World Cancer Day in the Eyes of Cancer Survivors

Awareness // February 3, 2017

Tomorrow, February 4th, the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center is participating in World Cancer Day. In addition to continuing our ongoing efforts to inform people about the dangers of asbestos and the severe effects it can cause through mesothelioma and related diseases, we are joining our voice with those around the world who are fighting cancer in all its forms and bringing awareness about the various types of cancer that exist.

As part of our World Cancer Day efforts, we reached out to several cancer survivors to ask how cancer affected them and what World Cancer Day means in their views.

Benny Martinez – 12-year-old with Medulloblastoma


First, cancer causes me a lot of pain – every day. It also makes me feel limited. Instead of going to school and doing stuff with my friends, I have to go get chemo or stay home and lay in bed all day.

World Cancer Day makes me really grateful and really happy to see that people care about what I’m going through and finding a cure.

Benny is an ambassador for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that funds research for childhood cancers. You can read more of Benny’s story here.

Geoff Fox – Meteorologist with Pancreatic Cancer

Southern California

I was having indigestion problems this past summer so, I saw my primary care physician. During routine tests a mass was seen at the head on my pancreas. A first biopsy found nothing, but my oncologist wasn’t sure. The second one found pancreatic cancer. It was ‘well contained’ within the mass. I was a candidate for Whipple surgery, which was performed by a two-surgeon team and took around five hours. They removed stuff and re-plumbed my digestive system.​

My surgeon and oncologist both feel because of my early detection (extremely rare in “pancan”), very successful surgery (I healed very quickly), and ability to tolerate chemo, I should live a long life. They both think I’ll live to see the cure and might not even need it!

I am cancer free!​ Except I’m not. I’m doing chemo then radiation then more chemo. I’ll be poked and prodded and scanned and drained and tested for the rest of my life. I have a catheter port in my chest. It’s Geoff in the new resealable package!

​I’ve placed a lot of faith in my doctors. This is a different level of attention in medical care. You have become a life-and-death matter to them. They are much more proactive. You’re not asked, but instructed.

I went into the hospital feeling absolutely great. No pain. Even my stomach distress which brought this all on was missing. I knew the Whipple would be like being invited to referee a Hell’s Angels knife fight. You’re gonna get cut. You’re gonna get hurt.

I was right. Worth it – no question.​

Have you been diagnosed with mesothelioma? Find help >

Elois Shackleford – Liver Cancer Survivor


It has made me focus my faith. You never need a scripture until you need a good scripture. Everything you’ve learned in your spiritual journey you began to apply with laser like focus. I’ve seen marriages destroyed because one partner was an emotional mess while the person who is actually walking it out is trying to maintain focus.

I am living four years past my doctor’s suggested expiration date. And I feel good most days, and other days I fight like hell to maintain quality of life. I’ve learned to ask God for the Best Quality of Life I can have. That is sufficient.

Jessica Steinberg – Mother with Lung Cancer

Portland, Oregon

In 2011, I was 39 years old, healthy and a never-smoker. I was a newly single mom of two young boys. After a chest x-ray for an unrelated injury, I was shocked to be diagnosed with lung cancer.

I was instantly ready to fight! I was determined to survive for my boys. I powered through chemotherapy and radiation, trying to find some joy and humor in each day.

Despite the treatment, the cancer progressed to stage four. My doctor advised me to “put my affairs in order,” but I refused. I chose hope.

After exhausting the standard treatment options, I had my first breakthrough moment. Testing identified a specific gene mutation that was driving the growth of my cancer. My second breakthrough came with the discovery of a clinical trial for an investigational targeted therapy. I enrolled in the trial and, months later, had my ultimate cancer breakthrough moment – my scans showed no measurable disease! I felt like I had experienced a miracle!

Today, six years later, my scans are still clear. I feel blessed to be alive and with my boys as they grow – and I still always choose hope. I’m proud to be working as an advocate with Be the Breakthrough, a collaboration between Stand Up To Cancer and Genentech that encourages people to play a part in breakthroughs that will take us closer to defeating cancer.

On World Cancer Day, I encourage YOU to Be the Breakthrough. Make that appointment to get screened. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, talk to your doctor about clinical trial options. Get involved in your local community – join that awareness walk or volunteer at your neighborhood hospital. Even the smallest of actions can be the biggest of breakthroughs. Join me – and Be the Breakthrough.

Share Your Story on World Cancer Day

Whether you are a cancer patient or survivor, have been a caregiver, or known someone who has been affected by cancer, you can share your story on World Cancer Day. Send us a tweet or comment on our Facebook page to share what World Cancer Day means to you!