Best Doctors 2013: Standing Strong

Find inspiration, hope and support from these 10 people whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Tiffany Baumann Cantelupe, 36

Diagnosed with breast cancer at Akron General on Aug. 10, 2012; currently in treatment at University Hospitals

It's very important to find peace within yourself. It helps you stay focused on the prize, which is your health. I often joke that when I was pregnant, I went through nine not-so-fun months, but at least I came out with a baby at the end! Well, now I've gone through nine very difficult months, but at the end I'll be able to come out with my health. That's something you won't have if you don't fight.

I'm still working out. I still do kickboxing. It's difficult to go in with a bandana and no eyebrows. But I get a lot of compliments from people. They say that when they wake up in the morning and they don't feel like working out, they think of me, of me being there.

It's taken a while, but I have accepted this, and I'm realizing that this diagnosis was a blessing and a gift. I have no choice but to decide to take every day to its fullest and thank God for the positive people in my life.

At first, I was completely afraid. I was recently divorced. I felt alone. Now I feel completely the opposite. I feel so much love from other people.

Breast cancer is difficult for women, because it affects your womanhood, your hair and your breasts.

Dr. Russell Browermaster, 76

Diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic malignant melanoma at Summa on March 7, 2011; currently in treatment

You get into a mode of thinking about dying and it captures your thoughts. Then you think that hopefully you'll fall into that category of the 10 percent of people who live five years. You have a lot of emotional ups and downs.

I am lucky to be where I'm at. The highs and lows mentally are there for everyone and when you get knocked down, you have to get back up. And know that you may get knocked down again.

I never let it overwhelm me. Things aren't going to be the same. You have to operate within the realm you are.

The fear of knowing you have this and the fear that it might be in your whole body, you never get entirely over that.

I've been retired as a physician since 1992. I know just enough to be dangerous.

Steven Varner, 45

Diagnosed with glioblastoma at University Hospitals on Sept. 7, 2010; now cancer-free

When my hair started falling out, I called my dad and said, 'Shave me. I'm not walking around like this.' Then my brothers-in-law came to see me and they had gone out and shaved their heads. It touched me.

Your attitude does something to your body to say, You're worth saving, so we're going to keep you going. If you go in with the wrong attitude, it ain't going to do no good at all.

The way I look at it is, if I get up and take that first breath, it's going to be a great day.

Have a strong faith and a strong will, and you'll get through it too.

I deeply believe there was a higher power there that day. He used the doctor's hands.

Lisa Ramage, 49

Diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic melanoma at the Cleveland Clinic on Sept. 5, 2007; currently in treatment at MetroHealth

Cancer is a very lonely diagnosis. If you don't have a spouse to go through it with, it's even lonelier. I took a picture of my little boy to my treatments and said, For this day, I can get through anything.

It's about love, relationships and the time you spend with your loved ones. Everything else is far second. There will be other houses, other jobs and other activities.

You have to talk yourself into being positive. It would be really easy for me to call in sick today and sit home and have a little pity party for myself. Really easy.

You have no control over people putting things in your body. You just have to sit there and endure it. You're cold, you're sick, you're in pain, and you just have to let them do it.

As awful as it was, cancer's the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me understand my priorities; it brought me closer to God, and brought me to my mission in life to work with cancer patients.

Wendell Napper, 65

Diagnosed with throat cancer at University Hospitals on March 12, 2006; now cancer-free

When you get sick, you want to do everything you can to live another day. You just have to put your trust in your professionals and pray to God it works out.

But you can't quit. Whatever they tell you, you can't quit. They gave me a 20 percent chance of even making it through my surgery. And now I'm at five years.

I was devastated, scared to death. At that point, you're trying anything you can do. It scares the hell out of you.

I'm a life-loving person. I love my family and my friends. I love doing stuff. I wasn't going to give up, that's for sure. I didn't care what I had to do.

During recovery, I couldn't wait to get out of there and go to the gym and start bringing myself back to life.

