Before the 1980’s the definition of a “cancer survivor” was someone who had shown no evidence of cancer for five years. But groups like the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) recognized the need “for language that truly told the story of life after a cancer diagnosis.” After all, life does not end at diagnosis and stories about the challenges that those with a history of cancer face need to be told.

Thankfully, with time and recognition, a new cancer survivor definition has emerged. According to the NCCS, a cancer survivor is anyone on the cancer continuum: Those “living with, through, and beyond a cancer diagnosis.”

With National Cancer Survivor’s Day a little less than a month away, we thought we’d celebrate cancer survivors who are doing great work sharing their stories and staying true to the goal the NCCS made so long ago. These individuals are truly survivors – serving as inspiration and support for everyone with or without a diagnosis.


Elizabeth O’Riordan

Type of Cancer: Breast Cancer

Follow on: Twitter


Cyclist, triathlete, baker, writer, TED Talker, surgeon and breast cancer survivor, Liz O’Riordan has a unique story to tell. She’s been both a doctor and a patient in her own specialty. She’s using her experience to help patients cope with cancer and offers physicians greater perspective into the patient experience:

“I guess what I’m saying is that it’s OK to question your doctor, and ask them, in frank terms, what the real benefits of all the treatments are. As a doctor I routinely prescribe what the evidence tells me to, and I have the statistics to show that for the majority of women these treatments work. But doctors aren’t the ones who have to take the tablets, and doctors don’t have to live with the side effects of those tablets. “


Linnea Olson

Type of Cancer: Lung Cancer

Follow on: Twitter 


It has been 12 years since Linnea Olson was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was never a smoker, so when she started experiencing coughing and shortness of breath, lung cancer was the last thing on her mind. After diagnosis, she learned that the 5 year survival rate for her cancer was a mere 15%. Linea had very little hope until she was given another chance at life through a clinical trial. She’s been documenting the process ever since.

In a video about the experience, Linnea remembers: “I had my first scan 7 weeks after trial, for the first time, I wasn’t nervous. I felt so good I knew it was going to be a good [outcome]. It was unbelievable. … it was an almost total response. Not what anybody expected.”


Sean Swarner

Type of Cancer: Hodgkin’s Disease and Askin’s sarcoma

Follow on: Twitter & Instagram


He was given 3 months to live at just 13 years old, but somehow Sean Swarner managed to defy all odds. Sean has become the longest living survivor of Askin’s sarcoma and he’s working hard to spread his mission of hope to others who have been given an impossible diagnosis. Since his first fatal diagnosis, Sean has been setting and meeting other “impossible” goals. He was the first cancer survivor to stand on top of Mt. Everest and recently he brought a flag of hope to the North Pole.

Sean says, “As long as there are cancer patients out there and people dying from this disease I’m going to continue doing what I can to inspire them.”

[tweet_box design=”default”]These 7 individuals are truly cancer survivors – serving as inspiration for everyone with or without a diagnosis.[/tweet_box]

Amanda Ramirez

Type of Cancer: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Follow on: Instagram & Twitter


Amanda was diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma in 2016 and she’s been fighting cancer with beauty ever since. She shares her love of make-up, fashion, and culture while documenting her cancer journey on Instagram. She’s sending a powerful message:

“I don’t have a flawless complexion, I have hella blemishes on my face, my teeth are yellow, I’m fat, however, none of these things make me less beautiful. None of your flaws take away from your beauty.”


Janet Freeman-Daily

Type of Cancer: Lung Cancer

Follow on: Twitter


While breast and prostate cancers are more common, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011, Janet Freeman-Daily has been working hard to change the way we see and think about this type of cancer.

She says, “Lung cancer has an image problem.  The first question I hear when I mention my disease is: ‘Did you smoke?’ People blame patients for getting lung cancer. The breast cancer community has changed how the world sees their disease. The lung cancer community must do the same.  We’ve all done things that impact our health.  Yes, it’s healthier not to smoke.  But it’s not a sin that warrants the death penalty.”


Ann Silberman

Type of Cancer: Stage IV Breast Cancer

Follow on: Facebook & Twitter


Diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2009 and metastatic cancer in 2011, Ann Silberman chronicles her experiences in her humorous blog, Breast Cancer? But Doctor….I hate pink! She covers everything about her breast cancer journey including experiences with mastectomy, chemotherapy, reconstructive surgeries, and what it’s like to live with a terminal disease.

She says cancer survivorship is about living in the moment. “I take the time to see everything now that I didn’t before. Just the beauty of the trees turning, birds, nature, my son’s smile, how beautiful he is, you know? My husband’s smile. I mean, I just take a lot of time to notice those things, and that is the trick to surviving this diagnosis. Living in the moment.”


Jessica Oldwyn

Type of Cancer: Diffuse Astrocytoma

Follow on: Instagram


First diagnosed in 2010, Jessica Oldwyn is an outspoken patient advocate living (and thriving) with terminal brain cancer. She says, “Attitude is half the battle. You don’t have to be happy all the time, but determination and humor will carry through even the hardest of times.”


Did we miss a cancer survivor who inspires you? Leave their name in the comments below.