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Stories of Inspiration

Stories of the fighters, believers, and survivors who've inspired us with their determination and hopeful spirit.

  • Mark Balderas

    Mark Balderas: How Family and Faith Gave Him the Strength To Fight

    In 2016, Mark Balderas bought himself a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle which he named ‘Priscilla.’ The very next day, he was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer. Six years later, Mark credits his family, faith, and Hareesha Vemuganti, M.D., at Texas Oncology–Round Rock North for fueling his fight against cancer and the opportunity to finally take ‘Priscilla’ out on the road.

    “Cancer was not what I expected going in. It was a real shock. Thankfully, with the prayers and support of my family, as well as my team at Texas Oncology who understood what I was going through, I knew I was going to get through this.”

    Mark Balderas
    Renal Cancer
  • Steve Dombek

    Steve Dombek: An Unbreakable Spirit

    Steve Dombek’s relentless optimism and unbreakable spirit carried him through a double diagnosis of systemic mastocytosis and multiple myeloma. Through his business – UnbreakableATX – and with the support of his physicians, family, friends, and The Flatwater Foundation, Steve inspires others by sharing his story, and giving back to the very foundation that assisted him and his daughter throughout his cancer journey.

    “Unbreakable is my mantra, motto, or mindset for anyone going through a tough time. It reminds us that you/we/they got this, are strong, can persevere, believe, and are unbreakable.”

    Steve Dombek
    Multiple Myeloma
  • Emily Robinson

    Emily Robinson: A Mantra to Keep Moving Forward

    When Emily Robinson was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014, she focused on the mantra that would power her through her cancer journey – “I got this.” Now, eight years later, Emily approaches life with the same “I got this” mentality and advocates for the importance of colonoscopies and proactively listening to one’s body.

    “For cancer or any kind of illness, if your body is telling you something, listen. Ask for that test because you need to know for sure.”

    Emily Robinson
    Colon Cancer, Rectal Cancer
  • Karen Sams

    Karen Sams: Taking on the Unknown

    Karen Sams and her husband were looking forward to their trip of a lifetime. But Karen received a call that, quite literally, stopped her in her tracks. She knew she heard “breast cancer,” but she didn’t know what would come next.

    “To anyone on the fence, get the biopsy or do the extra test. Who knows, it might be nothing but at least you’d be sure. If it is something, then maybe you’ve caught it early.”

    Karen Sams
    Breast Cancer
  • Joy Brooks

    Joy Brooks: The Ending was Just the Beginning

    In 2015, Joy Brooks was at her “Kick the Bucket” party celebrating her life in style and preparing to say goodbye to her friends and family. Now she’s six years cancer-free.

    “Everyone was so professional. Not one person made me uncomfortable—from the person who came around and asked what I wanted to eat to the people who cleaned. They treated you as a person, not just a patient.”

    Joy Brooks
    Ovarian Cancer
  • Mike Diers

    Mike Diers: Fighting Cancer with the Power of Perspective

    For Mike Diers, 54, perception is reality. Worrying about things outside his control is not his way – he’s laser-focused and takes life step-by-step. Of course, some things in life are beyond any one person’s control. In those instances, Mike’s logical nature blends with his faith in a higher power. That balance would be crucial as he faced down cancer.

    “A lot of people look at cancer as if they’re walking in a dark tunnel toward a pinprick of light,” said Mike. “It’s better to reverse that and enjoy the present and all the light that’s around you right now.”

    Mike Diers
    Lung Cancer