Pamela James, Patient of Angel Flight West: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
29 min readSep 30, 2022


My advice to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer is to ask lots of questions. The only stupid question is the one not asked. I would also advise educating oneself on the particular diagnosis, seeking the best medical advice, developing a positive attitude, and avoiding negative people at all costs. Talk openly and honestly with the doctor and share your concerns. They won’t know how you feel if you do not tell them.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela James.

Pamela James started flying with Angel Flight West in February of 2022 after deciding to seek care with Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center. To date, Pamela has flown thirty missions with multiple pilots to reach her life-saving medical treatment. In addition to being a spotlighted passenger on Angel Flight West’s blog, Pamela will be sharing her story as a spotlighted passenger during December. Follow Angel Flight West to stay updated with Pamela and her journey.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?

I am the second of three children. I was born in Belize City Central America where I was raised by my two loving grandparents and for me, they were my mom and dad. I then migrated to the USA to the Windy City of Chicago in 1977 with my mother and two sisters as our dad was not present. As for my education, I completed and graduated from Niles West Highschool in Skokie, Illinois.

As an adult, I am the mother of five beautiful children, 3 boys, and 2 girls. I am also a grandmother of a beautiful set of twin girls, Ivy and Chloe (both eight years old), and a handsome five-year-old grandson, Chase. After marrying my late husband, we moved back to Belize where I joined the Belize Police Department as a female officer, a position I held for four years. In 1993, I migrated back to the US to the warm state of California to make a better life for my children.

In 2001, I lost my husband to gun violence. As a single parent trying to make ends meet, I decided to pursue a career in nursing. During this time, I met and married my second husband and had a son with him. I completed my liberal arts degree at Los Angeles City College and completed my nursing degree at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. I was employed with Cedars Sinia Medical Center since 2005 while going to nursing school. While working at CSMC, I attended and graduated from Western Governor University with my bachelor of nursing degree in 2012. I started Grand Canyon University in the 2015 Master’s program but was unable to complete the course due to illness. In 2016, I was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have many quotes, but this one is dear to me.

Psalm 23:1–6

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Life is full of valleys and mountains and I realized that as I struggled with cancer. I prayed to God many times and each time, I got the affirmation that he was always with me. Whether during Chemo, Radiation, or Immunotherapy, he always brought me through. It’s only by his mercy, love, and grace that I survived cancer. I surrender all to him, I trust him because he said: “cast our burdens onto him, for he cares for us”.

For anyone who has gone through chemo knows it’s not a very nice feeling, and many times, I wanted to die, but God kept me. There were times when I begged for death because of the feelings from the chemo and I wanted to give up, but still, that voice kept saying to me, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. He didn’t leave me, so my attitude began to change. I prayed to God to live and not die and realized that God kept me for a reason and to never question the reason. I began to have a positive attitude and I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I feel in my heart he wants me to be an encouragement to others, and the voice for the voiceless to say that “You never fail until you stop trying”.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?

I feel it’s time for me to tell my story. Let me say this first; please get your yearly pap smear as it is very important. At first, I was ashamed and did not want anyone to know I had cancer when I was diagnosed in 2016. My doctor suggested I get a pap smear every 3-to-5 years due to my age over 45, sounds reasonable right? I had a pap smear in 2014, but I did not get the results and never bothered to check (as we all do). My doctor was on leave and the NP did the culture and maybe she forgot to inform me of the result, I absolutely cannot recall.

Two years later in 2016 when I visited my doctor for my yearly check-up, I requested a pap smear as I could not remember when I went in for my last one. The doctor checked my chart and told me that my last one was in 2014 and the results were abnormal. Please be diligent in advocating for your care and always ask for the care you need. I did the pap smear in the office and the result came back abnormal again. As a result of the pap smear, I was referred to a gynecologist for a better look and biopsy.

