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Cancer Survivor Lives Life with Gratitude


When she talks about cancer, Savanah Stewart doesn't speak haltingly or in hushed tones. She talks about it the same way she talks about her boyfriend, her chemistry degree or her plans to attend dental school—with the zest and eagerness of someone who has things to do and people to see. Then there's the gratitude.

"There is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS something to be thankful for," she told the crowd gathered for the Methodist Foundation Cancer Center Luncheon last week. "Looking back on my battle with breast cancer, I truly believe I received the best healthcare in the world, and I am so grateful for cancer research and the role it played in my successful treatment."

Savanah discovered a mass in her right breast "randomly, while I was brushing my teeth," and true to her nature, she acted. The earliest appointment she could get in her hometown of Jonesboro, AR, was three months away, so she called her childhood physician, Memphis ENT Dr. Rande Lazar, who saw her that day and set her appointments for diagnostics and with a general surgeon.

After removing the mass, Dr. Alan Hammond gave her the "good news-bad news" report. "The bad news was it was malignant. The good news was his wife had just been through the same thing and he knew exactly who to send me to."

She met with oncologist Dr. Sylvia Richey at The West Clinic who told her that if the results of her genetic testing were positive, she would need a double mastectomy. A negative reading, and she'd require a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

"I was in shock," she says. "I didn't know what I was going to do. I was in the last quarter of college, and I was accepted to dental school."

She thought about it—but not for long.

"I like to take care of business," Savanah said. "Even before the results of the genetic testing came back, I decided I wanted a bilateral mastectomy. I just didn't want to be in dental school and worrying about it."

She had the surgery and eight rounds of chemotherapy with two different drugs. She cut back on classes she didn't need to graduate but continued with school.

"It definitely wasn't fun," she said. "Especially while I was trying to graduate from senior level chemistry classes where we're in the lab for four hours. But I made all As. I had never been happier to have an A in my life."

Today Savanah is cancer free and looking forward to starting dental school next August.

On a recent flight back from visiting her boyfriend, she sat next to Methodist supporter, Ed Barnett. Her story and enthusiasm impressed him so much, he arranged for her to speak at last week's Cancer Luncheon.

What she told Ed and the luncheon crowd is what she tells anyone who will listen—her doctors were first-rate, her care was world-class and she was simply in the right place.

"It was all a blessing," Savanah said. "I can't believe how blessed that I was."