Breakaway stories

Nobody can speak about cancer better than those who have been there. Breakaway from Cancer® collects inspirational stories from patients, caregivers and advocates who have experienced their own cancer journey.

FInd encouragement and inspiration from the shared stories below.

Breakaway from Cancer Stories

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2015 stories

Joan Lunden| Honorary Champion | Breast Cancer

Joan Lunden
Honorary Champion
Breast Cancer

During Joan Lunden’s recent battle with breast cancer, the journalist and television host committed herself to educating...

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Joan Lunden
Breast Cancer

During Joan Lunden’s recent battle with breast cancer, the journalist and television host committed herself to educating women about the importance of screening and early detection. Through her advocacy she inspired others to protect their own health. Lunden opened up to the public about her personal journey with the hopes that she could offer support and inspiration and provide a better understanding of the cancer treatment process. In 2015, Lunden was named honorary Breakaway from Cancer Champion. She hopes to help bring awareness to the resources available to those impacted by cancer.

Kelsey Walters
Lodi, CA
Mouth Cancer

Kelsey was just seven years old when she was diagnosed with cancer, a Stage III tumor in the soft palate...

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Kelsey Walters
Lodi, CA | Mouth Cancer

Kelsey was just seven years old when she was diagnosed with cancer, a Stage III tumor in the soft palate of her mouth. Now cancer free for 16 years, Kelsey and her family are dedicating their lives to helping other families whose children are being treated for cancer. After Kelsey’s treatment was finished in 1999, the Walters family started Lodi Cancer Kids. Recently renamed Cancer Kids of San Joaquin County (SJC) because of its reach beyond Lodi, Cancer Kids of SJC provides financial assistance to families who must travel outside of their area for pediatric cancer treatment. The Walters family knows first-hand just how significant the expenses are for lodging, gas, and simply living, while away from home for doctor’s appointments and treatments. The need is great and their foundation is now providing relief, hope and encouragement to approximately 55 families per year. While it was difficult for Kelsey to understand as a child, she believes that God has a purpose for her life. Kelsey’s mother Peggy was her rock every step of the way, guiding her through the difficult times, together relying on their faith, and giving them a deeper appreciation for the time they have together each and every day.


Story submitted in 2015

Craig Pettigrew
La Cresenta, CA
Gastro-Esophageal Cancer

After nearly a full year of intense treatments for Stage IV cancer of the gastro-esophageal junction, Craig Pettigrew’s doctor’s told...

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Craig Pettigrew
La Cresenta, CA | Gastro-Esophageal Cancer

After nearly a full year of intense treatments for Stage IV cancer of the gastro-esophageal junction, Craig Pettigrew’s doctor’s told him to get back to the gym and get in shape. Blood flow was crucial to his survival. Craig found a coach who got him on a bike for the first time in a very, very long time. And, after just six months of training, he rode in his first century ride. That was in 2010, and he has now completed more than 30 century rides, trains every day and is a Team In Training coach. During the year following Craig’s diagnosis, he depended heavily on his support group at Cancer Support Community, and his wife and their friends at the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. His advice to others facing similar situations is this: rally your troops and gather them around you. Be selfish and ask for what you need without hesitation. Your “community” is there to help you and you will be amazed by their response.


Story submitted in 2015

Kristin Alexander
Arroyo Grande, CA
Brest Cancer

It has been nearly five years since Kristin Alexander was diagnosed with breast cancer. Battling cancer gave Kristin a better...

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Kristin Alexander
Arroyo Grande, CA | Brest Cancer

It has been nearly five years since Kristin Alexander was diagnosed with breast cancer. Battling cancer gave Kristin a better appreciation for everything in her life and everyone she meets. It inspired her to open her own fitness studio and pursue a writing career. Kristin says her number one source of strength throughout her journey was her faith in God. She tried to stay positive and physically active during treatment and recovery, and surrounded herself with loving and supportive people. But the one thing she was missing while she was going through treatment was a connection with another cancer patient. As a result, since her recovery, Kristin is dedicated to being that missing link for others so they do not feel like they are in the fight alone. Kristin Alexander wouldn’t trade her cancer diagnosis for anything. In the end, it changed her life for the better. She now considers every day the best gift she has ever received.


Story submitted in 2015

Blaine Mauldin
Mountain View, CA
Testicular Cancer

In late 2006 at age 25, Blaine was blindsided with a cancer diagnosis. After multiple surgeries and three intense infusion...