The biopsy result revealed I had squamous cell carcinoma stage 2 cervical cancer. When a person hears about cancer, you automatically think it’s a death sentence. I was worried, or more so scared as I have 5 children, one with Sickle Cell Disease, who need me greatly. The thoughts that ran through my mind were baffling. I was afraid to tell my children. However, I prayed and built up the courage to tell them, and as to be expected, the news shattered them as much as it shattered me. I tried to be strong, but it was eating me up on the inside. I did not want them to worry, but I was worried. After losing their father some years earlier, I could not leave my children alone.

I kept pretending I was ok, but deep down, I was not. When I was alone, I cried, I prayed, and I wrestled with my faith in God for allowing me to have cancer. I did not want my kids to see me weak. That in itself is a hard load to carry. The doctor persuaded me to get a hysterectomy since the cancer was in its early stage and I was told that the hysterectomy will resolve the issue. As a nurse, you think you know it all, but when it comes to something that is affecting you, you never know it all. After the hysterectomy, the doctor informed me that she removed all of the cancer and that chemo and radiation were not necessary. This was a ray of hope and sunshine, and I was elated. The kids and I were both happy and life was back to normal, or so I thought.

A year later in 2017, my lab result revealed my creatinine levels which told me how well my kidneys were functioning. They were superly elevated and the doctors could not figure out why the creatinine levels were so high. To share some perspective, normal levels are between 0.1 to 0.9, and mine was 3.6. These levels were considered kidney failure. I was panicking as my PCP could not pinpoint a cause, and I was shuffled around from specialist to specialist. The nephrologist referred me to a urologist, and I felt like I was everyone’s guinea pig. I was prescribed different medications, including steroids. Finally, the urologist ordered a urogram to map out how the kidneys function under pressure. After being injected with Lasix, I underwent a urography where a special dye was intravenously injected into me, that would map out the lining of my kidney to monitor how well the urine flows from my kidneys. I cannot remember fully, but the result showed around 23% or more functionality of my left kidney and about 90% functionality of my right kidney and showed where the urine was backing up in my left kidney.

To prevent further damage to the kidneys, the urologist recommended bilateral nephrostomy tubes. Nephrostomy tubes were attached to bags for me to urinate into, instead of going through the normal function. After eleven months with the Nephrostomy tubes, I struggled with body image as I was ashamed of having these bags strapped to my thigh. I had to wear loose pants to hide the bags, and sometimes the bags would leak accidentally. Finally, after five months with the tubes, my oncologist came on board, and I recalled being in the hospital suffering from an infection from the nephrostomy tubes and waiting for them to be exchanged. The oncologist ordered a PET scan which showed there was a tumor close to my left ureter but was not sure if it was cancerous or not until a biopsy was performed.

The results showed that yes, the cancer came back. I wanted a second opinion and since I had HMO, I had to wait for a referral from my PCP, or pay out of pocket. I paid out of pocket and had the biopsy done at Keck USC. The biopsy result came back positive for cervical cancer. I took the result back to the medical facility where I had insurance and I saw a female Urologist this time. However, her solution to my condition was to remove my ureter, my urethra, and my bladder and replace them with an Ileal conduit (a permanent urine bag). That was her solution to cure my cervical cancer, because that was convenient for her, not for me. She was adamant about the Ileal conduit and I blankly refused, expressing that was not an option for me. She was not happy with my decision and discharged me from her care. Although I did not see it at the time, that was a blessing. I was never sick until I was diagnosed with cancer and because I worked there, I had HMO, but that’s when I realized the red tape of having HMO.

I did my research and started to advocate for myself. My employer refused to change my insurance to PPO so I could seek outside help. I was told that for every care I needed, they could do it. I recall sitting in the parking lot crying my eyes out as I felt trapped and had nowhere to turn. I felt so hopeless and helpless so I started praying and talking to God, or it felt more like arguing with him (what a joke right). I then heard a still voice telling me to write to them. I wrote a letter to the CEO and President and cc’d all who would listen. I begged and pleaded for them to change my insurance from HMO to PPO and finally, after some time, someone heard my plea and contacted me to have my insurance changed from HMO to PPO. This was a ray of hope.

