Giving Back: Courage Thru Cancer

Giving Back: Courage Thru Cancer

Cancer is a scary word. No matter the age or type of cancer, it’s a word that packs a punch of fear and concern. But while a diagnosis of cancer presents a lot of unknowns, there are countless individuals who already have waged the battle with cancer who live in the Memphis area. Providing hope, reassurance and the simple knowledge that someone likely already has faced the battle one is about to encounter is an important reason Courage Thru Cancer exists.


Courage Thru Cancer is an organization of families forged together through a shared battle dedicated to encourage and inspire those who are forced to face this disease. By sharing individual life experiences with others who are facing this battle, CTC exists not only as a living tribute, but also to ensure that no story goes untold. In short, Courage Thru Cancer is an online platform of videos and written narratives that tell the stories of those in the Memphis community who have battled or currently are battling cancer. Hearing those stories in the words and voices of the person experiencing it has a greater meaning for those who need inspiration and support for their own battle with cancer.


“By sharing experiences, we exist not only as a living tribute but also to make sure no story goes untold,” said organization co-founder Jon Neal. “Instead of going to WebMD you can hear real stories about how people fought through their cancer and inspire others. The fight they show will give others inspiration not just to bury their heads in the sand if diagnosed but give them a road map. We’re also trying to unify the Memphis cancer community. We have the leading pediatric cancer center in the world but we have great adult facilities as well.”


Neal found inspiration to start Courage Thru Cancer when one of his identical twin sons was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and has been fine since. “But when you find out your child has cancer, your world stops,” he said. “No matter if it’s nothing or something, when you hear cancer in a child it changes your purpose in everything. We walked in those doors at St. Jude and walked out forever changed.”


In addition to his son’s experience, while driving home from St. Jude, one of Neal’s closest friends, Gerry Finney, called to let him know his cancer had returned. “That was the biggest one-two punch in my life. It wasn’t an accident. There was a reason cancer was thrust into my life. My friend, while he did chemo, he played tennis, lifted weights, did cardio – basically everything you wouldn’t predict a cancer patient would do. I told him, ‘Your story is truly remarkable and would inspire almost anyone who hears it. We need to do something that shows people what you’re all about.’ He said, ‘What, courage through cancer?’ I said yes and he agreed but said we must talk about people who inspired him, so that became our inspiration and focus.”


In addition to sharing inspirational stories, Courage Thru Cancer raises money for Memphis-area cancer organizations through a variety of fundraisers, including a May 4 5K run at Levitt Shell benefitting West Clinic. The organization is always searching for new stories, volunteers for its events and donations to support local cancer organizations. For more information, visit or check out their Courage Thru Cancer channel on YouTube to watch the videos.

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