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Blaine Mauldin
Mountain View, CA | Testicular Cancer

In late 2006 at age 25, Blaine was blindsided with a cancer diagnosis. After multiple surgeries and three intense infusion cycles, he was deemed "cancer free" in February 2007. Although the treatment was difficult, the most challenging point of his cancer journey occurred once his remission began...now what? It took a while, but "what" became a bike, cycling, TEAM BlaineRidesOn and fundraising to support and inspire those affected by cancer. Since his first Palo Alto Breakaway charity ride in early 2008, Blaine has proudly represented Breakaway from Cancer at each Amgen Tour of California.


Story submitted in 2015

Karen Harrington
Watsonville, CA
Breast Cancer

Karen Harrington is a breast cancer survivor, thanks to an invaluable network of supporters that included her husband...

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Karen Harrington
Watsonville, CA | Breast Cancer

Karen Harrington is a breast cancer survivor, thanks to an invaluable network of supporters that included her husband Stephen, children Ethan and Eleanor and mom Marty. Together they kept her strong, smiling and alive and they loved her. She also found strength through support groups, massage, classes about survivorship, nutrition and yoga, as well as the Patient Advocate Foundation, which helped her with an insurance denial. Now “surviving and thriving,” Karen enjoyed a celebratory bike ride to mark her one year anniversary of finishing treatment. Karen says that it takes a team and she thanks all her team members who give her strength to help her and others.


Story submitted in 2015

Kayle Martin
Nevada City, CA
Breast Cancer

Kayle Martin says it took a village to care for her during her bout with breast cancer in 2008, when she was just thirty...

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Kayle Martin
Nevada City, CA | Breast Cancer

Kayle Martin says it took a village to care for her during her bout with breast cancer in 2008, when she was just thirty years old. Friends and even some strangers rallied on her behalf, making raw food, holding her hand during blood draws and needle pokes, driving her to appointments and holding a benefit to cover the costs of alternative treatments. Kayle’s firm belief in a raw vegan diet and clean lifestyle gave her hope and determination to get though that period in her life. Now cancer free, Kayle’s mission is “to encourage people to live happier, healthier lives by putting more veggies on their plates and positive thoughts in their minds.” She does this through her health and wellness website, Cowgirls & Collard Greens (http://www.cowgirlsandcollardgreens.com). Kayle is busy speaking at conferences and writing her first book, but she always finds time to spend with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients at her local hospital. She is proud to be part of the Amgen Tour of California, representing Nevada City and the community that gave so much to her during a challenging time in her life.


Story submitted in 2015

Rick Bates
Big Bear Lake, CA
Throat Cancer

Nine years ago, Rick Bates was diagnosed with throat cancer. What got him through the months of surgery, chemotherapy...

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Rick Bates
Big Bear Lake, CA | Throat Cancer

Nine years ago, Rick Bates was diagnosed with throat cancer. What got him through the months of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation? His wife Nancy, who tirelessly pushed to get answers and find the best treatments for him. And a positive attitude. Rick didn’t see a cancer diagnosis as a life sentence. He understood that there was an end in sight, and tried to stay strong to fight through to the finish line.


Story submitted in 2015

Ciel Senechal
Folsom, CA
Anal Cancer

Ciel Senechal hopes to be “cancer free” in December 2015. Aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment for anal cancer...

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Ciel Senechal
Folsom, CA | Anal Cancer

Ciel Senechal hopes to be “cancer free” in December 2015. Aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment for anal cancer in 2013 caused her to be extremely ill and bedridden, and left parts of her body burned and disfigured. She completely lost any ability to function—to be her own advocate, to ask questions, to clean her house, or even care for her children. Family, friends, church members and neighbors provided for all of her family’s daily needs during that time. To anyone going through a similar experience, she gives this advice: share your diagnosis with others; ask for help and accept it gracefully; scream and cry if and when you need to; and take the journey one day, one hour or even one minute at a time. But most importantly, find positive things each day that will keep your spirits up. Ciel’s strong support system from near and far that helped her through the fight of her life is true testament to her belief that cancer is a “we” fight, not a “me” fight.


Story submitted in 2015

David Tanza
Santa Cruz, CA
Thymic Carcinoma

After receiving a rare cancer diagnosis in 2012, David Tanza feared that he and his wife wouldn’t get to enjoy...

