According to the American Cancer Society, more than 5,000 people in Mississippi have died this year alone from cancer. But there are survivors. On Sunday, dozens of survivors gathered in Pascagoula for National Cancer Survivors' Day to celebrate life and recovery.
"They removed 24 inches of my colon," said Levon Thomas.
Thomas was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1996. More than ten years later, she's lived to tell about it, and is cancer free.
A"I tried to think about the good things and not the bad, and try to get through it. Everybody thought, don't give up and it will be okay, so I'm okay now," Thomas said.
It wasn't easy, though. Thomas underwent the surgery, and endured months of painful chemotherapy, but even more so, Thomas bore the thought of how her diagnosis would affect her loved ones.
"You think of your children, and grandchildren, whatever. As old as I was, I thought of my grandchildren, and it scares you more because of that," Thomas said.
Thomas was one of dozens of survivors at the National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration of Life at the Jackson County Civic Center. Survivors shared their survival stories and shared words of encouragement for those who still are in the wake of the battle against this vicious disease.
"It's a chance for people who have been successfully treated, or who are living with cancer, to get together and celebrate their survivorship, to support each other and find out what sources in the community are available for support," said Dr. Edgar Hull, a medical oncologist.
As for Lavon Thomas, she has been turning her pain into her mission, warning everyone she knows how important it is to get regular check up and to realize anyone can be a target of this deadly disease.
"I've scared all my grandchildren of age. Be sure to go to the doctor and everything, and I've helped them," Thomas said.
The event was sponsored by the Regional Cancer Center of Ocean Springs and Singing River hospitals.