Cancer Patient Stories

Stories of hope and healing from the Knight Cancer Institute

Cancer is a life-altering diagnosis. But it’s usually written about in a cold, impersonal way. To restore the balance, we've collected some stories about our patients. From the first diagnosis to the last round of treatment, they show us what cancer feels like from the inside. They told their stories in the hope of helping other patients and families at any stage of illness. We are honored to share these snapshots of real people contending with the real challenges of cancer. If you have a story to share, please get in touch with us at .


Pay it forward

Elissa Baldwin was on a dream trip to Portugal when she got the news. Her doctors told her she had acute myeloid leukemia. She needed to come back at once. The next six months were a blur. After five rounds of intensive treatment, she staged a remarkable recovery. But that’s not the end of the story — it’s the beginning.

cancer survival story Elissa Baldwin

Clinical trials

cancer survival story Brian Matekovich

‘I can walk again’

A tumor the size of a cabbage was destroying his knee. Then Brian Matekovich heard about a new type of therapy.

Early detection

Cancer survivor stories Leola Kalamau

A van and a mammogram

The exam took Leola Kalamau 15 minutes. It may have saved her life.

Targeted therapy

Cancer survival story Hai Pham

‘I wanted to give back’

Hai Pham thought his weight loss was due to stress. Until he got a bruise that wouldn’t heal.

Targeted therapy

Cancer survival story Judy Orem

Out of options — until she tried Gleevec

Judy Orem was desperate. Chemo wasn’t working any more. Then she found a ray of hope.

Breast cancer

cancer survival story Brenna Lindsley

‘But I eat blueberries… I can’t have cancer’

Strong. Independent. Could Brenna Lindsley stay that way despite a terrifying diagnosis?

Bone marrow transplant

Cancer survival story Matt McCallum

‘I would understand if you walked away’

Distance runner Matt McCallum and his wife Gabi Duarte had just gotten engaged. Were they ready to face this together?

Colon cancer

Cancer survival story Matt Moore

Stage IV cancer, and about to become a dad

Matt Moore was inspired by the kindness people showed when he was diagnosed with cancer. He was determined to pass it on.

Bile duct cancer

Cancer survival story Lynn Story

Rare tumor, remarkable person

The surgeons could take out her cancer. But how would they stitch her back together?

Breast cancer

Cancer survival story Celeste and Zabrina Saenz

An all-woman breast cancer team? Yes!

Celeste Saenz drove 2,000 miles to get treatment at the Knight Cancer Institute. It was worth it.

Bone marrow transplant

Lila Newman Knight Cancer Institute patient stories

A perfect match

Cancer pushed Lila Newman to the edge of survival. Then a police officer from New York City threw out a lifeline.

New therapy

Cancer survival story Jerry Widawski

Surgery was out of the question. Or was it?

The cancer was destroying his liver. Jerry Widawski had a decision to make.

Breast cancer

Cancer survival story Liberty Barnes

Three dots mark the spot

When Liberty Barnes told her kids she had cancer, her son cried out, “But you’re my mom!

New therapy

Cancer survival story Diana Dowd

In it for the long haul

Diana Dowd joined a clinical trial to test a new therapy for a rare cancer. She helped change the way the condition is treated.

Breast cancer

cancer survival story Jennifer Severance

Welcome to the whirlwind

As a single mom, facing the most aggressive type of breast cancer, Jennifer Severance needed a plan. And she needed a team.


Cancer survival story Shane Mason

Hug the ones you love

Shanie Mason had stage IV cancer. Would a clinical trial help her?

Prostate cancer

Cancer survival story David Seidl

Make the most of your time

It was an experimental treatment. David Seidl didn’t hesitate.

New therapy

Cancer survival story Lisa Wooden

Bravery and a backpack

Lisa Wooden got a new type of therapy for her stage IV cancer. Yes, she carries it in a backpack.

Early detection

Cancer survival story Tami Beaty

She crossed her arms and felt a lump

Catching cancer early made all the difference for Tami Beaty.

Clinical trials

cancer survival story Susan Brock

Weathering the storm

How do you survive cancer in the face of a pandemic? Susan Brock focused on getting three things done every day.

Whipple Surgery

Anne Matson cancer survival story

New hope for pancreatic cancer

Whipple surgery gives pancreatic cancer survivor Anne Matsen precious time to spend with her grandchildren.

Breast cancer

Cancer survival story Emily Hauser

Surviving cancer — twice

Emily Hauser’s journey began when her daughter bumped against her chest. She felt a strange pain.