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CDC’s Stories of Survivorship

Cancer has touched the lives of many CDC employees. Below, some of them share their stories and words of wisdom.

Marcella Law, breast cancer survivor

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Marcella Law
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 5 years ago. I’ve come to the realization that the pain and suffering that I’ve endured has become a catalyst to helping others who find themselves facing similar challenges. The greatest gift you can offer is love and compassion. The more I’m able to serve others, the better I feel.”

Angie Ryan, breast cancer survivor

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Angie Ryan
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) at age 52

“I once heard cancer can either make you bitter, or make you better. I decided my breast cancer experience would help me become a stronger, more self-reliant, confident woman with renewed optimism and appreciation of what's truly important in life. I'm called a survivor and I'm not really comfortable with that label. I prefer to think of myself as someone who was diagnosed early and who had the determination to overcome a difficult situation and carry on. And I hope to carry on for a long time to come.”

Eva De Vallescar, breast cancer survivor

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Eva De Vallescar
Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
Diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ at age 45

“I was in disbelief that this was happening to me. I read as much as I could, and entered a lot of forums of cancer patients. With my years of translating the cancer webpage to Spanish, I realized that I had the same questions that other cancer patients had. This made me feel part of a huge community.”

Jeff Glenn, testicular cancer and melanoma survivor

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Jeff Glenn
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 24 and melanoma at age 27

“I obviously would never have chosen to get cancer, and I hope and pray that I never have to go through it again. However, I can honestly say that in many ways my life is better now because of my cancer.”

Brenda Baker, breast cancer survivor

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Brenda Baker
National Center for Health Statistics
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40

“Carpe Diem!”

Marlana Wynn, caregiver to her mother

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Marlana Wynn
Influenza Division
Caregiver to her mother, Mary Alice Jenkins-Starling, who was diagnosed with hepatocarcinoma at age 51

“‘You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Alyson Goodman, melanoma survivor

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Alyson Goodman
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Diagnosed with melanoma at age 27

“Cancer stinks—but I’m so thankful that as a result of my experience I live my life with more purpose, broader perspective, and great joy!”

Darrlyn Cornelius-Averhart, caregiver to her mother

Photo of cake at celebration for Connie Cornelius's 10th year cancer-free

Darrlyn Cornelius-Averhart
Human Capital and Resources Management Office
Caregiver to her mother, Connie Cornelius, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45

“God is good and he will give you the strength and tools needed to survive… focus on life after!! Here we are 10 years later.”

Lois Foster, breast cancer survivor

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Lois Foster
Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections
Diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ at age 55

“Thank you Lord for the healing.”

Susan Anderson, caregiver to her brother

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Susan Anderson
Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
Susan was caregiver to her brother Stephen, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 61 and lived nearly 4.5 years after his diagnosis.

“I’ll share the advice Stephen shared with me on more than one occasion, especially in his last days. ‘On your tombstone you see the date of your birth, a dash, and the date of your death. The important part is the dash.’ When repeating his message to the over 400 lifetime friends and family who gathered for his memorial, I added that they were a testament to the dash in my brother’s life.”

Dorothy T. Browning, breast cancer survivor

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Dorothy T. Browning
Human Capital and Resources Management Office
Diagnosed with breast cancer, stage IIA

“Where there is Hope, There is Love, Where there is Love, There is Faith, Where there is Faith, There is God, Where there is God, There is no Need…”

Lisa Barrios, caregiver to her husband

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Lisa Barrios
Division of Adolescent and School Health
Caregiver to her husband, Arturo, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at his first routine colonoscopy at age 50, and passed away on April 28, 2006 after a 16-month battle

“Savor every day. Throughout my husband’s illness, even knowing the prognosis was not good, he continued to work as did I. If I could do it all over again, we would have found a way to savor every moment together. Even if it just meant sitting quietly, but together. One really good way to do this is to let people help you. Someone else can go to the store or fold the laundry or pick up the kids. Now that he’s gone, even though life is super busy, I try to remind myself every day to savor my time with my daughters.”

