10 Unlikely Cancer Survivors

What is it really like to have cancer? These inspirational stories of survivors & support groups are truly inspiring. Our number 7 cancer survivor story is unreal!

10: Yang Jianbin

Weighing 238 pounds, the tumor on Yang Jianbin’s leg was one of the largest in the world. The 37-year old Chinese native underwent a 16-hour surgery to have it removed in 2014 & to the amazement of many, he survived. Yang had been suffering from a condition known as neurofibromatosis, a disease that accelerates the growth of cell tissues. According to Daily Mail, he had a dark birthmark on his leg when he was born, which continued to grow as he aged. Although it was removed surgically when he was 12, it started growing again to its enormous size. Eventually, Yang could only lie in bed or sit around as the tumor prevented him from having a normal life. His 2014 operation required 5,000 milliliters of blood to keep him alive, which is more than the human body can normally contain. He made a full recovery & now manages to live a normal life.

9: Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States. Since leaving office in 1981, he’s worked around the world to advance human rights through the Carter Center, which was set up in 1982. Carter was still active in a number of humanitarian campaigns when he was diagnosed with melanoma in August of 2015 at 90 years old. Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer in the world, and the cancer quickly spread to both his brain & liver. President Carter’s family has a long history of cancer, affecting his parents & siblings. This, along with his age & the spread of the cancer, made chances of a full recovery seem very slim. But after undergoing radiation therapy, however, the former president announced that he was cancer free in December of 2015. Part of his treatment was a drug known as Pembrolizumab, which is a recently developed drug used to treat melanoma that doctors are hoping will cure other forms of cancer as well. Since his recovery, the former president continues to actively participate in his foundation & still even manages to teach Sunday school most Sunday mornings.

8: Debbie Ryan

Debbie Ryan served as the head coach for the University of Virginia women’s basketball team from 1977 till 2011. She won over 700 games over 34 seasons as well as three ACC tournaments, 11 ACC regular season titles, & three Final Four appearances. But she accomplished all this despite being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2000. Pancreatic cancer claims over 30,000 lives per year with only a 6% survival rate. Debbie Ryan was miraculously in that 6%. The hall of fame coach claims that her survival surprised all her doctors & that the cancer just disappeared, to both her & her doctors’ amazement. Now retired, the former coach dedicates much of her time raising money to help fight & treat pancreatic cancer.

7: Gurmeet Singh

An Indian man named Gurmeet Singh was bedbound for four years due to what is believed to be the world’s largest tumor. The malignant tumor located on his back weighed more than 240 pounds, which was considerably heavier than the rest of his body. This was due to being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. After years of seeking treatment & failing to receive proper care, Gurmeet’s tumor grew to massive proportions. It was incapacitating to the point where all he could do was lie in bed. He could neither roll over on his own nor get up to do anything for himself. But the 26-year old successfully underwent surgery in 2015 to have the massive tumor removed, losing his right leg & part of his pelvic bone in the process. He can now walk again with the help of a walker. Doctors were, in fact, amazed that he survived, calling it nothing short of a miracle. His malignant tumor lasted for a total of eight years & is the largest tumor ever recorded in the history of medical science.

6: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Six years after she was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1999, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer. Nevertheless, she did not miss a single day on the bench despite undergoing radiation treatment & chemotherapy. The iconic justice survived the ordeal & as a result, undergoes a yearly CAT scan. That proved to be an to her advantage later on. Fast forward 10 years & Justice Ginsburg is again diagnosed with cancer in 2009 during one of these scans. The tumor was small when it was discovered. But since it was caught so early on, it was able to be surgically removed & she recovered soon after. As we’ve already discussed, patients with pancreatic cancer only have a 6% survival rate, with most deaths occurring within a year of being diagnosed. The main reason that doctors have such a difficult time spotting it is due to the fact that symptoms often go unnoticed as the cancer spreads to vital organs within the stomach. While doctors have made small advances in treating the disease in recent years, the majority of patients are not as fortunate as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