I then called the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA). Prior to me getting my insurance changed from HMO to PPO, I had reached out to CTCA who informed me they cannot accept my HMO, stating that I had to have PPO. I had seen their commercials about their cancer treatment programs and I greatly wanted to be seen there. I contacted CTCA after my insurance changed and was able to speak to a very soft-spoken, kind-hearted lady named Deb. She was compassionate and listened to me as I relayed my whole story to her. At the end of the call, Deb told me someone from the Arizona Center will call me.

Sure enough, they did. In March 2018, CTCA flew me and my daughter, Heather, to Phoenix, Arizona, and ground transportation was there to pick us up from the airport. I met with the Finance Department to verify my insurance and then met with my healthcare team. The whole plan was based around my care, not what was best for the doctors, but what was best for me the patient. All the decisions were directed towards and for me, with their guidance. I didn’t know how I was going to pay the difference, since I had exhausted all my PTO, however, with the CTCA assistance program, I qualified for a 75% discount on my care. I thought that was great and again started to see a glimmer of hope.

My treatment began right away. I was told that an Ileal conduit was not necessary and that I would benefit from chemo and radiation. I started my treatment with chemo and daily radiation and this is when I wanted to die from the first round of chemo. Lord, everything was going bad. I had a really bad side effect and I did not want any more chemo. With prayers and encouraging words, I progressed, and CTCA took really good care of me. After several rounds of radiation and chemo, the tumor next to my left ureter had decreased so much that the urologist decided to remove the right nephrostomy tube. We kept the left (tube) to make sure I could urinate since the right kidney had better function than the left. I started to urinate slowly. Praise God — another ray of sunshine.

As the treatment continued, with 4 rounds of IV chemo, 35 rounds of radiation, and 3 rounds of brachytherapy, the urologist decided to cap my left nephrostomy tube to see how it was working, and it was still not functioning to capacity. Though it worked, it needed help. He recommended a urethral stent in the left kidney to keep the ureter open so that the urine could flow to the bladder. We tried the stent and to our surprise, it worked. The nephrostomy tube on the left side was removed and replaced with a urethral stent. The downside to that was that I had to get the stent exchanged every 2 months, and to add to that, I was more prone to urinary tract infections. I decided to look up urethral stents one day and I came across a resonance metallic ureteral stent. I brought it up to my urologist who decided to try it but not until he would go in and see what complications I would have, if any, from the chemo or previous surgery. While examining me, he discovered two titanium clips that were across the lower end of my ureter closest to my bladder. He tried to repair the ureter and removed the clips that could have been there from my previous treatment when they did my hysterectomy, but the thing is, I was never informed that I had titanium clips on my ureter, which was causing the urine to back up to my left kidney, instead of flowing to the bladder. The urologist did what he thought was best to save my ureter and inserted the metallic stent. Luckily, with the metallic stent, I only have to exchange it once every 6-to-12 months, versus every 2 months, yet I continued to struggle with frequent urinary tract infections. But, Praise God for the Doctors at CTCA that I didn’t have to get a permanent urine bag.

In 2019, I was cancer free again. Hallelujah. During my treatment, my children and friends were very much a part of my support. Having close family support was very important to my care as they stuck by my side, cared for me, and we were able to talk about cancer and joke about my urine bag. We were in this together. It was not a one-man show as each of us had a part to play. It was a community event.

However, in September 2021, I had really bad abdominal pain and went to a local medical institution nearby via ambulance as I could not drive myself. To paint the picture of the care I was given, I was never placed in a room, I was treated in the hallway sitting in a wheelchair, I had to request a urine culture, and I had to beg for pain meds. After about 4–6 hours, I was told I had an infection and UTI because the pain was in my abdomen radiating to my left flank area. They were so quick to treat me and I was discharged around midnight. I was very displeased with their care. The pain continued, and I suffered throughout the rest of the night/early morning. At home trying to get relief from the pain, I took some old oxycodone I had and received a little relief, which then resulted in taking my son Dilaudid pills, as I had no other choice than to take it to be able to fall asleep.