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David Tanza
Santa Cruz, CA | Thymic Carcinoma

After receiving a rare cancer diagnosis in 2012, David Tanza feared that he and his wife wouldn’t get to enjoy the “empty nest” they were just getting used to. But with his wife by his side at every treatment reminding him that they would get through it together, David survived Thymic Carcinoma. It was important for David to maintain a sense of normalcy during treatment, so when he couldn’t run each day as usual, he walked, and continued to work a few hours to keep a routine. Yet like so many others fighting cancer, David was overwhelmed with fears and emotions that friends and family can’t understand if they haven’t experienced it themselves. So he turned to organizations like LIVESTRONG and Imerman’s Angels who connected him with other Thymic Carcinoma survivors to share information and experiences. Through these support networks, David is now serving as a mentor to a survivor in Connecticut, and is on the advisory board for the UC Santa Cruz chapter of Camp Kasem, a camp for children affected by their parent’s cancer. Since his recovery, David has run two half-marathons, including one in Austin, Texas, where his family raised money for Team LIVESTRONG and the cancer community. David used to think it took a superhuman effort to fight cancer, but he doesn’t consider himself heroic for surviving cancer, just extremely fortunate.


Story submitted in 2015

Diane "Sue" White
Petaluma, CA
Breast Cancer

Hearing her surgeon say “you have cancer” felt like an out-of-body experience for Diane “Sue” White. She was healthy, ate...

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Diane "Sue" White
Petaluma, CA | Breast Cancer

Hearing her surgeon say “you have cancer” felt like an out-of-body experience for Diane “Sue” White. She was healthy, ate well, exercised regularly, and didn’t have any increased risk factors for breast cancer. But she still got cancer. Sue cannot imagine how she would have coped through that period of her life without the love and support of her family and friends, but especially her best friend Kathy, who had breast cancer four years earlier and held her hand every step of the way. Once Sue completed her treatments and they were both “survivors,” they became a team of advocates, co-chairing committees for cancer relays and walks, and speaking to high school classes about the importance of early detection and self-screening. Together Sue and Kathy volunteered for fashion show fundraisers and spoke to new cancer patients as a way to help themselves heal and give back to others. Sue’s dear friend Kathy passed away in 2009 due to a recurrence of her breast cancer but she is missed each and every day as Sue continues to fight the good fight in her memory.


Story submitted in 2015

Kasiah Fernandez
Newport Beach, CA
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

Growing up in Southern California with four siblings, it was an unimaginable shock when eight year-old Kasiah Fernandez...

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Kasiah Fernandez
Newport Beach, CA | Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

Growing up in Southern California with four siblings, it was an unimaginable shock when eight year-old Kasiah Fernandez was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). She was immediately sent to a local children's hospital where she received expert care, touching kindness and personal attention during a very difficult and confusing time for the young child and her family. As Kasiah battled on, her mother sewed and altered hats for her to wear. As the hospital was under renovation, Kasiah was asked by the staff to be involved in drawing a picture to have up as art in the newly decorated wing. Kasiah drew a picture of a strong and majestic tiger that still hangs at the hospital. It was no accident that Kasiah chose to draw an animal that shows just as much strength as she did fighting her battle with cancer. Knowing the difficulty in finding a hat that fit her small head during her treatments, Kasiah now makes hats with her symbolic tiger tag for children battling cancer. She calls the hats, Tigers by KAS. Kasiah understands the hardships that young ones have when faced with cancer, but also the importance of finding inner strength and relying on family support to get through the hard times. She knows she has an internal tiger and kids are strong (KAS).




Story submitted in 2015

Justin McLean
,
Colorectal Cancer

At 40 years old, in the prime of his career and a father of three, Australian cyclist Justin McLean was diagnosed...

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Justin McLean
, | Colorectal Cancer

At 40 years old, in the prime of his career and a father of three, Australian cyclist Justin McLean was diagnosed with cancer. The best way Justin can describe cancer is this: Imagine you worked all your life, saved all your money and on the eve of retirement, someone knocked on your door to say you lost all your savings. You are bankrupt, but they are not sure why. That’s cancer. No preparation, no warning. It seemed so unfair. Justin felt robbed. Yet, he saw no option but to live. He had no ‘plan b.’ Immediately following his diagnosis, Justin was thrown into a world where people spoke an unknown medical language and decisions about his body and treatment were being made without discussion. The fragmented and inefficient system frustrated Justin and made it difficult to focus on the task at hand—surviving. As a result of his experience, Justin founded Thrivor in 2014 to advocate for the needs of cancer patients. The mission of Thrivor is to bring together health professionals, corporate sponsors and other influential individuals to set a global standard for the cancer experience so that patients and loved ones are free to focus solely on the effort required to beat cancer, not all the distractions that occur when they enter the health system. Justin’s bike was always at the center of his recovery. Sometimes riding it for just minutes each day, if that was all he could muster. That was his way of telling the cancer it was not in charge. He marked the end of his treatment with a cycling trip to Corsica, where he closed that dark chapter of his life and celebrated what lay ahead.


Story submitted in 2015

Ann Cole
Dunmore, PA
Breast Cancer

Attitude can be everything. Ann Cole believes that her positive attitude helped her battle breast cancer and aided in her...

