Survivor Story

Finding Joy, Giving Hope…

Kay Yow said, “We have little or no control over what happens to us in life, but we have 100% control over how we will respond.” Kay Yow didn’t just say this, she lived it.

DeAlva Carraway lives it too.

DeAlva is now six and a half years post-cancer. She talks about her journey and the decisions made along the way, emphasizing the need to control the “controllables” – which, in the fight against cancer, are few and far between – except for attitude. Attitude is always up to us.

She is very positive.

At the time she was diagnosed and went through cancer treatment, she was a single mom with kids in college. Having been an only child herself, she has a strong independent streak – which played to her advantage during the 9-month battle from diagnosis to the end of treatment. She had great support from friends and encourages others to seek the help they need – be that the love and support of family, friends, or a combination.

AND…capital AND.

AND never doubt your own ability. You are stronger than you realize. Much stronger. You can get through difficult things that you never thought you would be faced with much less overcome.

Cancer aside, DeAlva’s story took a devastating turn when, in 2017, her daughter died by suicide after a long struggle with her mental health. For any parent, the loss of a child is unthinkable. Four years later, DeAlva chooses to look for the positive – a daily, sometimes moment by moment, decision that is not easy. Not easy at all. In retrospect, her chapter with cancer revealed a strength she didn’t know she had and couldn’t have imagined needing, but it was that strength that got her through being her daughter’s advocate and caretaker and, subsequently, the dark days of grief after her passing.

This is the unintended, unexpected impact of cancer. No one would ask for a cancer diagnosis, but, once cancer becomes a part of the story, we must decide how to move through it and through life’s other challenges with a positive attitude. As a bonus, she realized she had discovered an empathy that helps her see other people who may be struggling and offer a word of support and kindness. The smallest gesture or word may help someone else find a spot of joy in a difficult situation. DeAlva realized early on in treatment that the illness teaches you to find a bit of joy in each day, however small, to stay positive on some of the hardest days.

Like Kay Yow, DeAlva made a choice, not to let cancer control her, but to take every “controllable aspect” around cancer and use it for good. She is finding ways to give and to serve, to manage grief, to find hope – to overcome and is proud to be part of the many survivors that stay strong and help others that come after realize that they can find their own strength and resilience to overcome.

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