The next morning the pain was still there. Later that day I made up my mind and drove myself to another regional hospital which is right behind my home — about 3 minutes away. I figured they would do a better job. When I got there, I was in pain and I was taken to a room fairly quickly. I explained my symptoms in which they started an IV per protocol, my blood was drawn and I was given a bag of IV fluid. The ER doctor then ordered some pain meds and I started to feel a little better and was able to fall asleep. He ordered a chest and abdominal CT scan, and I was told from the CT scan I had a kidney infection. I was given a dose of IV antibiotics but thought no way on Earth an infection could hurt so bad in my abdomen.

Both hospitals misdiagnosed my condition which could have cost me my life. Again, I was discharged home. This is the usual practice of these ERs — they are so overworked and understaffed that they do not have time to properly assess and evaluate a patient thoroughly. Everyone is in a hurry. Then, hospital costs are another deterrent to seeking health care.

The next day, I was still in pain but was dealing with it the best I could while in the hospital. My son came home from school that day and sat beside his mom, and said “I think I am having a pain crisis”. (When my son said he is having a pain crisis, he is in real bad pain, cause he does not like to go to the hospital unless he is absolutely in bad pain). He was hurting, and I was hurting. I then had to leave the hospital to take him down to Cedars Sinai Hospital from Palmdale, California to Los Angeles about 60 miles away as my son’s doctors are at Cedars. After he was admitted, I decided to check into the ER to see what was causing this abdominal pain. I watched my abdomen increase as if I was 8 months pregnant. I was given another CT scan of the chest/abdomen/pelvis in the ER at Cedars. The scan showed I had a bowel obstruction and some tumors were observed in various areas of my body. I was admitted right away.

A colorectal specialist was called for an evaluation. He read the CT and explained the blockage to me and how he would proceed to resolve the issue. He also had other specialist recommendations, and due to the tumors, my doctor requested to have the tumor in my left lung and sigmoid colon biopsied. Both results came back positive for cervical cancer. I was told I had stage 4 metastatic cervical cancer (not again, I thought, oh my God). It was not what I wanted to hear, however, the colorectal doctor informed me that he would do a sigmoidoscopy and if all goes well, we could be in the clear. However, he express that if it didn’t work, he would have to perform surgery to give me a colostomy bag. I was praying for the former, but the latter won. I came out of surgery with a colostomy bag which was not what I bargained for but I was grateful I was alive.

So, I thought, here I am again with cancer. This time it was worse. It was metastatic cancer and now I had a colostomy bag. Talk about bag lady (smile). First, urine bags, and now, poop bags. I dare not ask what’s next (smile). I thought, again, what is going on? I was done with chemo and radiation. At this news, I wanted to quit. Now, this time my son and I are both admitted to Cedars for different reasons. What a situation. I called my daughter to come to the hospital to check on my son, Jacob. My daughter came to visit both of us and the doctor gave my daughter the news about metastatic cervical cancer. That news devastated my daughter. She called in the rest of the family, however, at that time, only one person was allowed per visit per day due to the COVID-19 protocol. The doctor advised me that I have to get treatment for cancer right away — otherwise, cancer would continue to spread. It was in my left lung, my abdomen, my colon, my cervical area, and my lymph nodes. That’s when I started to search out treatment centers.

I’ve always heard about MD Anderson and wanted to get my treatment there, however, insurance was an issue again. I had medicare with HMO, which was not good in which I had to wait until the insurance switched over so I could go straight to medicare. That was not until January 2022. I called and scheduled appointments with Scripps MD Anderson in La Jolla, California, and I was accepted after my insurance was adjusted to medicare in February 2022. That is how I ended up at Scripps. I reached out to a social worker, Jeanne, who was so helpful. She helped me navigate resources and showed me how to apply for financial assistance for my treatment. I was determined to get the best care and Scripps and its staff were so instrumental in providing me with the best quality care.

