We’re All Surrounded By Survivors

Look around you. The world is full of cancer survivors, and there are more all the time.

Kathy Sartore was first diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. She had a recurrence this year, but thanks to early detection, her prognosis is excellent.

In August, Cole Sartore, Joel and Kathy’s 18-year-old son, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy, and has a very good chance of not only complete remission, but also of being cured.

Though it may be hard to believe, the Sartore’s are actually thankful

Below is the essay from The CBS Sunday Morning Show with Charles Osgood.

A link to the piece that aired is also now available. Please click here to view:

CBS Giving Thanks

Thankful ….by Joel Sartore

Back home in Nebraska, Thanksgiving means gratitude, a look at the past year, a pause to hold hands around the table and count our blessings.



At our house, we hold hands tight these days.

My wife Kathy, a seven-year breast cancer survivor, had a recurrence in January. Her mother passed away not long after. I thought the only way things could get worse was if she backed over our dog in the driveway.

How wrong I was.

On a July vacation in Minnesota, we found a small, painless lump on the neck of our 18-year-old son, Cole. Five days later at the doctor’s office, we were facing a stage-three lymphoma, with chemo until the end of the year.

That’s when the condolences started in.

Friends approach us haltingly, as if we’ve already lost a child. They ask us to tell the story just one more time, ‘How is he doing? What happened? Why you?’ Some even tear up.

We tell them that we’re doing okay, but they don’t believe us, not for a minute.

But you know what? We actually are okay. And by that I mean we’re doing well.

Thankful, even.

Here’s why. In the history of humanity, there’s never been a better time to have cancer.



Genetic science leads us now to therapies at the molecular level. Early detection, nano-technology, immunotherapy and even vaccines against cancer-causing viruses mean that cancer death rates have finally started to fall, though slightly, 1 percent a year over the past ten years. Slow progress to be sure, but going in the right direction at last.

Want living proof? For both Kathy and Cole; the odds are overwhelming they’ll both be just fine.

And though outcomes still depend on what kind and what stage, just look around you. We’re all surrounded by survivors.

There’s my brother Paul , and my father. My little boy’s third grade teacher, and my boss at National Geographic. Even Cole’s girlfriend, and her mother. The list goes on and on.

Ask any of them if they’re thankful.

Every day, they’ll say, every day.

So what are you thankful for?

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