Personal Story: Cancer Survivor Theresa's Inspirational Journey
In 2005, Theresa Daniel of Burlington Township, NJ, began a tremendous, life-changing journey. She was at an age where she was full of vigor and zest for life. Yet, her world was rocked when she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian and endometrial cancer.
In the 1990s, Theresa’s sister passed away from ovarian cancer. “She left this earth way too soon,” Theresa says. Because of her sister’s diagnosis, her doctors instructed her to get checked annually, which she did. “I think of myself as a health-conscious individual, so I was also eating well and exercising.”
Theresa thought that at this time in her life she would be traveling, relaxing, and not working as hard. She also thought her family life would be on a track toward renewal, restoration and healing from the season of loss they felt after her sister’s death.
Then, she got her cancer diagnosis. All of her hopes and dreams would have to wait until she got well. Under the care of Virtua gynecologic oncologist Randolph Deger, MD, Theresa underwent a hysterectomy, 6 cycles of chemotherapy and 8 rounds of daily radiation.
“I am eternally grateful that this diagnosis led me to Dr. Deger,” says Theresa. “Life has a way of dealing us experiences that blindside us. But, I have found that if we hold on, help comes in the form of humanity—and that was Dr. Deger. He listened carefully to me as I talked about myself and my life, and I think that really impacted the quality of care I received. He educated me about my treatment options and made me feel important. He was wonderful.”
Theresa hid her diagnosis from the world, outside of her close friends and immediate family. “I didn’t tell my son, who was a teenager at that time, because I didn’t want him to worry that he may lose the only parent that he could depend on,” she says. “Despite the challenges I would face with chemo and radiation therapy, and the probability of the unknown, I made a conscious decision that I would remain hopeful about my health and my future. My faith became an anchor for my hope and the source of my strength.”
Theresa knew it was up to her to navigate her own journey, but having experts in the field of cancer treatment helped her get well. “I am very grateful for Virtua, and I would definitely recommend them for cancer care. All of the doctors and staff were caring and professional. Thanks to the experience of all of my caregivers, I have been cancer-free for 11 years.”
Since starting this journey, Theresa has been teaching psychology and public speaking at local colleges, including Camden County College and Rowan College at Burlington County. She also has been busy writing and giving inspirational talks across the country. “I am in my zone when I am inspiring others to win in life, despite their challenges. I fully believe that we are the CEOs of our lives, especially when it pertains to our health care.”
Theresa is also the author of several books on prayer/meditation, motivation and inspiration including The Hidden Hand of God, I Am in It to Win It, CEO of Your Life, and Voices of the 21st Century.
“This truly has been an amazing journey,” adds Theresa, noting the support of her family and friends. “I was a person of faith before my diagnosis, but walking through a challenging experience like this strengthens one’s faith in God. To survive, we must always remember to laugh at life.”
Updated March 22, 2017