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Ann Cole
Dunmore, PA | Breast Cancer

Attitude can be everything. Ann Cole believes that her positive attitude helped her battle breast cancer and aided in her healing process. She was inspired by Robin Roberts and her fight with cancer as well. Stories of inspirational survivors helped Ann remain positive during her treatments. She thanks her husband, family and friends for giving her the courage to fight and stay motivated. She treasures her support system and considers this one of the most valuable aspects of her treatment.


Story submitted in 2015

Alison Minnich
fremont, CA
Breast Cancer

All too familiar with the pain of breast cancer diagnoses, Alison Minnich could not believe it when she was diagnosed...

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Alison Minnich
fremont, CA | Breast Cancer

All too familiar with the pain of breast cancer diagnoses, Alison Minnich could not believe it when she was diagnosed with this disease. Alison’s mother had passed away from cancer 24 years prior, and her sister, Bev is currently a seven year survivor. With a family history of breast cancer, Alison had taken preventative measures and was able to achieve early detection. Acting quickly and using her family as a guiding support, Alison firmly believes in survivors sharing their stories as a resource and inspiration. She proudly will show you her battle scars and advocates that taking action on your diagnosis is the most important step. The cancer journey is different for everyone, but there are resources available to you to help you make the best decisions. Alison is happy to live each day to the fullest and is willing to share her experience to help others. She relied on her sister, who had battled the disease before, and her mother, who had inspired her to understand the importance of early detection. Receiving news such as a diagnosis does not have to be devastating. Alison suggests taking action and making something out of it. Share your story and help others.


Story submitted in 2015

Cindy Lain
Reno, NV
Breast Cancer

Do not let fear stop you from enjoying life. Although she was 41 years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer...

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Cindy Lain
Reno, NV | Breast Cancer

Do not let fear stop you from enjoying life. Although she was 41 years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Cindy Lain found purpose and ways to impact other people’s lives through her cancer journey. Cindy never questioned “why me”. Instead of wondering why she got the disease, she made it her goal to do something with it and help others. Through valuable advice and comfort from her nurse, Chris, Cindy found amazing passion and purpose in reaching out and becoming involved in order to raise awareness and educate women on risks and detection. Cindy found inspiration from fellow survivors, family, friends, and the doctors and nurses that surrounded her with care, support, and the treatment she needed. She learned that the most important thing is to keep living your life and to appreciate each day more than the one before. Even through the difficult times, Cindy found strength to get up and enjoy even the simplest parts of the day, like sunshine and listening to laughter. Cindy taught preschool during her treatments and she used this time in her life to be a joyful period of healing and recuperation. She has walked hundreds of miles, shared her story countless times, volunteered many hours, and continues to pursue new ways to make an impact with her cancer journey. With a renewed zest for life, Cindy advocates that battling cancer does not have to be negative, it can lead you to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.


Story submitted in 2015

Maria Radchenko
San Mateo, CA
Esophageal Cancer

Valeri Radchenko was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013. His wife, Maria is inspired by her husband’s positive attitude...

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Maria Radchenko
San Mateo, CA | Esophageal Cancer

Valeri Radchenko was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2013. His wife, Maria is inspired by her husband’s positive attitude, patience and strength. Even with an aggressive cancer that became life threatening, Valeri never complained and took each day in stride. As of July 2014, Valeri is now cancer free and is grateful for another chance at living. They had a great team of medical providers that gave them the care and communication necessary to conquer this battle together. Together they learned the value of each day and also the ability to enjoy each moment.


Story submitted in 2015

Rebecca Champagne
West Orange, NJ
Leukemia

At 14 years-old and a freshman in high school, Rebecca Champagne received a life changing diagnosis—leukemia. She was faced...

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Rebecca Champagne
West Orange, NJ | Leukemia

At 14 years-old and a freshman in high school, Rebecca Champagne received a life changing diagnosis—leukemia. She was faced with fear of the unknown and questioned why this had happened to her. Throughout her treatments, her life did change, but she gained strength from the resilience of her mother, and the presence of her friends. She did not lose hope and each day she vowed to not take for granted. This is a life lesson she still uses today. She is now a proud cancer survivor and attributes her success to the support from her family and friends. There were times where she battled doubt and loneliness, but she refused to let her illness control her life. She says that in life you can never prepare for everything, just like she was not ready to battle cancer, but she did not let that stop her from fighting it. She found strength in hope and discovering purpose in her life while accepting what had happened to her. Rebecca is now celebrating six years of remission, and when fear creeps in, she remembers that she is not alone. Rebecca has found the strength within her and from the support of others to hope and continue leading by example. She has found purpose in life through her journey and has overcome obstacles in order to make this world a better place.