I started my chemo and immunotherapy in February in Oceanside, California at Scripps Jefferson Clinic. I was concerned about getting to and from my treatment, so I asked Jeanne, and she mentioned Angel Flight West. After she gave me the number, I called AFW and spoke to Natalie. Natalie explained the whole process to me, and I could not believe it. She said, “The services provided by AFW are at no cost and the pilots and ground transporters are volunteers.” Natalie and the coordinating team worked together in making sure I had transportation to get to the infusion center and back home with a companion. They were so professional, kind, and respectful, and they all worked together. They are truly angels. I have never had any problems with any of the pilots. As a matter of fact, we created a bond and friendship that is priceless. We enjoy our flights together talking about life and other useful events. Even though I’ve just been flying with AFW since February, it feels like it’s been longer because of the friendships we have developed. I enjoy our time together and the conversations we have in the air, and the scenery is just breathtaking.

In June 2022, I was told that the PET scan showed there were no active cancer cells. Praise God. That was the best news ever. I couldn’t believe it so I asked the doctor three times if he was sure, and he said they were all gone. He then recommended keeping me on the Keytruda every three weeks for the next two years. Then in August, he decided to increase the dose and have me come in every six weeks instead to keep the cancer at bay. If it was not for Angel Flight West and its God-given volunteers, I do not know how I would have continued my treatment because I live about a three-hour drive away from the infusion center. Thank God for Angel Flight West, the Coordinating Team, and Scripps MD Anderson Staff.

What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?

The scariest part was not knowing if I was ever going to survive metastatic cancer, let alone the side effects of chemo. I remember having bad neuropathy on both my feet and I was not able to walk properly. I was stumbling often as my balance was off, and it felt like I had hot rocks under my feet. I had pain, numbness, and a tingling feeling under my feet constantly, and my fingers were also numb and tingling. I thought I would never be able to start an IV again with numbness in my fingers. I was scared to drive because of the numbness under my feet and I thought that if I drove and wasn’t able to feel the pedal under my feet, I could cause a really bad accident. Not being independently mobile is scary.

The worst thing that could happen to me would be not surviving metastatic cancer and not being here for my children and grandchildren. I am so glad that God kept me alive for them, as well as for my life.

How did you react in the short term?

I never focused on that really, except after my first round of chemo. I knew I had to fight and take care of myself, and so I did.

After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?

I reached out to my small group of prayer warriors and also read inspirational books like The Circle Maker, Win the Day, Daily Devotional, and listened to Joel Olsten’s sermons. I would go online and read other people’s stories randomly to keep my head sane to learn what worked for them and how I can use those to work on myself, too. Those really helped as someone else’s story can really impact your life. Physically, it was a lifestyle change for me. I became conscious of what I ate, focusing on eating more plant-based foods versus animal foods, and I tried to drink healthy juices as often as possible. I also walked 2.45 miles three times a week, did light exercises, kept myself well hydrated, and took my vitamins and herbs.

Emotionally, I reached out to my family for comfort and my friends for encouragement as they would tell me I was going to be alright. I didn’t like to be alone for long periods of time because I would get too emotional. I like to make people happy so I prefer to make jokes about my situation, amongst my friends and family, so they wouldn’t feel sorry for me. This kept me sane and focused on a positive attitude when I would cry and start feeling sorry for myself.

Spiritually, I prayed daily to have that one-on-one talk with Jesus and often prayed for others as I enjoy being an encouragement for others. I studied the Bible and my daily devotional while attending Church and listening to online sermons. I also listened to gospel music and sometimes country gospel.

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?

There was not one particular person that helped, as there were many who supported me spiritually and emotionally. My family, my friends, and my prayer partners were very supportive, and they were always willing to help. Some went with me for my treatment, others called to pray with me, and others brought food. It took a whole community to help me get through, and sometimes that is what it takes.

However, I was mostly inspired by Dottie Olsten. She had cancer and was sent home to die, but she survived and I believe she is still alive today after over 40 years of surviving a rare type of cancer. I read her book and imitated the scriptures she quoted in her book. Her strength and faith inspired me to be strong, not feel sorry for myself, and have the willpower to stay alive. It is true what was said… It takes a village to raise a child and the same goes for caring for a person with cancer. It takes a community. People need people no matter what.

