Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds – Attributes of Survivors Who Became Thrivers

by Tami Boehmer, Guest Blogger
Learn how to win a copy of Tami's book at the end of this blog post.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39 in 2002 after finding a lump during a breast self-exam. There was no history of breast cancer in my family, so I was shocked, to say the least. Two weeks later my father died. My daughter was three, and my husband and I had been married less than five years. It was a devastating time, but I was heartened when my doctor told me I had no lymph node involvement and my prognosis was excellent.

After five years, chances are slim cancer will return. But again, I learned you can’t pay attention to statistics. In February 2008, I found a lump in my armpit, and after a series of scans, I learned it had returned as stage IV cancer. I went to a world-renowned cancer hospital only to be told I would certainly die from breast cancer. Luckily I turned it into a challenge to prove the doctor wrong.

I spent my career in healthcare public relations, and always loved writing patient success stories. I already knew my friend Buzz Sheffield, who was told five years earlier he had months to live. (Today, eight years later, he is alive and well.) I also read Bernie Siegel’s wonderful book, Love, Medicine and Miracles, which talked about Exceptional Cancer Patients and how the worst thing doctors can do is to give death sentences.

So I started my search for more incredible people who beat the odds of terminal cancer for my book, From Incurable to Incredible. I was searching for answers. It was an extremely personal journey. As someone facing a Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis, you could say my life depended on it.

My biggest question was: What sets people apart who beat the odds of a terminal or incurable prognosis? As I was putting the 27 stories together, I noticed many similarities among survivors nationwide who shared their stories. Rather than passively accepting their circumstances; they decided to transform them by:

• Refusing to buy into statistics and the death sentences many of them were given.

• Never giving up, no matter what. They may have had down times, but were able to pull themselves together and do what they needed to do.

• Relying on support from family, loved ones, or support groups. These connections gave them a reason to carry on.

• Choosing to look on the bright side and see the gifts cancer brings.

• Giving back and making a difference in other people’s lives, whether it was fundraising, lobbying, or supporting other survivors.

• Having a strong sense of faith. Even if they didn’t believe in God, they believed in something larger than themselves.

• Being proactive participants in their health care.

• Viewing their lives as transformed by their experience.

I continue to share stories of amazing cancer survivors on my blog,, and continue to see these common threads. But I’ve found there are people in the cancer community who are offended by these observations. “Are you saying that people who didn’t make it weren’t positive enough?” Absolutely not! Cancer is complex, and I do know people who possess all of these qualities and still succumb to this awful disease … two of them whose stories are in my book. There are no absolutes or guarantees. In the midst of dismal statistics for people with late stage cancer, my purpose is to help show there are possibilities. There is always hope, and there are ways to live life to the fullest … with purpose and joy. As Deb Violette, a lung cancer survivor and advocate featured in my book shared, “This little voice in my head said, 'Why are you focusing on the 90 percent of people who didn’t make it; why don’t you focus on the 10 percent who do?'" She was diagnosed in 1998 and is very alive and well today.

No one should put a period where there should be a question mark.

Tami Boehmer is a speaker and an award-winning blogger and author. From Incurable to Incredible is available on and and via Tami’s blog,

If you are interested in reading the inspirational true health stories of cancer survivors who beat the odds, you can purchase the book from Amazon by clicking in the box below. Win a FREE copy of the book by visiting the Lots To Live For, Inc. facebook page by 10/7/12 by clicking here.  - To enter the raffle to win a free book "like" the page and "like" the blog post. Comment if you feel inspired.

To learn about and purchase products that can help reduce and relive the unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects of chemotherapy and radiation visit You will find solutions for: radiation burns, radiation dermatitis, dry mouth, mouth sores, nausea, sensitive and compromised skin, hair loss, and more.