Story submitted in 2015

Diana Simione
Jacksonville, NC
Tongue Cancer

Diana Simione has always been known for her strength and toughness. After faces three battles with tongue cancer, Diana learned...

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Diana Simione
Jacksonville, NC | Tongue Cancer

Diana Simione has always been known for her strength and toughness. After faces three battles with tongue cancer, Diana learned the importance of letting others help and accepting and sharing love through kindness and vulnerability. Diana still advocates that strength is very important for fighting cancer, but the willingness to accept help is as well. Her husband pointed out to her that no one could understand how she felt or what she needed unless she expressed her needs. She realized that not only did the help get her through her treatments, but it also helped her family and friends cope with her diagnosis. Diana was overwhelmed by how much people can care about each other and the depths of their love through hardship. Her advice is to let others help you along your cancer journey, and everyone will benefit from sharing love. Diana is thankful for her faithful husband, loving children, and strong brothers and sisters who always offered help, even when Diana was unsure of accepting it. Diana says that strength is needed to fight cancer, accept help, and to support those battling the disease.


Story submitted in 2015

Sharish Adolph
Los Angeles, CA
Breast Cancer

Having a positive attitude and her faith allowed Sharish Adolph to boldly face her breast cancer diagnosis. Even though...

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Sharish Adolph
Los Angeles, CA | Breast Cancer

Having a positive attitude and her faith allowed Sharish Adolph to boldly face her breast cancer diagnosis. Even though it wasn’t easy, Sharish found support from her family and church while she fought her battle with breast cancer. Each time she felt discouraged, she would talk to someone at the Cancer Service of Baton Rouge who was a 10 to 20 year survivor, and she would realize that there was hope. She hopes she too can give people hope as she walks proudly as a survivor always looking for the positive side of the situation. What could have been a breaking moment, Sharish relied on her family, pastor, cancer support groups and loved ones to turn it into a breakaway moment. She thanks her husband, grandchildren, church and her community for giving her faith to remain positive and cherish each day.


Story submitted in 2015

Kellie Wolfe
Long Beach, CA
Osteosarcoma

Kellie Wolfe was just 14 years old when the doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of osteosarcoma behind her right knee. Due to the extent...

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Kellie Wolfe
Long Beach, CA | Osteosarcoma

Kellie Wolfe was just 14 years old when the doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of osteosarcoma behind her right knee. Due to the extent of the treatments and surgery, the family had to relocate from Cambria to Los Angeles. It has been a year and a half, and Kellie has gained strength from her mother’s support and resilience. Kellie is currently in remission, and continues more treatments. Kellie is no stranger to bravery, and her mom, Karen, has been with her every step of the way. They have benefited from family and friends that have provided love and encouragement to keep strong and have faith. Kellie is regaining strength and is thankful to the doctors and nurses for their help and care.


Story submitted in 2015

Lynda and Paul Smith-Bugge
Falls Church, Virgin Islands
Esophagus Cancer

Paul has always been known for his steadfast faithfulness, both to his wife, his daughter, and her three children. When his only...

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Lynda and Paul Smith-Bugge
Falls Church, Virgin Islands | Esophagus Cancer

Paul has always been known for his steadfast faithfulness, both to his wife, his daughter, and her three children. When his only daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident, he and his wife Lynda raised the three children as their own. Paul placed family in the highest priority and not only provided for his family during these trying times, but also was a stable foundation for all of them emotionally, mentally, and physically. They never missed a wrestling, track, crew, chorus group, or event with their grandchildren. Paul wanted his wife Lynda to continue her passion for sculpture and art. He would work tirelessly to haul back fallen trees to the shed so Lynda could create her sculptures. Lynda refers to Paul has her rock, and he was a rock to the entire family. Paul warned Lynda that even a rock could break. Paul got diagnosed with esophagus cancer in 2004, and through treatment spent ten years cancer-free. Through this journey, Paul taught those close to him the importance of discipline, faith, and perseverance. Lynda continues to pursue her creations and artwork because Paul instilled these qualities in her, to never give up, and to always have persistence. Lynda has used her art, her friends, and these qualities to have the courage and strength in this journey.


Story submitted in 2015

Crystal Tatum
Mansfield, TX
Breast Cancer

When Crystal Tatum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, she refused to consider it as a negative declaration. Rather than...

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Crystal Tatum
Mansfield, TX | Breast Cancer

When Crystal Tatum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, she refused to consider it as a negative declaration. Rather than believing that her days were numbered, she chose to view this diagnosis as permission to fully embrace who she was and those she loved. It provided her an opportunity to experience the beauty and depth of the gift of life. Crystal discovered that cancer revealed her strengths and her support system, all which she finds so valuable. She utilized the Sisters Network® Inc. to put her in touch with women she could relate to because of similar backgrounds and life journeys. This support network helped her during the process, and provided her with the needed encouragement to gain bravery and tangible care.


