On Sunday, June 2, 2024, we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day®, a day of accomplishment, resilience, and unwavering hope. It's a day where we honor the courage of individuals like Susan Hoffman, whose journey through the shadows of cancer has illuminated countless lives with hope and inspiration.


The news came on a late December day in 2010 while Susan was enjoying time with her daughter and son, their spouses, and her first grandchild in Nashville, Tenn. It was a call that would deepen the meaning of the holiday season and alter the course of her life. Amidst the tinsel and lights, Susan was facing the stark reality of a breast cancer diagnosis more aggressive than anticipated. Bound by uncertainty, there was a glimmer of light—her greatest gift received that Christmas was the warmth of family, the reassurance of her medical team, and the promise of a new year.

A few days later back in Knoxville, Susan and her husband John were out celebrating a New Year’s Eve dinner and missed a call from her surgical oncologist, Dr. John Bell. According to the Hoffmans, their immediate thought was if Dr. Bell was phoning on a holiday, it must be some sort of an emergency. But before the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, he called for a second time. To their surprise, it was a call of reassurance, and the beginning of their relationship with a highly skilled, comprehensive, multi-specialty medical team who would work as one during her treatment. Dr. Bell guided Susan and her husband John through the labyrinth of treatment options, and, at the time, he helped them through an abundance of fear and a deluge of uncertainty. 

During the days ahead, Susan had her good days and her bad days. With each passing milestone – surgery in mid-January, chemotherapy beginning in February – her spirit remained unyielding, sustained by the unwavering support of her caregivers at The University of Tennessee Medical Center Cancer Institute.

Valentine's Day brought with it a port; another holiday marked with significance in her treatment. And through six rounds of chemotherapy, Susan fought with a tenacity born of love for life and those dearest to her.

In 2012, Susan was declared NED (no evidence of disease), a celebratory defeat of cancer because of her resilience and the comprehensive care she received. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.* In Susan’s words, “she took one for the team”—this was her moment to live the statistic. 

But her cancer journey didn’t end there. Cancer resurfaced again in 2018. This time it was much tougher, both physically and emotionally. She was frustrated to endure it all over again. Five more years of treatment followed, each day a battle, each victory harder-to-win.

Through it all, Susan's spirit remained unbroken. She found solace in the kindness of strangers, in the embrace of her support system, and in the simple act of giving back. Cancer is a club no one desires membership in, yet everyone within it discovers mutual support among fellow members. As a volunteer in the Cancer Institute, she has become a source of camaraderie for others.

Today, Susan is a role model to the determined human spirit, a living personification of courage. Her advice to those walking a similar path is simple–hold onto hope, listen to your body, and cherish the moments that truly matter.

As we celebrate cancer survivors this month, join us in honoring Susan and all those who have faced cancer with courage and grace. Consider making a gift in honor of a special survivor in your life. 

*Source: American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org

Susan with family days after diagnosis


Susan with husband, John and Dr. Bell

Celebrating last day of chemo June 2011



Susan at her nephew's wedding-an important goal when diagnosed and in treatment. Even family didn't recognize her in the wig.

Last day of Herceptin

Cancer doesn’t just affect a patient’s physical well-being. It has a dramatic impact on every aspect of a patient and their families’ lives. At The University of Tennessee Medical Center Cancer Institute, the Larry and Dorothy Stephens Cancer Care Fund was established to assist cancer patients facing financial hardships during their treatment and healing process. As a private, not-for-profit organization, the medical center relies on the generosity of donors who give back and support our mission to serve through healing, education and discovery. Click here to support the impactful work of the Cancer Institute.

Together, we can make a difference, one gift at a time. Thank you for your thoughtful support.

Honor a special survivor in your life