Peggie Francis, breast cancer survivor

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Peggie Francis
Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects
Diagnosed with stage II breast cancer (HER2 positive, Paget’s disease) at age 39


Barbara Boone, breast and ovarian cancer survivor and caregiver to her son

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Barbara Boone
Information Technology Services Office
Diagnosed with stage III bilateral breast cancer at age 35 and stage II ovarian cancer at age 40
Barbara was caregiver to her son Matthew, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 1.5 years and passed away after a 14-month battle.

“As my daughter said time and again: a boy who plays sports is strong, a boy who lifts weights is stronger, but a boy who can fight cancer with a smile is the strongest of all. Knowing how my young son fought without complaint kept me smiling; knowing that my daughter still needed me kept me strong. Knowing that I’ve survived for some reason keeps me involved and giving back to those who continue this fight. Surviving is what I do.”

Joan Phillips, breast cancer survivor

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Joan Phillips
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (retired)
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46

“‘I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.’ – Author unknown”

Mike Simonovich, caregiver to his wife

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Mike Simonovich
Office of the Chief Information Officer
Caregiver to his wife Michelle, who had breast cancer followed by ovarian cancer, and passed away while battling leukemia

“If we truly live every day, cancer never wins.”

Traci Ramirez and Sharon Ramirez, breast cancer survivor and her caregiver

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Traci Ramirez and Sharon Ramirez
National Center for Health Statistics
Traci Ramirez was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46; her sister Sharon Ramirez is her caregiver

Traci: “This too shall pass!”

Sharon: “I couldn’t imagine anyone having to go on this journey alone. From the day she was diagnosed, I promised her that I would be with her at every appointment, test, treatment, surgery; and I kept that promise. I sat with her through chemo; hiding my own fears so that she wouldn’t get scared, and when I cried, it was never in front of her. She deserved to have me with her—she’s my sister and all we have left is each other. When she decided to shave her head, I cried; she laughed. I did whatever it took to keep her safe during her recovery.”

Lynn Perkins, breast cancer survivor

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Lynn Perkins
Division of Emergency Operations
Diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ at age 48

“At my first visit with my oncologist, he said if I had come to him before seeing a surgeon I could have opted for some radiation and chemo and no mastectomy.”

Nick Farrell, caregiver to his daughter

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Nick Farrell
Division of Population Health
Caregiver to daughter Jordyn Farrell, diagnosed with germ cell/ovarian cancer at age 16

Jordyn: “For me, the best was yet to come! I am currently in London for a semester of study and surviving cancer gave me the confidence to be bold and do this.”

Linda Anderson, breast cancer survivor

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Linda Anderson
Office of the Chief Operating Officer
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 59

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago at age 59… had chemo and 33 treatments of radiation… retired from CDC in 2007 after 34 years… now work as a consultant/contractor 2 days per week… play on 2 tennis teams, eat 2 scoops of ice cream instead of 1, and fit as much into each day as possible!”

Faith Armstrong, intrahepatic bile duct cancer survivor

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Faith Armstrong
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies
Diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma (intrahepatic bile duct cancer) at age 56

“People with this type of cancer normally live 8 to 15 months. My 15 months was March 2, 2013. My cancer numbers are down to 36, which I understand is really a good number.

“I contribute my success to 5 factors: 1. God 2. My husband 3. My oncologist 4. Myself 5. The people who have donated time so I could recover and keep going.

“My best advice to others is this: ‘Keep calm and carry on.’”

Jill Glidewell, renal cell carcinoma survivor

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Jill Glidewell
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma at age 27

“‘Do not be afraid of tomorrow; for God is already there.’ – Author unknown”

Mandy Stahre, breast cancer survivor

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Mandy Stahre
Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31

“Someone once told me that having cancer is like joining a club, but with one hell of an initiation!”

Laura Zauderer-Baldwin, caregiver to her father

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Laura Zauderer-Baldwin
Division of Diabetes Translation
Caregiver to her father, who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia when Laura was 7 years old

“Appreciate one’s family, lock into memory those special times and capture words of love, wisdom, support, and guidance through the years as we never know what tomorrow will bring.”

