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Photo courtesy of Case Western Reserve University

Matthew Englander

Lyndhurst, Ohio
Stage II, grade II oligodendroglioma at age 31 in 2011

Today: Englander, 34, has always been committed to accomplishing his goals. Just five weeks after having surgery in September 2011 to remove his rare brain tumor, the longtime athlete was back coaching baseball at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Since his diagnosis, he has lost about 50 pounds and has run in three marathons. He also follows a mostly vegan diet and eats organic foods. Englander says he has strong motivation to make these healthy changes—to live longer to be with his family. Shortly after his surgery, his wife, Heather, 33, became pregnant with their son, Quinton, who’s now 2 years old. As a father, survivor, coach and athlete, Englander believes setting short-term goals can lead to long-term payoffs. “I tell my team, ‘The small choices are the big choices.’ ”

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​Photo courtesy of Debra Hesse

Debra Hesse

Grand Junction, Colo.
Stage I melanoma at age 45 in 1999; basal cell carcinoma in 2000 and 2010

Today: Months after her first diagnosis, Hesse started volunteering at St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center in Grand Junction, Colo., to offer spiritual support to patients undergoing chemotherapy. In 2007, she was hired by the cancer center as a survivorship program coordinator. Hesse, 60, enjoys making beaded jewelry and spending time with her family, including her two children, Hanna, 26, and Adam, 24. She and her husband, Gene, 63, traveled to Puerto Rico in November 2013 to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary. “I still love the beaches,” she says, adding that she always wears sunscreen and is vigilant about having annual skin cancer screenings, “but I don’t love the sun anymore.”

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Photo courtesy of Alayna Williamson

Alayna Williamson

Kaysville, Utah
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at age 36 in March 2012

Today: Like many patients with CLL, Williamson, 38, is waiting until her slowly progressing cancer advances before she starts treatment. A few months after her March 2012 diagnosis, the finance professor and mother of four started training for an Ironman triathlon—a competition that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles of cycling and a 26.2-mile run. She finished her first Ironman triathlon in June 2013 in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, Troy, and competed in her second in Nice, France, this June. “Cancer was an impetus for me to say, ‘I’m going to do this,’ ” she says. Having cancer also has made her re-evaluate her priorities and appreciate the time she has with her family, she says. “I just try to make sure that every day is meaningful and that I have a focus.” 

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