I invite you to read the inspirational and incredibly uplifting story below. This is Christina and she can explain better than I can who she is and what she has endured. All I know is that from the moment I stumbled upon her blog, Strong Enough, I have seen unwavering faith and hope. Please feel free to leave comments and pass this along to a family member or friend who might need encouragement.

 ”Cancer hasn’t destroyed my spirit or even defined who I am.”

This is Christina…

I am a 34 yr old mother, wife, daughter, sister, athlete, Personal Trainer, and now CANCER SURVIVOR. People often think that only unhealthy or older people get cancer. I am living proof that isn’t true. I have always been super healthy my entire life–always exercised (often in competition), always ate healthy, never been overweight or smoked, hardly ever sick, and then one day–BOOM. In 2010 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma and given a 4% chance of survival in one year. To say the news was a shock to me, my family, and to anyone who knows me was an understatement. But just like every challenge I have faced in my life, I decided to once again face this particular challenge-the fight for my life-HEAD ON. In my eyes, there was no way around it, only through it. And I had a good incentive–so I could be around to see my 2 beautiful sons (ages 3, 6) grow up. With the help of my wonderful family and friends, a large “army” of community members, and most importantly, GOD behind me, I was able to get through a grueling year of treatments. I AM NOW IN REMISSION.

People often ask me, “How did you get through it all?” I didn’t lose my hair, I maintained my weight, and I combatted the nasty side effects from the treatments better than most patients. In fact, my doctor often told me that he had hardly seen a patient endure the side effects from the treatments so well. I know exactly how I did it. I did it through exercise–even in between treatments I still made it to the gym. Sure, it was extremely difficult at times because I was so wiped out, but I figured even a little exercise would help me maintain my strength, de-stress my mind, and boost my immune system. There were plenty of days that I wanted to quit and just go back to bed. But I didn’t. My MIND is what kept me going every single day. I also increased my nutrition–I juiced fresh vegetables and fruits as well as made green smoothies to help give my body all the nutrients I needed, as well as help my energy levels, detoxify my kidneys and liver, and make me feel better overall. I did yoga, acupuncture, and hypnotherapy to help my mind relax, focus on positive thoughts, and unleash the power of the subconscious mind.

I would say that all of these things worked, combined with the treatments, to get me to where I am today. I am not out of the woods, by any means, but I have reached a major and difficult milestone that most at this stage don’t reach. I give full credit to God though, for healing my body from the inside out and providing me with the tools to do so. And now, I feel better than ever! In fact, this past summer I completed and competed in 2 Aquabike races (the swim/bike of the triathlon) and placed 1st in overall women in both events!

What does my future hold? I don’t think about that too much because now I take one day at a time. I plan to enjoy my little ones as much as possible, live life joyfully, and help others by building a foundation that raises awareness and education for melanoma and other skin cancers in my community, as well as raise money to provide opportunities for other melanoma patients to find and receive the best care. I believe that we ALL have the same odds to survive and having the right and necessary tools is crucial, as well as a solid support network.

I feel blessed to still be here. The life lessons I have learned going through cancer have been the greatest gifts that I could ask for. Because of cancer, I have learned to live in the moment, breathe a little deeper and more meaningfully, not sweat the small stuff or take life too seriously, treasure my loved ones even more (especially my children), have more compassion for others, and be MORE grateful for all of my blessings from a loving Heavenly Father. Cancer hasn’t destroyed my spirit or even defined who I am. What it has done though is strengthened me and made me a better human being. I can honestly say that cancer was the greatest blessing in my life.