Story submitted in 2015

Tina Follett
Big Bear Lake, CA
Lymphoma

Tina Follett has just one chemotherapy treatment left to complete next month. Since being diagnosed with Stage III...

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Tina Follett
Big Bear Lake, CA | Lymphoma

Tina Follett has just one chemotherapy treatment left to complete next month. Since being diagnosed with Stage III Lymphoma, she says she will never view the world the same again. She is getting through this period of her life with a positive attitude, a compassionate heart and a keen understanding that everyone is dealing with their own challenges, whatever those might be. With husband Patrick by her side and the support of the Big Bear Lake community behind her, Tina says she will continue to “fight like hell.”


Story submitted in 2015

2014 stories

Eve Bukowski
Sacramento, CA
Colon Cancer

Faith in herself, a strong support network of family, friends and doctors, and dreams of a future with her children are what have...

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Eve Bukowski
Sacramento, CA | Colon Cancer

Faith in herself, a strong support network of family, friends and doctors, and dreams of a future with her children are what have kept Eve Bukowski fighting through the past more than six years of battling cancer. Eve was originally diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer that has progressed over time to Stage IV. After undergoing 16 surgeries, multiple types of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and other invasive procedures (even freezing her head  to help save her hair!), Eve continues to use every resource available that can strengthen her body, mind and spirit. She encourages everyone going through this fight not to wallow in their fears and sadness, but to keep living and fill their lives with as much happiness as possible. This is what helps get Eve through each and every day. There were many gifts that came with her cancer diagnosis, gifts she would never give back, and gifts she will continue to use to inspire those around her.




Story submitted in 2014

Heather Schumm
Cambria, CA
Breast Cancer

When Heather Schumm and her husband, Erik, took their "in sickness and in health" vows, they didn't know that Heather would...

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Heather Schumm
Cambria, CA | Breast Cancer

When Heather Schumm and her husband, Erik, took their "in sickness and in health" vows, they didn't know that Heather would be diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 31 years old. But Erik stood by his vows, going to every doctor appointment, chemo session and surgery, while at the same time making sure that the couple's one- and three-year-old daughters were loved, well-taken care of and, most importantly, not scared. Heather's daughters were daily reminders to keep fighting so that she could and would see them grow up. Aside from her husband and other family and friends, Heather found a new sort of family at the Paso Robles Cancer Support Community and the Young Survival Coalition. Through these organizations, Heather connected with what she calls "exceptional souls" who provided endless support, answered every question, worry, cry, and celebrated every milestone. This strong support system gave Heather the tenacity to move forward and feel alive during her treatment. Today Heather is passionate about spending her time inspiring others and giving back through the very organizations that gave to her. She serves on the board of directors for the Paso Robles Cancer Support Community. Combining this passion and her love for cycling, Heather has been on the planning committee for the Young Survival Coalition's (YSC) Tour de Pink as well as the Paso Robles Support Community's Tour of Paso. Since finishing treatment in July 2011, Heather and her teammates have raised almost $47,000 to help ensure any person facing cancer can take advantage of the support systems that she did. When Heather started chemo in January 2011, she set a goal for herself to complete the half-marathon at Disneyland in September of that same year - and she did it, marking the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis. Heather didn't stop after that. She rode 200 miles in three days during the YSC's Tour de Pink in October 2011. For Heather, priorities shifted, life changed and she found a "new normal."


Story submitted in 2014

Jack Bianchi
Santa Barbara, CA
Tongue and Neck Cancer

Jack Bianchi has been in remission 22 years and, in that time, has helped raise more than $1.5 million for cancer programs...

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Jack Bianchi
Santa Barbara, CA | Tongue and Neck Cancer

Jack Bianchi has been in remission 22 years and, in that time, has helped raise more than $1.5 million for cancer programs in the Santa Barbara area. Diagnosed in 1992 with advanced cancer in his tongue and neck, Jack’s doctors said, “We are going to beat you up and you will probably want to die, but we are going to save you.” At that time, many of the modern resources we rely on today—the Internet and email support groups, for example—didn’t exist, so Jack relied on his strong medical team, his wife Marguerite, and his dream to exercise again. An accomplished athlete and long-distance runner, Jack underwent twice-a-day radiation treatments and ear-to-ear neck surgery. Just one year later, he was racing again and posting some of his fastest times. Now, Jack dedicates his time to organizing events to raise money for the Santa Barbara Cancer Center and other cancer organizations. Jack Bianchi is an inspiration to all—whether or not they are fighting cancer.


