10-year-old breast cancer survivor embraces life while inspiring others: ‘Keep moving forward and never give up’

10-year-old breast cancer survivor embraces life while inspiring others: ‘Keep moving forward and never give up’

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COURTESY OF ANNETTE TURNER
Time Inc.

A Utah girl who was one of the youngest people in the world ever to be diagnosed with breast cancer is still doing well almost two years after a mastectomy and has become a “quiet inspiration” to thousands, says her mother.

With the arrival of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “we’d like people to know that she’s happy and still enjoys bringing beauty to the simple things in life,” says Annette Turner, 45, a cervical cancer survivor, about her daughter, Chrissy Turner, now 10 and a fifth-grader in Centerville. 

“Chrissy carries a glowing spirit with her wherever she goes,” Annette tells PEOPLE exclusively, “and she’s teaching others — especially women diagnosed with breast cancer — to embrace life and focus on the good. If anything, that’s been her most powerful message: ‘You can defeat this and you can keep living.’”

Chrissy tells PEOPLE: “This experience has taught me to keep moving forward and never give up. Through my cancer, I learned how important family really is and that we should enjoy every second of this life. I love spending time with my family and friends and just having fun.”

Chrissy was 8 years old when she first told her parents one night about a lump she’d found under her right nipple that was painful to touch.

When doctors diagnosed her in November 2015 with secretory breast carcinoma, a rare type of cancer afflicting one person in a million, “it was devastating,” says her father, Troy Turner, 45, a survivor of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “How do you tell your kid that she has cancer?”

Since the removal of her right breast, Chrissy is now been seen for a breast scan every three months and will likely have reconstructive surgery when she’s 15 or 16. 

“About a month ago, we had our first meeting with a plastic surgeon, just so she’ll know what her options are,” says Annette. “She’s barely starting to develop on her left side, so we have some time.They just want her to be prepared for it.”

Chrissy, who shares a room with her older sister, Brianna, 17, still receives cards and stuffed animals from well-wishers two years after she made international headlines. This month, she’ll participate in a few community events to raise awareness about the importance of funding breast cancer research, says her mom, and she plans to speak at a fundraiser to help children with cancer and other serious afflictions. 

“She’s shy, but we tell her that when you’re called to a greater purpose in life, you can’t hide from it,” Annette, a personal life coach and holistic trainer, tells PEOPLE. “Chrissy now realizes that this is an opportunity to take something horrible that happened to her and turn it around.”

“Even at first, after her initial shock, Chrissy showed an overwhelmingly positive attitude and strength to overcome her situation and return to enjoying life,” adds Troy, an equipment specialist at Hill Air Force Base. “She truly has a spirit beyond her age, and her positive attitude and strength are radiated to those around her. She inspires me every day.”

Although Chrissy is a normal girl who loves dragons, Legos, riding her scooter and having her older sister read her stories and paint her nails, “she knows that what she went through is rare and that there’s a bigger picture working here,” adds Annette.

“She knows that when something like this happens to you, you can either take it lying down or you can grow from it, spiritually and emotionally, she tells PEOPLE. “She’s chosen to grow from it. This entire experience has brought our family closer together.”

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