Inspiring Cancer Survivors


Esophageal Cancer SurvivorDonald Cancer Survivor

I was in the hospital for almost a month after surgery to remove most of my esophagus. I had very good care and couldn’t have asked for a better team. Anything I needed, any question I had, Dr. Franko and his nurse were there to help. They got me through it all. When he told me I was all done with my follow-up appointments, I said, “I’m going to miss you!”

I can eat anything now – just about a fourth as much at a time as I used to, so I eat about five small meals a day. I walk a mile almost every morning, and in the summer, I’m out in the garden. Every year I put up about 150 quarts of produce—tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa. Nothing beats fresh stuff right out of the garden.

My advice to other cancer patients is to follow your doctor’s directions. If Dr. Franko told me to do something, I did it. If he told me not to, I tried not to! Don’t hesitate to ask questions, have faith in your doctor, and know you’re in good hands at Mercy Cancer Center.


Two-time Breast Cancer SurvivorChristina

My diagnosis at 30 was a huge shock.  Then, at my two-year follow-up, I learned I had cancer a second time. I had surgery, chemo, radiation and reconstruction. I can’t say enough positive things about the Mercy Cancer Center staff.  I always tried to stay positive, and they really helped me do it.

I’m feeling a lot better now. I work out, and in January 2017 I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Dr. Deming and Above + Beyond Cancer! It was a beautiful and challenging experience that reminded me so much of fighting this disease. Most days I didn’t know what the path would be like, and there were unexpected developments that sometimes made it hard to stay strong, but we kept pushing forward to reach the summit.  I came home physically and mentally stronger than I have ever been.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve met amazing people I might not otherwise have known: all the professionals who have guided me physically and mentally through this process, and the many friends I’ve made who are cancer fighters, like me.  I’m so grateful for every one of them.

My best advice is to try your hardest to live your life fully now. Try not to say, I’ll do it someday. Do it now.



Ovarian Cancer Survivor

I was 72 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. People at the Mercy Cancer Center were so kind and took such great care of me.  Dr. Christie and Kelsey told me everything and kept everything upbeat. When I came for appointments I would get hugs—I wouldn’t settle for high-fives. I just love my doctor.

When I was in the hospital, my husband and I would go for walks. My big goal was always to make it as far as the pictures of other cancer patients. I got a little bit of power from looking at them.  I hope my story can do that for someone else.

During chemo, I was in bed for a long time. My daughter would come over after work and make potato soup for me, because that was one of the few things I could eat. I would have maybe a fourth of a cup.  I still love potato soup—and now I can eat a whole bowl or two!


Breast Cancer SurvivorPeggy

I had a mammogram every year, but I was Stage IV when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. I had chemo, surgery, more chemo, then radiation. I have my energy back after treatment and I feel really good now. People who see me are just amazed. A lot of it is my attitude—positive. I have to be—there’s no other way.

I cannot thank everyone at Mercy enough. They’re all so kind. Everyone has been behind me 100%. I had a physical therapist who was just an angel.  Despite my lymphedema, I have perfect function in my arm now, thanks to her. When I see my oncologist’s nurse, we always hug, and laugh, and talk about our families. I like to pop in and say “hi” to my girls who gave me chemo, too.

Since going through treatment, I have spoken to a couple of women’s groups. Both of them gave me speaking fees, which I didn’t expect. So I used the money to buy materials for six fleece blankets, which I donated to the oncology department to give to other breast cancer patients. Those chemo rooms can be cold!



Cervical cancer survivorStefanie

I am living proof that if they say there’s a chance, there is one. I was 28 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage IV cervical cancer. My doctors told me I had a 10 to 15 percent chance of remission. I’ve had radiation, chemo, several surgeries and a few complications along the way—and thanks to all the amazing people at Mercy Cancer Center, I’m in remission and feeling really good. My husband and I are training for our first RAGBRAI. Trust your doctors and don’t give up!

My Mercy team was wonderful—the personal care and kindness from all of my doctors made a huge difference in my recovery. Every single person treated me as if if I were a member of their own family. When I was in the hospital, they made a point of coming to see me in person, even if it was 9:00 at night, so we could talk face to face.  I felt so comfortable with them that I could share any little development and be confident they’d take it seriously. They gave me hugs, shared their tears and even their prayers, and just never stopped fighting for me. One of my doctors even called my mom to check in and make sure she was doing all right.

I was in the hospital for about 10 days when I was first diagnosed. My family and I loved the survivor pictures. There was one of a woman in her 30s or 40s who had had ovarian cancer. Every time I looked at that picture, it gave me hope. I thought, “She survived incredible odds—I can too.” You get a lot of words of encouragement from your family and friends, but it’s so meaningful to get them from someone who’s actually been there.  I really hope my experience can do that for someone else.

I still get very apprehensive before scans, and I admit I have a few sleepless nights, but I also wouldn’t trade my cancer experience even if I could. It has made me a better person, with stronger faith. My relationships with my family and my husband have deepened 1000%. I have even found a new career path—I’m changing my college major to kinesiology, with a goal of getting medical certification and helping people recover from health challenges. I honestly feel very blessed.

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