Story submitted in 2014

Lynn Buchanan
Thousand Oaks, CA
Breast Cancer

For Lynn Buchanan, fear was getting in the way of her full recovery. Lynn, who was first diagnosed with breast...

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Lynn Buchanan
Thousand Oaks, CA | Breast Cancer

For Lynn Buchanan, fear was getting in the way of her full recovery. Lynn, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, and then again in 2012, is blessed with a very supportive and attentive family and a lot of friends. One of the things that helped her most was finding the Stage I & II Cancer Support Group at her local Cancer Support Community (CSC). Being among this group of people, who truly understood how scary a cancer diagnosis is, felt like a sanctuary for Lynn. CSC also offered other resources that helped Lynn build help, become a better care receiver, and communicate more clearly with her doctors and her family. And now that her treatments are complete, the Cancer Support Community is a place where Lynn volunteers and raises money so that cancer patients and survivors in her community can continue to have a sanctuary of their own to visit.


Story submitted in 2014

Nancy Gifford
Oak Park, CA
Breast Cancer

When Nancy Gifford cycled in a Breakaway from Cancer event nine years ago in honor of her dad's colon cancer diagnosis...

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Nancy Gifford
Oak Park, CA | Breast Cancer

When Nancy Gifford cycled in a Breakaway from Cancer event nine years ago in honor of her dad's colon cancer diagnosis, she never imagined that one day she would be doing it again for herself. Yet five years later, she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer and was turning to many of the same resources that helped her father. Nancy strongly believes in the importance of educating yourself about the disease so you can make informed decisions. As an ICU nurse, she was comfortable talking to doctors and navigating the medical system, but she started to worry about other women who might not have adequate support or might be feeling overwhelmed and alone in their fight. That was one of the reasons she started the Bosom Buddy Network. This peer-to-peer support group connects survivors with survivors so they can share information and special perspectives with someone who has been through it. Nancy is one of many survivors who has turned her experience with cancer into an opportunity to positively help others in need.


Story submitted in 2014

Lisa DeLong
Santa Clarita, CA

Lisa DeLong is an advocate for a side of cancer that not everyone talks about or wants to think about. It is a topic...

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Lisa DeLong
Santa Clarita, CA |

Lisa DeLong is an advocate for a side of cancer that not everyone talks about or wants to think about. It is a topic close to her heart because she and her family experienced it and will live with it for the rest of their lives. It is grief, the loss of a loved one from cancer. In Lisa's family, they lost a child to leukemia, and have another son who is in remission from the same disease. During the time following the death of her son Justin, writing was therapeutic for her. So much so that she shared her own experiences by publishing her memoir, BLOOD Brothers. She also found a passion for helping children who had experienced the death of a loved one, so they are not going through it alone without talking about it. Lisa's three surviving children have taught her what grief is like for a child and how it can alter their lives. For these reasons, she co-founded a grief center called Justin Time Children's House. It is an art-based center where families can express their grief and find peer groups, homework help and a support community. Lisa is working hard to put a strong support network in place to catch those who remain after the illness.


Story submitted in 2014

Jennifer Schelling
Saugus, CA
Breast Cancer

Jennifer Schelling found inspiration in meeting survivors who were in a similar situation to hers. It made her feel like if they could do...

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Jennifer Schelling
Saugus, CA | Breast Cancer

Jennifer Schelling found inspiration in meeting survivors who were in a similar situation to hers. It made her feel like if they could do it, then so could she. And now, as an eight-year breast cancer survivor, Jennifer is an inspiration to others. She, along with her husband and 12-year-old daughter, walk in the Revlon 5K breast cancer walk each year, and are involved with Relay for Life and the Young Survivors Coalition's Tour De Pink 200-mile bike ride fundraiser. Participating in community events like these, and seeing hundreds of people rally around a cause like breast cancer, makes Jennifer feel lucky for the treatments and support she received. She believes that giving back after treatment is very important, and that survivors helping those who are newly diagnosed or in treatment is critical for giving hope.


Story submitted in 2014

Sharon Rude
Pismo Beach, CA
Ovarian Cancer

Sharon Rude's journey with ovarian cancer began when her sister Judy was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer with...

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Sharon Rude
Pismo Beach, CA | Ovarian Cancer

Sharon Rude's journey with ovarian cancer began when her sister Judy was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer with no history of ovarian cancer in their family before her diagnosis. Judy advised Sharon to get three specific tests and for eight years she was tested and found cancer free until one day in April of 2004 when Sharon's doctor diagnosed her with Stage I ovarian cancer. Sharon lost her sister to the disease but because of her sister's warnings, she's alive today to tell her story and fight for early detection. Sharon is dedicated to raising funds for the research needed to help with early detection of ovarian cancer through the organization she founded: the Sharon Leigh Cancer Foundation.


