who might be in treatment now is that there are lots of positive possibilities post-treatment, even though it might be hard to imagine it while they're going through the treatments & not feeling so good physically, mentally, or emotionally. DON'T GIVE UP!

“[My advice to those experiencing cancer is] be good to yourself and take each day as it comes. A day or two before my surgery, I bought a ‘Life Is Good’ hat for good luck, & wore it throughout my treatments (especially when I had no hair!) -- so you might say that was the attitude I tried to keep throughout. Cancer is really hard on the family members & caregivers too, & they need to take care of themselves while they're taking care of the patient. While it may not be possible for everyone, getting enough sleep, some exercise, & an occasional break is important so they can stay positive & ‘up’ for their loved one. It's a team effort, really.”

 



Zach Elliot (20 y/o) // Shriner’s Hospital & Children’s Cancer Center volunteer // snowboarder, boxer, wakeboarder, runner, biker // survivor of osteogenic sarcoma
(bone cancer, diagnosed 9 y/o)
posted July 5, 2015

“When we had recess, I would go play kickball with all the kids on crutches with one leg. I kind of took what I was given, and I used it for what I thought I was given it for. I realized what life could actually take from you. But at the same time, I stayed strong. I never had a negative attitude about anything. Anything someone tells me I can’t do, I’m going to try to do it. I’ve met a lot of paraplegics like that. Most of the paraplegics I’ve met are veteran based … I have an American flag on my prosthetic leg right now. I think I would probably be in the military if I didn’t have this.

“When I first was diagnosed, they gave me a 20 - 30% chance of living. My biopsy came back 97% gone. I became cancer-free at 11.

“When I was younger, I had a clue what was going on. But at the time, I didn’t really know about cancer; I hadn’t really been presented that aspect of life. We got different opinions, and my parents really took the choice for me as far as what they thought would be best … I thank God every day that’s what they chose, because if they didn’t give me a prosthetic leg, I would live with a metal rod in my leg and have a limp for the rest of my life.

“If you look at it, you’re only given one chance. One opportunity. You’re given what you’ve got. You can’t dread upon it. If you do, what’s the point? If you’ve gone through all that, there’s a reason for you to be here. It’s something God had planned. There’s something out there for you to have -- something meant for you.” 

 

 

Clara Lawrence (10 y/o) // student, dancer & birthday girl // survivor of leukemia (diagnosed at 2 m/o)
posted June 28, 2015

“Now, since I’m older, I notice signs that say 'pink for Lilly' or 'wear gold for Mary' & I think that was me. I was one of those people fighting cancer, & people were wearing colors for me. I want to wear colors to support other people. I am very grateful that I’m okay. The cancer experience really helps me stop & think about other people … I have learned that cancer can change people.

“A survivor has a cancer experience; I am a survivor. But, you can have someone close to you that has cancer. Like my mom, it must have been hard for her to watch me have cancer. You know, my mom is a survivor, too.”

 

 

Jim Kirby (89 y/o) // WWII vet, attorney, FBI agent, father of photographer Mark Kirby // survivor of wife Charlotte (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma)
posted June 21, 2015 (Father’s Day)

"I fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where 28,000 American men were killed. I'm very grateful to the Lord to have made it through! 

“I struggled to understand why God would take my wonderful wife, who was loved by so many & who did so much for others. But my faith, my two boys, & my friends helped me get through it ... You can't control the outcome, you simply have to have faith in God's plan and do everything you can to support your loved one. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my wife. But I'm grateful that God has given me these 16 years. Grateful for life."

Bookmark and Share