Survivors Express Thankfulness

Gregory Vellner

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Three cancer survivor give thanks -- everyday.Kevin Butz

APOLLO BEACH, FL - Giving thanks for the good in one’s life is customary at Thanksgiving, but an everyday attitude for the three people explored here in the fight to overcome illness and disability.

The dramatic clashes changed perspective and gave a fresh outlook.

It’s in this vibrant town in the Tamp Bay area known for its water activities that Erica faced cancer – and defeated it. Said she: “By the time I was 32, I was a three-time cancer survivor.”

During each encounter, Erica kept up her spirits. “I choose not to live a life of anxiety and fear,” she said, following her first battle and then after the second said, “I continued to live without fear and laugh as often as possible.” It has been a life lesson.

“Cancer has taught me so much – to live day-by-day, to choose not to live in fear, to cherish moments, to smile and laugh as often as possible and to use what I’ve been through to come alongside someone else going through a similar experience.”

Towanna, of Covington GA, adds a positive finish when telling you, “I have been in remission for 17 years – and counting.” She’s the woman who was awoken late one night “by the grace of God” to discover a lump that was lymphoma -- and the cause of an arduous healthcare combat. She was told she’d have no more children, but a few years later gave birth to a healthy “miracle baby.”

“I never questioned, ‘why me?’ I just knew I had to survive. My children needed me and I refused defeat,” she said. “This is not just a story, but a testimony. I want to give hope to others. Cancer doesn’t always end in death. My experience humbled me and I feel so blessed.”

Also feeling fortunate today is Edmund, a leukemia survivor from Las Vegas, NV, who was exposed to Agent Orange when in the U.S. Army in the early 1970s in Korea. The Veterans Administration later would identify an association between Agent Orange and hairy cell leukemia.

During chemotherapy treatment for the disease, Edmund who had no health insurance encountered the financial arm of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). “I was grateful then and now,” he said. And that introduction began a volunteer commitment with LLS.

His advice for patients is to “do what the doctors tell you to do, and keep your eyes and ears open to what other people tell you.” And his suggestion for everyone else?

“My attitude is that each day is precious,” he said. “Cherish the tithings given to you.”

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

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