Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Waxahachie celebrated over 100 cancer-surviving patients on Dec. 8. During this annual event, people shared their stories with one another.

Lynn Whitehair, director of Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, said, “It’s a time to celebrate life. We mark that with a new ornament every year that we give to everyone that attends to put on their tree to signify another year of life.”

Santa Clause greeted each attendee as he handed out the uniquely-designed ornaments. Raffle tickets were given for door prizes, too. Several of the guests and nurses dressed in Christmas attire, giving the feel of the holidays.

Even though the reason that brought everyone together was once a terrifying one, not a single person kept to himself or herself. Chatter filled the room, as one would share his or her story with the person in the neighboring seat.

Sherry Wright shared her story of her speedy recovery with breast cancer. After being diagnosed at the beginning of 2017 during a past-due annual check-up, Wright said her recovery process went very smoothly.

“The interesting thing, between the doctor and I chose to do a double mastectomy. Well, none of the previous tests showed cancer on the other side, but when the pathologist looked at it, I had cancer in both breasts. So, I just thank God that we went ahead and did the double,” Sherry said.

She said she felt blessed because she didn’t have to go through radiation or chemo, but did have to go through several surgeries. After having the double mastectomy, she’d gone on vacation, and there she realized her chest was infected. She took an immediate flight back and had another surgery. Unfortunately, she said this set her back in recovery. She has one more surgery scheduled.

She’s been in high spirits the whole time because she knows it could have been a lot worse.

“My suggestion is — because it worked for me is — if they find cancer in one of your breasts, instead of having a lumpectomy, and finding out later in life you have another cancer again, even in that same side, get a mastectomy and if you can brave it, get a double mastectomy,” she added. “Because then you have no mammograms the rest of your life and you don’t have to worry.”

Sherry was accompanied by her husband, Jay Wright.

Another woman shared her story of battling breast cancer, but the doctors approached hers very aggressively. For Naomi Rivers, she was diagnosed February 2017.

She said, “I had actually found a lump and it was close to the surface so I could feel it. I went for a mammogram in Ennis and right after, they said, ‘we have to do an ultrasound.’ And directly after that, they asked, ‘do you want your husband in here because we are going to do a biopsy.’”

She called the doctor at Baylor Scott and White and got her in for an appointment the very next day. She had a few more biopsies because the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. The doctors then presented her with an intense plan to fight the cancer.

Naomi went through aggressive chemotherapy for seven hours a day, every day, which caused her to become very ill. But it was her husband Jeff who stood by her side every moment. She said she couldn’t have done it without him.

Her message to other women with cancer is, “Don’t give up because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, although there were times I thought, ‘why am I doing this? Why am I going through all of this chemo?’ And I understood why some people don’t want to go through it because it is such a rough road.”

She complimented on how excellent the staff is and how much of a blessing it was to be sent to Waxahachie, adding she couldn’t have asked for better treatment from the doctors. Now, months later, Naomi is in remission and has scheduled her reconstructive surgery in January.

Pat Cooper was diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly four years ago. After having his prostate removed, everything seemed fine for over two years. But when he went in for some tests, the results were not good, which seemed impossible. Turns out he had cancer cells in his system that were collecting and creating colonies inside his body.

In October 2016, doctors made the call that Pat needed radiation, which he went through every day for two months. After that time, he now goes through a form of chemo, which he has only six months left of.

His advice to those battling cancer, “It can be scary, it can be death frightening, but the reality is, we all die at some point, but the more important thing is when I die, where do I spend my eternity? That’s my greatest concern. I’m glad I’m still here. I don’t want my wife to be a widow. But when that time comes, when I have to come face to face with my creator, I want to hear the words, ‘well done, good faithful.’”

Pat was accompanied at the event with his wife, Andrea Cooper.

Peggy Eubank told a remarkable story, as she is now free of brain cancer. She shared how she had three kids of her own, and between fostering others, her and her husband Will adopted five of them. She said God couldn’t take her life because she wasn’t done helping others.

She came across her cancer after a visit to the dentist. He’d given her a shot of some sort that caused excruciating pain. After she had an MRI, the doctors said it was cancer. But now, doctors say it’s no longer there.

With much cheer, Peggy said, almost coming out of her chair, “It makes me feel so excited that God might be doing something. This one doctor was praying for me and was really believing in me.”

The room was full of several of more stories like these. During the holidays, there’s nothing more important than the gift of life.