Cancer Care

‘Don’t Stop Moving’: 18-Year Cancer Survivor Offers Advice to Others on Surviving and Thriving

Published: Aug. 18, 2022

A phone call with her sister-in-law in January 2004 resulted in more than a physical and emotional hang-up for Crystal Slaughter, 64.

“I was sitting there, I had my arm kind of propped up over the chair, I had scratched under my arm, and that’s when I felt it,” Crystal said. “I told her, ‘I think I feel a lump.’”

At the advice of her sister, Crystal immediately called her doctor. She eventually learned that lump – about the size of an egg – meant stage 3 breast cancer. And treatment would consist of a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

“So many times I was told that I was lucky,” she said. “I wasn’t expected to make it.”

But she’s been cancer-free for 18 years thanks to her determination to stay faithful, positive and active.

Moving Toward Healing

When Crystal’s oncologist suggested that she look into the Harper’s Hope Cancer Survivorship Program – which offers a variety of services to help improve patients’ quality of life – she wasn’t certain she’d take him up on it. After all, she was dealing with a lot, and the thought of adding one more thing to her plate felt overwhelming.

But after such a positive experience with A Time to Heal – a 12-week holistic program that helps cancer survivors and caregivers regain physical, emotional and spiritual strength – Crystal soon found herself embraced by the comfort of even more offerings at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center (MECC).

Her Harper’s Hope experience began with behavioral health, from which she learned to lean into journaling and daily affirmations. She eventually found her way to MECC’s Inner Beauty Salon, where she was fitted for a mastectomy bra. She took advantage of nutrition and physical wellness services, and she met inspiring individuals just like her in an exercise class designed for breast cancer survivors.

“Believe me, I was the type that didn’t exercise,” she said. “I couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it.”

But the more she moved, the better she felt – physically and mentally. In fact, she began to see cancer as a blessing.

“It changed me,” she said. “Now, I ain’t saying I’m ready for sainthood. Heaven forbid. But it changed me. It brought my family closer. It made me appreciate other people’s problems more. It made me want to help others the way others helped me.”

“Keep Moving and Doing”

Crystal is currently receiving lymphedema therapy – another Harper’s Hope service at MECC – to help with the tightness and pain she still experiences as a result of radiation and reconstructive surgery. She continues seeing her care team for annual follow-ups. And she’s still exercising – “one mile on the elliptical and four miles on the bike every day but weekends and holidays” – something she can’t imagine doing without the push she received through Harper’s Hope.

“I also make sure to get out and do something every day,” she added. “I go to the store or the post office – they all know me by name, there – and I go to the casino every now and then, too.”

Simply living life, she said, is key to getting more of it. And that’s her advice to others when it comes to not only surviving, but thriving.

“Don’t give up. Don’t be negative. And don’t stop moving. You’ve got to keep moving and doing whether you’ve got cancer or not.”

More Resources

About the Author

Jessica Gill, the External Communications Manager for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

See more articles from Jessica Gill
Photo of Jessica Gill