Common Attributes of Miracle Survivors

Many cancer survivors are doing so much more than just surviving a Stage IV diagnosis . . . . they are proactive in managing their attitude and their disease.  Pink Fund Blogger and Stage IV Cancer SurThrivor Tami Boehmer tells us why and how . .

So what makes a “miracle survivor?” When I started the journey of interviewing individuals who’ve beat the odds of a terminal and/or incurable diagnosis, I’ve found many attributes they share:

•They don’t buy into statistics and the death sentences many of them were given.

•They never gave up no matter what. They may have had down times, but were able to pull it together and do what they needed to do.

•They choose to look on the positive side, see the gifts that a cancer diagnosis brings.

•They were a proactive participant in their health care and wellness.

•They have a strong desire to give back and make a difference in other people’s lives, whether it is fundraising, lobbying or supporting other survivors.

•Most have a strong sense of faith. Even if they didn’t believe in God, they believed in a higher power(s).

•They all have support from family, loved ones or support groups. These connections gave them a reason to carry on.

Don’t Focus on Statistics

One of my biggest pet peeves is the focus on statistics to determine a cancer patient’s outcome. If I believed in statistics, I wouldn’t be working so hard on this blog and book to prove them wrong. Statistics are great when you’re told they are in your favor, but they stink if you’re on the wrong side of them.

It felt good to have a chat with my oncologist and learn he feels the same way. He told me he doesn’t like them! These numbers lump everyone together, no matter the age, lifestyle or whether or not they are taking an active role in staying healthy. Those people aren’t me.

I told this to my oncologist and he commented that about 80 percent of his patients don’t take care of themselves at all. They go to get chemo, but little else to help the process. So I feel like I’m ahead of the curve.

Here’s what Doug Ulman, president and CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and three-time survivor, told me when I interviewed him for my book, From Incurable to Incredible:

“Lance often tells the story of how one doctor said to him, “I like your chances.” He said all he needed was that confidence, someone who believed. People want to be inspired and hopeful.

 That’s why I don’t often see the value of statistics. It might be helpful if you tell someone that people with their diagnosis have a 90 percent chance of surviving. But telling someone they have a 20 percent chance? What does that do but demoralize them? Could you make a statement about the gravity of the situation and still offer hope? I think so.

 To me, statistics are meaningless. They are based on a whole bunch of people that aren’t me. There is no way to know for certain what is to come.

What we do know is that there is hope, no matter what statistics indicate. For those of us who have been down this path, there is nothing more powerful.”

For more information on statistics, visit:

Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors  Who Beat the Odds. You can visit her at

Leave a comment


  1. Amy Rauch Neilson

     /  May 19, 2011

    Fabulous post, Tami! It pulls together everything I’ve been thinking about and wondering about since my Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis in January. Your philosophy is my philosophy — and the way you put it into words — well, I think I’ll print your blog and post it on my mirror as daily inspiration.

  1. What Do Miracle Cancer Survivors Have In Common? « It's in the Genes

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