CLEARFIELD -- Calling it a gift, a Clearfield woman has a knack for making cancer cells produce rapidly in her body.
Linda Hill told students about that "gift" Thursday at Clearfield High School.
Having survived Hodgkin's lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer, Hill can attest to enduring some tough times. Now 50 years old, she doesn't necessarily see it that way, though.
"I'm no different than everyone else, because everyone has burdens," Hill said.
She said she has been blessed to have cancer on body parts that can be removed, referring to her spleen, thyroid, breasts and colon.
More importantly, Hill has learned to find the best in situations.
When doctors tell her it looks like she has had a little bit of bad luck, she responds with, "No, I have had a bit of good luck. I'm still here, aren't I?"
Cancer first invaded Hill's life when she was 19, fresh out of high school. Doctors had discovered a tumor slowly squeezing around her windpipe. What Hill thought was a simple cough was actually her body gasping for air.
She was diagnosed with stage IIIB Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1980 with not much chance for survival. After some radiation treatments and 14 months of chemotherapy, she came out on the other side into remission.
"I was a much wiser 20-year-old, since I had gained more perspective on what was really important to me," Hill said. "I smiled at what an amazing gift I'd been given."
She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a number of years later. Then most recently, she endured colon cancer, which resulted in the removal of her colon, and breast cancer, which resulted in a double mastectomy.
She has fought her disease with humor. For instance, she went into her colon-removal surgery wearing a T-shirt reading, "I lost my colon, but I'm still full of crap."
She began making her own T-shirts to sell for others experiencing similar situations. Her biggest seller is for those having had mastectomies. That T-shirt reads, "Of course they're fake ... the first ones tried to kill me!"
Hill admits she is all too aware that cancer is not funny. "But, if I can bring smiles during a really hard time, then it's worth it, because it's all about attitude and fighting the fight with humor."
All of her T-shirt proceeds go to the Huntsman Cancer Research Center as a way for Hill to give back to those at the center and all they have done for her. Hill and her children are on a first-name basis with the staff there, given their countless visits.
"It's not a good thing when the nurses there know you by name and you know each of their shifts," said Saratoga Springs resident Kelly Davis, one of Hill's seven children.
Davis and her siblings never knew quite how to react each time their mom would tell them about yet another cancer diagnosis
"I remember every time my mom would come home, we'd be like, 'Seriously? Your body can't pull it together and stop making cancer cells?'" Davis said.
The students listening to Hill speak were amazed by all she had been through.
Emily Russell, a senior, was inspired by Hill's experiences.
"Just using her philosophy of looking for the good can go for multiple things," she said. "I think I will use her philosophy throughout my life."
Connie Kearl, the school librarian who invited Hill to speak as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hoped the students would learn from Hill's experiences.
"Most of us, and if you haven't yet, you will have someone in your family who has been touched by cancer," Kearl said.
Hill plans to celebrate this year; if she can make it just two more months cancer-free, she will call it her cancer-free year.
"I smile at the perspective cancer gives you. It reminds me that today is a good day, because I'm not hooked up with a tube up my nose," Hill said.
"I am so much more than cancer."
That inspired her to call her T-shirt company "So Much More."