Brooke Hedrick, 21

Diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia at the Cleveland Clinic on March 12, 2010; in remission

The point when I accepted it was real is the first time they injected me with chemo. You feel it instantly when it hits your blood stream. Physically, it's an instant rush and you feel sick to your stomach. Emotionally, it was fear. Fear of the unknown.

Your body may be weak, but your mind can be strong.

When I was diagnosed, I was thinking, Wow, I wish I had taken the time yesterday to just look at the sky, look at the birds, lie in the grass and appreciate life.

If you have a little laughter, it's so much easier to deal with hard things.

When you have a friend or family member with cancer, support them but also give them a little space. They need time to soak it in and think for themselves, but be there when they ask you to be.

Brandi Reece, 40

Diagnosed with breast cancer at Summa on Aug. 15, 2008; in remission

Is it God's fault? Is it anyone else's fault? No, it happens. The only thing I can do from this experience, is keep smiling. Keep enjoying life. Keep celebrating birthdays.

Aug. 15 will be my five-year mark. That's when you can be called a survivor. It will be a big day to me. People say, 'Why do you want to celebrate being diagnosed with cancer?' I say, 'No, I'm celebrating because I kicked cancer's ass and survived.'

When I finally sat my kids down to tell them I had cancer, they were very curious about what was going to happen. At only seven years old, my son said, 'If all you have to do is lose your hair and cut off one of your boobies, we can get through that, right?'

Losing your hair actually hurts. I shaved my head to make it easier. After that, I would wake up in the morning and brush my hair with a lint roller.

Ansleigh Adkins, 12

Diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis, a genetic marker for colon cancer, at the Cleveland Clinic on Oct. 1, 2008; cured through preventive surgery

I didn't tell anybody at first I was going to have surgery because I was scared people would make fun of me. I started telling people because I wanted to let people know that I'm stronger than that. And that I don't care what their thoughts are.

I was scared. My dad had the marker and some of his sisters had it. We knew that my brother or me would have it.

It changed me to be more caring toward people, to understand people in a better perspective. Like I know what they are going through.

I don't want to be negative toward anything. I like to be in a good mood all the time. Before, I would get mad over something little, but I'm over it now.

We're going to Disney World this summer. Probably people my age wouldn't be that excited about it, but I'm excited to see the Disney princesses. I don't care if people think that's childish. I'm going to go and do all that stuff.

Carolyn Collins, 71

Diagnosed with adenocarcinoma at Akron General on Sept. 9, 1999; currently in treatment

I didn't make bargains with God, but I would say, I hope that I can live to see the kids graduate. Then it was, I hope I can see my granddaughter get married. Then it was, I hope I get to see her children born. I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to achieve these goals, but I was blessed, and I did.

My advice is to be around fun people. Smile. It doesn't take much effort to smile, and if you smile at someone who hasn't smiled at you that might be the only smile they get that day. And they need it the most.

It does change your life. A lot of it in good ways. A lot of it in scary ways.

I've lost my hair three times, but I don't care about that very much. It doesn't really embarrass me and if a person has a problem with it, they should ask me about it. I'd rather be this way than have hair and be heading in the other direction.

It's amazing how you find out who are truly friends and who are acquaintances. Some people would act like it was contagious. Or they didn't want to face me. I don't know.

Josh Cantwell, 36

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the Cleveland Clinic on Sept. 12, 2011; now cancer-free

Cancer plays no favorites. A lot of people don't get the second chance I got.

Happiness is a choice. It's something you do. Stop waiting until everything else is in order before you do the things you love. There's no better time than right now. Doing what you love is just part of who you are.

I knew if I was negative or dramatic about it, everyone else would feed off my vibe. If I was positive, everyone else would be positive too.

The body follows the mind. If the mind is focusing on the positive, the body will follow that and recover faster.

I don't want to just let life come at me. I'm different now because I'm more open to things. I expect the best outcome in everything I try. I don't do things thinking, Oh, crap, what if this doesn't work out?

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