4 survivors share personal stories

PHOTO PROVIDED Michelle Steppe, below left, got through cancer treatment with help from a program at the YMCA. Her daughter, Hanna Kreger, right, was Steppe’s supporter in the program, which will be explored during the final week of the Sun-Gazette’s Survivor Strong series.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Cancer of all kinds affects local residents on a daily basis. Through a month-long weekly series, the Sun-Gazette will speak with survivors of some of the most common forms of cancer locally. The paper realizes that not all cancer survivors share the same experiences and opinions as those featured in this series, which continues on Tuesdays through Oct. 31.)

Throughout the month of October, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette will publish a series of stories highlighting the seriousness of cancer through the accounts of four people who have fought and, thus far, overcome different forms of the disease.

Mandy Bergstrom, a Jersey Shore mother, was diagnosed with aggressive stage 2 breast cancer about two years ago, and underwent a double-mastectomys. Though in remission, the cancer and subsequent treatment have left their marks on Bergstrom, physically and mentally. But, when all is said and done, Bergstrom said she is more content with life now than ever before. Bergstrom’s story will run on Tuesday.

Sharon Belvin, a health and wellness educator for UPMC Susquehanna, feared she might have breast cancer when she found a mass beneath her collarbone in 2004, but instead was faced with stage 4 melanoma, a skin cancer, that already had spread to her lungs. Belvin talks about the hopelessness she faced as treatment after treatment failed, and the immense lifestyle changes she has made since her miraculous turn-around. Belvin’s story will run on Oct. 10.

Dawn Astin, business administrator for the American Rescue Workers, battled colon cancer in 2011 and again in 2012. Thanks to chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, friends and family, and giving it to God, Astin said, she’s still here today and is happier than she’s ever been. Astin’s story will run on Oct. 17.

Jessica McDermott, owner of the Sunset Ice Cream Parlor on Lycoming Creek Road, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects part of the immune system, in 2014. Dealing with cancer, newly owning a business and being a mother of two at the age of 24 wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her fiance, friends and family, and the online support groups she found through social media, McDermott said. McDermott’s story will run on Oct. 24.

Testimony from all four women describe the physical and mental struggles that come from being diagnosed with and going through treatment for cancer. An article on the survivors’ mental struggles will run on Oct. 31.

Cancer directly affects hundreds of people in Lycoming County alone, and indirectly affects so many more. Though several different stories are being published, the Sun-Gazette respects and understands that not all cancer patients live the same experiences or share the same opinions on the disease or treatment thereof.