(WBIR - Knoxville) Surviving cancer is a major milestone in the lives of people have have been diagnosed with a form of the disease.
The American Cancer Society estimates there are 14 million cancer survivors in America. Each June, those survivors celebrate life.
Sunday afternoon, about 400 people packed the University of Tennessee Medical Center's AllSpice Cafe for the 12th Annual Celebration of Life - National Cancer Survivors Day event. The featured speaker was cancer survivor Roger Cunningham and American Idol contestant Johnny Newcomb were among the many entertainment acts.
Among those at the celebration event was Susan Hoffman of Knoxville. Hoffman was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2010. She said, "My life it just changed. It was totally turned upside down because when you hear those words it's really scary."
The mother of two is now recovering from an aggressive form of breast cancer that affects 25 percent of those diagnosed with the disease. Hoffman has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy, but she also received the first targeted medicine approved by the FDA for cancer called Herceptin.
"It saved my life so I like it a lot. If that hadn't been around it probably would have returned," Hoffman said.
While at the University of Tennessee Medical Center's celebration event, Hoffman was able to smile and laugh with Dr. John Bell who help treat her.
Dr. Bell, director of the University of Tennessee Medical Center's Cancer Institute, said, "Mrs. Hoffman is a great example of someone who follows what we still consider to be appropriate screening for certain cancers. [The event] is a physical example of the fact that cancer is not a death sentence and that there's hope."
Hope hold a different meaning for every cancer survivor and those currently fighting the disease. For Hoffman, hope is watching her grandchildren grow up and traveling with her husband to places on their bucket list.
Hoffman now volunteers at a local museum as well as at the integrated healthcare department for the University of Tennessee Medical Center. She said she now enjoys encourages those currently fighting the disease because many supported her while she was fighting the disease.
"That's something that I think as a survivor that I can do. To say you can get through this and that you will have a good life on the other side," Hoffman said.
Hoffman's last round of chemotherapy was on June 3, 2011. She said she still has regular follow-up visits with her doctors to keep a close eye on the situation.