Story submitted in 2014

Ben Fowler
Monterey, CA
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

For Ben Fowler, one of the keys to coping with his Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis was talking. Sharing his experiences...

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Ben Fowler
Monterey, CA | Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

For Ben Fowler, one of the keys to coping with his Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis was talking. Sharing his experiences with people who were newly diagnosed or relapsed allowed - and still allows - him to deal with his illness in a healthy way, helping others. Online support groups like the Hodgkin's Disease Mail Group gave Ben a place to connect with people who knew exactly what he was going through, and now he's able to provide that same support to others. Yet it was his small hometown of Biggs, Calif. that still leaves him in amazement. The entire community held fundraising dinners and auctions that raised more than $8,000 to help pay for Ben's weekly travel costs to Stanford Hospital and other medical bills. This outpouring of support and generosity, along with the encouragement of his "Chemo Angels," and the friendship of his coworkers at the Monterey Police Department, constantly reminded Ben that he was never alone in his battle.


Story submitted in 2014

Josh Hoffman
San Jose, CA
Hodgkin Lymphoma

Cycling was the one activity that kept Josh Hoffman grounded during his journey through cancer treatment and recovery...

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Josh Hoffman
San Jose, CA | Hodgkin Lymphoma

Cycling was the one activity that kept Josh Hoffman grounded during his journey through cancer treatment and recovery. Diagnosed in May 2012 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and papillary thyroid cancer, Josh continued riding his bike. Those were the times that he didn't think about his cancer, but would just focus on the road ahead. Without cycling and the crucial support of his wife, Teri, and other family and friends, Josh says it would have been very easy to go to a very dark place emotionally during his treatment. But now, having completed his treatments, Josh is at a stage in his recovery where he is ready to help other cancer patients who are just starting out on their journey. He wants to help them see that a cancer diagnosis doesn't mean that life is over, and that attitude is everything when it comes to beating cancer.


Story submitted in 2014

Lorraine Poggione
Folsom, CA
Breast Cancer

Lorraine Poggione's late mother used to say, "Life isn't tidy," and Lorraine learned that lesson the hard way. Just two...

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Lorraine Poggione
Folsom, CA | Breast Cancer

Lorraine Poggione's late mother used to say, "Life isn't tidy," and Lorraine learned that lesson the hard way. Just two weeks shy of her 50th birthday, in November 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lorraine relied on memories of her mother's courage and strength to keep life in perspective as she persevered through months of treatment and surgeries. With friends, family and co-workers sitting by her side through endless hours of treatments, a compassionate boss who always made sure her health came before work, and continued unconditional love from her children and family, she stayed strong and kept smiling. Along with that support network came the encouraging words from hundreds of cards and letters sent by anonymous supporters. These simple acts of kindness inspired Lorraine to become involved with the "Girls Love Mail" program. Now Lorraine writes heartfelt notes and encouraging letters to women like her going through cancer treatments. Somehow, despite everything Lorraine and her family have gone through, she still considers herself blessed and lucky. She has a loving and compassionate boyfriend who has been her inspiration to ride bikes (even do Century rides) and a network of friends that are unstoppable with support. She's not letting cancer define who she is, but she is using her experience with cancer to become the person she wants to be - having fun, laughing, smiling and giving of herself to others.


Story submitted in 2014

Dina Howard
Sacramento, CA
Breast Cancer

Dina Howard is a breast cancer survivor. Dina had a large and loving network of family and friends that cared...

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Dina Howard
Sacramento, CA | Breast Cancer

Dina Howard is a breast cancer survivor. Dina had a large and loving network of family and friends that cared for her and her young children while she was undergoing treatment. That support system was invaluable in getting her through the fear, uncertainty, decision-making and emotions of cancer. She often talks to women who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, telling them helpful things that were shared with her when she was first diagnosed. First of all, she tells them that the time right after diagnosis is the worst and scariest, when you are full of fear, treatment and outcomes are mysterious unknowns, and life feels like it will never be okay again. But she reassures them that once they gain a better understanding of their cancer and put a treatment plan in place, the fear lessens. And while the treatment is not fun and it is daunting, it's doable if they just take it day by day. Most importantly, she tells these women that there is a wonderful, sweet life on the other side of cancer that is worth the fight.


Story submitted in 2014

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Each patient has his or her unique story, which we're happy to share here. Breakaway from Cancer® does not endorse or recommend the specific steps in the patient stories, and you should be sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to diet or lifestyle.