My Favorite...Sonya

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Texans Cheerleader Sonya is the picture of health. The second-year veteran dances with endless energy and lights up a room with her glowing smile. Looking at Sonya, it's hard to tell that she is a cancer survivor.

But when she was in college, Sonya was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. The Toronto native lost her hair and dealt with all the physical and emotional side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Through the ordeal, Sonya not only learned the depth of her own strength, she realized the importance of having a strong support system.

{QUOTE}That's why she decided to get involved with CanCare, a nonprofit that provides one-on-one emotional support to cancer patients and their families through a trained volunteer who has survived a similar type of cancer.

"I got involved with CanCare when I was about six months out of treatment," Sonya said. "It was funny because I had gotten a phone call several times asking me if I was coming to volunteer training, and I don't know why I got nervous. Then, I got some encouragement from my friends and family, saying I really needed to do this. So I called them the day before at 4 o'clock and said, 'Can I come to your training tomorrow?' They moved some things around and I got in.

"For young people going through cancer, it's really tough at that point in your life. For me to give those women hope and say, 'Listen, she went through it when she was young. I'll make it through it as well.' That's what inspires me and has encouraged me to keep going."

Since then Sonya has been committed to reaching out to young patients and giving them courage to face their battle against cancer, hope for recovery and a compassion that comes from shared experiences.

"I really enjoy working with other patients," she said. "I tell them, 'I know what you are going through. I went through the same thing. Here is a little bit of what you can expect.'"

Sonya became so involved with the organization that she decided to become a fulltime employee at CanCare, which was founded in 1990 and partners with more than 100 corporations and hospitals to provide services free of charge.

"Cancer doesn't discriminate," Sonya said. "It affects people who are young. It affects people who are in their 30s, 50s and 60s. I'm very proud to put a face to that and say, 'Listen, I'm young and I had cancer, but I'm going on with my life and I'm taking that experience and putting it toward something positive.'"

Sonya now works with a local television station. Still, she remains extremely involved with CanCare and serves on their junior board, the Young Friends of CanCare. And in March, the organization honored her as one of their fearless cancer survivors who is making a difference in the community.

"I was approached by CanCare, and what they do every year is ask four of their volunteers to represent the organization for this event, which is a fundraising event to support CanCare throughout the year," Sonya said. "Myself and several other CanCare volunteers were chosen, and the reason why I was chosen was because I am a Texans Cheerleader as well as a cancer survivor.

"I enjoy being a cheerleader as well as a cancer survivor because to me it shows that I accomplished something important. I went through an obstacle in my life and it was terrible, but something really positive came out of it. And I don't know if I would be here today (as a cheerleader) if I didn't have cancer or go through chemotherapy or radiation. That's makes me feel even better today knowing that I've gone through those obstacles."

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