Elissa is a 28-year-old breast cancer survivor from Elkridge, Maryland.

Meet Elissa Thorner Bantug
Elissa is a 28-year-old breast cancer survivor from Elkridge, Maryland. Read Elissa's Story

Tell us about yourself.
I am a mother of two little girls, a wife, and an avid exerciser. I am also the program coordinator for the Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Survivorship Program. This position along with my volunteer work allows me to be an outspoken advocate for women living with breast cancer as I have first-hand experience with some of the many concerns breast cancer can create such as coping with long term side effects, dating after cancer, body image, reconstruction, fertility, negotiating with employers while in treatment, survivorship care planning, navigating between medical professionals, and obtaining insurance.

When were you diagnosed?
After finding a lump in my breast at the age of 21, it took me eighteen months to find a doctor who would be willing to order a mammogram. My first breast cancer diagnosis was at the age of 23. Two years later, on my 25 birthday, I was diagnosed for a second time with breast cancer.

How has cancer changed your outlook on life?
Cancer has changed every area of my life—I have learned to be more patient with myself and others, not to sweat the small stuff or to get so angry, learn to appreciate everyday as a gift, not to take my health for granted, accept my body for being perfectly imperfect, value the importance of good doctors, and most importantly, I have learned to play more and work less.

What words of encouragement would you share with others with cancer?

  • It gets easier.
  • Cancer will not always dictate every part of your (and your family's) life.
  • There are also many gifts that cancer can provide—don't forget to take the time to see them.
  • Take time to celebrate the small victories throughout treatment.
  • Ask for help.
  • Be prepared for when treatment ends—this may be scarier than you think.
  • Be patient with yourself—you will get there.
  • Don't forget to laugh—there are ironies about treatment that will be hysterical.
  • Ask questions and find doctors who listen.

Support this non-profit in honor of Elissa:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure Maryland, komenmd.org
Please support those battling breast cancer by donating.