Inspiring Others: Survivorship Spotlight on Savannah Gomes
“So much of who I grew up to be was because of my cancer experience,” says Savannah Gomes. “I found my voice, learned to advocate for myself and my needs, and also the value of being transparent and vulnerable.”
Savannah grew up in the Sierra foothills just outside of Fresno, where she spent her childhood years exploring on five acres of land, making lots of mud pies and a caring for a variety of pets and wildlife. After graduating from Sierra High School, Savannah went on to pursue higher education at Fresno State, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in social work.
In the midst of all this, at 16 years old Savannah was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. When she was told she had cancer, Savannah had only one thought: “What next?” Savannah never viewed her rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis as fatal; instead, it was merely a roadblock.
“For me, being a survivor means giving back,” explains Savannah. “When you’re a survivor, you belong to a very special group. Only your fellow survivors can truly understand that experience, and when survivors connect and bond over such a difficult experience, the result is magical. While on treatment, I met survivors who had completed their treatments many years prior. Seeing them living their 'normal' and fulfilling lives gave me hope to keep going. I feel that, as a survivor myself now, it is my job to do that for others, and it’s a job that I absolutely love and am passionate about.”
For the past three years, Savannah has worked for Fresno Unified as a clinical school social worker, working to provide mental health counseling to students and support to families.
Savannah goes on to explain, “going through cancer treatment as a teen is such a unique experience…you are already going through a difficult time in your development and then cancer just adds to that.” Savannah explains that addressing this specific population and their needs is where her heart is.
As Savannah works to motivate and inspire others, she keeps near and dear those who inspire her.
“My parents inspire me daily. They have given me everything I needed to grow up and be successful,” shares Savannah. “Supplying an endless amount of love, support and understanding, [my parents] model what it means to be a good parent and I can only hope to be like them someday.”
“My boyfriend [has also inspired me]. He teaches me new ways to see the world and how to see myself. He is always there to challenge my thoughts and encourage me to see the good in life, and more importantly, in myself.”
Savannah ends by explaining that other survivors inspire her because every time she hears a survivor’s story, she reflects on how resilient humans really can be – especially kids.
“Overall, hearing the good happening in the world is an inspiration. It can be so easy to feel defeated at times. Hearing the amazing things happening out there and the individuals making it happen, it reminds me that most people are good and you just need to look around to see it.”
Click here to read more stories from Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program participants.