In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?

If my cancer had a message for me, it would say this:


I’m not sure why I chose you, but I’m glad I chose you, not because I wanted you to have cancer, but because you are a fighter, an advocate, you are strong, you put up a fight, and you never gave up. Many can learn from your strength. You never gave up on your search for ways to get the help you needed and you can now be an inspiration to others, being the voice to those who do not have a voice.

Like Dottie Olsten, you are a survivor.

To God be the Glory.

What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?

I have learned from this experience that in order to survive, I had to want to live. I also learned that in order to be strong, I had to fight, and in order to feel good, I had to have a positive attitude and not feel sorry for myself. Speaking my truth may someday help others. I realized the more I felt sorry for myself, the less I wanted to fight to live. I made up my mind that I wanted to live and not die, but I could have been my worst enemy if I wallowed in my self-pity for too long. I realized I could either fight and live or give up and die, and dying without a fight was not an option.

Before, I paid little attention to cancer until a friend of mine died from breast cancer over 20 years ago. Then, when it hit me, I paid ever closer attention to cancer, researching my condition to learn about the best treatments and the best cancer centers. When it affects you personally, you tend to do more, and it shouldn’t be like that. I should have focused on my health better. That is why it is important for people to get regular check-ups. Early diagnosis could save your life.

Today, with the new medications, immunotherapy, and trials for cancer patients, many patients have survived and lived years with cancer in remission. Our healthcare system, or should I say health insurance in America, needs an overhaul. It is very discouraging to seek medical care, due to the high cost of chemo, radiation, and immunotherapy. You see, cancer is not racist. I would like to see more doctors looking out for the patient’s best interest rather than for the pharmaceutical companies that provide these medications. There must be some laws on prices set in place for cancer patients needing treatment. Cancer is a big health concern, not only for the older population but the younger population too. We can all do our part. This is why I am so grateful to Angel Flight West for allowing me the opportunity to get to and from my treatment.

This taught me to take care of myself, listen to my body, and do my regular check-up. These little things can save lives. I’ve also learned that in everything, I need to be prepared, make plans to ease the burden off my family, and spend quality time with my family to make lasting memories. Best of all, be positive and kind to others as you never know when you will need someone.

How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?

I want people to know that cancer is not a death sentence, but more so an eye-opener. It certainly was for me. You see, until I was diagnosed with cancer, no one in my family had cancer. I would like to be the voice for the voiceless if given the opportunity to so I can support others through my experience with cancer.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

Cancer is not a death sentence and we must seek early testing. Please advocate for yourself by asking questions, talking to someone, and listening to your body. If the body does not feel right, chances are it is not right. When seeking treatment advice or insight, do not settle for just one opinion. Yes, it is hard when you are going through your treatment, but always designate someone to advocate on your behalf when you cannot. Although there are some great doctors and facilities out there, they are humans, and where there are humans, there will be mistakes.

It is important to always have someone with you to speak for you or hear what you cannot hear. Chemo makes you forget stuff and it’s advised to have a second pair of ears. Write things down as you remember them. Connect to a support group of people who are experiencing the same illness as you. Listening to others tell their story and experience is very motivating. You can learn a lot from others’ experiences so tell your story, as it can help someone else.

Lastly, whatever is comfortable for you, do it. Personally, I love looking at the blue skies. For you, whether it’s a walk in the park, on the beach, smelling the roses, watching the skies, or anything that gives you a ray of hope, cling to it. This will support you greatly.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

My advice to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer is to ask lots of questions. The only stupid question is the one not asked. I would also advise educating oneself on the particular diagnosis, seeking the best medical advice, developing a positive attitude, and avoiding negative people at all costs. Talk openly and honestly with the doctor and share your concerns. They won’t know how you feel if you do not tell them.