5: John Wayne

For much of the 20th century, John Wayne was one of the most iconic actors in America. Known for his gritty western & war characters, John Wayne was featured in nearly 150 films during his career, including Stagecoach, Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, & The Sands of Iwo Jima. But he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964, which he did manage to survive. Known for his chain smoking tendencies & heavy drinking habits, Wayne initially kept news of his cancer a secret. He then underwent surgery to get his entire left lung removed as well as four of his ribs, after which he was declared cancer free in 1969. That same year, he earned his first ever Academy Award for the film True Grit after more than 40 years in the industry. But despite surviving lung cancer, John Wayne passed away on June 11th, 1979 due to stomach cancer. His family went on to create the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in 1985 to help continue the fight against cancer.

4: Kris Carr

Kris Carr is a successful writer, actress, photographer, & filmmaker, best known for her Crazy Sexy book series. This includes the popular documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer based off her diagnosis with a rare form of cancer in 2003. It was during this time in her career that she was well known for starring in a number of Bud Light commercials. The rare cancer form found inside of her was epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, otherwise known as EHE. It’s a cancer that affects the liver & lungs. Only about 200 people are diagnosed with it in the United States every year & the cause remains unknown. Crazy Sexy Cancer was well received at the 2007 South by Southwest film festival. The film chronicles the young writer’s struggles with her cancer diagnosis as well as her recovery efforts, which include alternative methods & spiritual healing. Through her film & subsequent books Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips and Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor, Carr has been credited with creating an entire community for women diagnosed with cancer.

3: Wendy

Wendy was a well-liked political science professor at the University of Minnesota when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She took an unusual approach to treatment, opting to exercise before & after her chemotherapy sessions. She did this based on relatively new & little known research suggesting that exercise was better than rest after chemotherapy. Because the method worked so well for her, Wendy started a nonprofit organization, website, & gym that helps people use exercise to recover after their treatments. According to the website “The Greatist” Wendy has become an expert on exercise therapy as a way to recover from cancer by amassing large quantities of research on the subject.

2: Tom Green

Tom Green is a comedian & actor best known for as host of the MTV program The Tom Green Show and films such as Road Trip and Freddy Got Fingered. Generally regarded as a juvenile comedian, Green surprised many with his MTV documentary The Tom Green Cancer Special where he documented his diagnosis, surgery, & successful recovery from testicular cancer. The comedian went on to form the Tom Green’s Nuts Cancer Fund, which raises money for cancer research. He has also performed in front of college students to help raise awareness of testicular cancer through his comedic song, “Feel your Balls.” After his recovery, he went on to write, direct, & star in the 2001 film Freddy got Fingered. He has also been involved in a number of comedic ventures, often jokingly referencing his one remaining testicle; the other of which was removed during his cancer treatment.

1: Ainsley Peters & Friends

It was a viral photo that touched the hearts of millions. 6-year-old Ainsley Peters, 8-year-old Rheann Franklin, & 5-year-old Rylie Hughey had all been diagnosed with cancer when they posed for the famous picture in 2014. According to a story from today.com, the three girls met two years later to recapture the photo when they were all either cancer free, or in remission. Rheann was diagnosed with sarcoma of the brain when she was just four years old. She underwent many rounds of chemotherapy but relapsed in 2013. Her parents were told they should start making funeral arrangements as they did not expect her to survive another year. Little Rheann powered through another round of treatments, however, & by late 2014, she was in remission. Ainsley was diagnosed with Leukemia in August, 2013. The young girl spent 10 days in a medically-induced coma but ultimately survived the ordeal. While she is cancer free, she’s still continually monitored through blood work. According to the story, Rylie is continuing her path to recovery with regular scans every three months as she slowly regains her strength. Other than that, her parents say she enjoys normal activities such as tee ball & gymnastics.


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