Linda Mulvihill, breast cancer survivor

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Linda Mulvihill
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (retired)
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42

“If diagnosed with breast cancer, discuss all of your treatment options with your physician. Make a note of your options and do some reading and if possible, talk to others who have had a similar diagnosis about their treatment. Create a list of questions as you read and talk to others, and armed with information and questions; discuss treatment options again with your physicians. An informed treatment decision helps reduce stress because you will know what to expect along the way to recovery.”

Tanya Telfair LeBlanc, uterine cancer survivor

Photo of Tanya Telfair LeBlanc and her husband

Tanya Telfair LeBlanc
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Diagnosed with uterine cancer at age 56

“I want to share my story with you. On February 24, 2010, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I was devastated. I faced a pending divorce and a life-threatening illness at the same time! My doctor referred me to a gynecology cancer specialist who required me to schedule surgery immediately.

“There was one holdup. I am a Girl Scout leader and at the time, my girls were completing their Silver Award Project, a talent show to benefit HIV/AIDS prevention. My four ‘Juliettes’ had worked for over a year organizing a talent show, advertising, recruiting participants and judges—with the show set to go forward on Saturday March 6, 2010. I asked the doctor to schedule my surgery after the talent show! The talent show was a huge success and on Monday morning March 8, I was admitted to the hospital for surgery.

“I began to adjust to being a single mother of a 15-year-old daughter and managing follow-up doctor visits and tests. A little over a year later, a miracle occurred, something I would have never dreamed possible. With the help of social media, I reconnected with my high school sweetheart, a young man with whom I attended the junior prom. He was also divorced. We began a long-distance relationship in October of 2011. At Christmas, he proposed! We were married January 12, 2012. Later that year, he was able to transfer to the Atlanta area. There is hope after the darkest days.”

Amy Stewart, breast cancer survivor and caregiver to her mother and son

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Amy Stewart
Division of State and Local Readiness
Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 52; her mother was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia at age 62; and her son Kyle was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at age 29

“When you hear the words, the ‘big C’—don’t immediately think it is the end of the world. There’ve been great advances in the treatment of cancer, that we are fortunate to have so many survivors! With the advances in diagnosis and treatment, Amy and Kyle are cancer-free now.”

Marilyn Ridenour, breast cancer survivor

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Marilyn Ridenour
Division of Safety Research
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 48

“Fight today so women will not have to fight in the future.”

Valerie Rock, leukemia survivor

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Valerie Rock
Office on Smoking and Health
Diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia at age 25

“My cancer diagnosis was not a death sentence; it was a wakeup call. It forced me to reflect on my past, to evaluate the present, and to dream about the future. Although I tend to have a mild dose of worry about living with this chronic disease, I find that my faith, courage, and determination to live a full and happy life are chronic as well. Please do not allow cancer to cloud your vision of the future. There is a life with and after cancer that is within your reach. So, grab it and do not let go!”

Julie Locklear, breast cancer survivor

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Julie Locklear
Immunization Services Division
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43

“NEVER give up! This past year was the most trying year in my life, there were times I thought I had no strength left to fight the fight. After being diagnosed with breast cancer at 43 and having a double mastectomy, I had an allergic reaction to chemo and eventually a life-threatening perforated intestine which required emergency surgery. So many setbacks weighed on me both physically and emotionally; however, my faith, family, friends, and amazing CDC family were always there cheering me on. There was no way that I could let them down… so I dug a little deeper… and it always got better. Now, I am proud to say, I AM A SURVIVOR!”

Elizabeth Rohan, caregiver to her husband

Photo of Elizabeth Rohan, Stephen Shanahan, and their children

Elizabeth Rohan
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Caregiver to her husband Stephen, diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 45

“Having worked all of my life in cancer (and given his excellent prognosis), I was emotionally prepared to be my husband’s caregiver when he had his radical prostatectomy, but not physically prepared. I had totally underestimated how much help he would need immediately post-operatively. Thank goodness for close friends and family to help care for not only our children but also for both of us!”

Monet Smith, breast cancer survivor

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Monet Smith
Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40

“I am a breast cancer survivor because of God’s grace and mercy.”