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  • Writer's pictureSusan Strong

The Importance of Hope

I heard a tapping on the door of my hospital room. I was 17 and had just graduated from high school, recently blindsided by a diagnosis of a blood cancer I’d never even heard of. My mind raced with thoughts about the future. Would I even have a future?

“Knock, knock?” called an unfamiliar voice, and into my room walked a young woman in her twenties, with shoulder-length brunette hair and smiling brown eyes. “Hi, Susan. I’m Mary. My mom is the librarian at Emerson Jr. High. Mom asked me to stop by for a visit.”

I’d never met Mary, and I hadn’t seen her mom for a few years, but Mrs. Woods knew I needed to hear Mary’s story. Seven years earlier, Mary had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, like me, while she was still in high school. And now Mary, a college graduate, had just started her first job as a teacher, like her mom. We talked for a while, and Mary left when a tech came in to wheel me off to radiology for a test.

Hope is one of the greatest gifts we can receive, and sometimes that gift comes from a complete stranger…

I never saw Mary again. But I’ll never forget that day or the gift of hope she gave me. Because of Mary, I gave myself permission to plan for my future and to dream. And now, thirty-seven years later, I’m 55 years old. I’ve had a career in teaching myself, and I’ve spent many summers traveling all over the world and checking off places on my bucket list – from Australia to Greece, to New Zealand. I’ve done a lot of living since my cancer diagnosis, but on occasion, those familiar fears creep into my thoughts and cast their shadows of doubt.

Sometimes, we need a booster shot of hope. I received one from a woman I met at a conference sponsored by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship in Washington, D.C. Susie Leigh's story was so much like my own...

Click on the photo below to read the full article and to watch my three minute video interview with

Cancer can be a gift, a teacher, a thief. It really is whatever you decide. As the author of your life, you are empowered to make that call. Cancer doesn't get to choose.


1 Comment

Jeannie Stebenne
Jeannie Stebenne
Dec 26, 2020

It is encouraging to know someone else had chest radiation 30 yrs ago and now has heart disease . I had lung cancer in 1988. I am short of breath & tire easily just thought I was getting old. Glad to know others have heart complications & survived & are thriving.

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