I would also advise involving family members to attend doctor visits and appointments so they can be the extra ears. Speaking from experience as a cancer survivor, we tend to tune out the doctors because our mind is racing 100 miles per hour, focusing on the impact of the diagnosis, and missing important pieces of information. This happened to me so I made it a point to log everything. I kept a diary of all my treatments to have access to when needed.

Last but not least, ask yourself, what is your reason: to live or to die? Based on the answer, work hard at it. I wanted to live so I worked hard at living. I prayed for life, not death, and found things to do that made me happy. Whether walking in the park, along the beach, looking at the stars or the sky, I attached myself to those things. A friend of mine used to take me to the top of a mountain and would watch the freeway and the lights from afar, and it was blissful. Nature has a way of making us forget our issues so I always make it a point to look at the sky and take a picture to reflect on.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer?

1. Attitude: A positive attitude and the will to survive/live.

2. Heart: A willing, happy, and helpful heart.

3. Treatment & Care: The best treatment plan of care and change in eating habits.

4. Support: A great support team from family and friends, prayers, and less stress.

5. Self-Evaluation: Be truthful to yourself. It’s ok to cry and to feel upset, but do not let it overpower you. Take baby steps in your healing process as there is no need to hurry. Remember, you have cancer. Cancer does not have you.

I had a change of attitude more positively, a willing heart, and I was more open-minded about my treatment. I gave it a chance and it all worked out. I even had the opportunity to overcome another fear which was flying in small airplanes thanks to Angel Flight West. Not only did Angel Flight West help me to overcome this fear, but I was also able to get to and from my treatment with Scripps MD Anderson safely, which I am truly grateful for. As for my family and friends, they were my biggest supporters and kept me strong when at times I felt like I was losing it. I learned that it’s good to be honest and to talk about cancer. At first, I was ashamed to talk about it. However, I am now more open-minded about sharing my story and experience with cancer with others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

It’s important that we surround ourselves with others of like mind and I would want to start a movement to advocate and be the voice for the voiceless. I inspire to one day be that go-to person that can provide answers to questions and point people in the right direction they need to go to get the help they need. I would like to be a conduit for others by sharing my story of how I transformed from a cancer victim to a cancer victor. Cancer is not a death sentence, but more so an opportunity to move and do more. There are people and organizations waiting with open arms and ready to help, and I’d like to build a movement to show others how they can utilize their services.

There are plenty of organizations and hospitals offering financial assistance to patients which is one of their primary concerns. One of these organizations is Angel Flight West which provides transportation to and from treatment centers. There are also support groups to share our stories with peer groups to know that we are not alone in this journey anymore and that there is help out there. Our attitude is our determining factor in how we get through this process. Sharing my story, I hope one day will make a difference in someone’s life while inspiring them to keep moving forward.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

I would love to meet and dine with President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama. They are people-centered people, they work hard at giving back to the community, and I admire both of them greatly. While visualizing other impactful experiences, I would also enjoy the opportunity to visit the White House one day, as well as tour Harvard University while staying overnight in one of the private dorms.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would like to take the time to dedicate awareness to Angel Flight West.

Angel Flight West is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization that arranges free, non-emergency air travel for children and adults with serious medical conditions and other compelling needs. With a network of 1,600+ pilots throughout the 12 western states, pilots donate their aircraft, piloting skills, and all flying costs to help families in need, enabling them to receive vital treatment that might otherwise be inaccessible. Financial, medical, and/or geographical limitations all play a pertinent role in patients receiving the healthcare attention they need, making Angel Flight West’s efforts to recruit volunteer pilots and serve more passengers just as worthy today as ever before.

Every day, Angel Flight West’s volunteer pilots fly people to their medical appointments at no cost to the passenger. Angel Flight West has spent nearly four decades — and provided more than 95,000 flights — creating pathways to healthcare across the Western United States, arranging donated flights to people in need, and providing them safe passage to and from medical care.

You can learn more about Angel Flight West at

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.

Savio pens a weekly newsletter at where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.

He has been featured on Fox News and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.

Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York, and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor