Savannah Strandin has a voice fit for Broadway and a smile to match. The 23-year-old is a professional singer and actress, who is well on her way to a successful career. But she’s facing a hurdle most aspiring performers are not: Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. That diagnosis did not come easily.
“It was a very long, confusing journey,” said Strandin.
In April — Savannah’s lymph nodes started to swell up. However, her doctor didn’t find any other signs of having lymphoma.
“So we were doing bloodwork and nothing bad was showing up, so we kind of narrowed it down to a viral infection, and it will go away on it’s own,” she said.
Savannah then took a job at the Texas Shakespeare Company. But, her illness got worse, and she moved back home to focus on her health. Shortly after, a swollen spleen landed her in the E.R.
“And two days after that, they did a lymph node biopsy. And we got the diagnosis a week later,” said Strandin.
Since then, Savannah has undergone 5 chemo treatments at SwedishAmerican’s Regional Cancer Center, and she’s set for a 6th round. The whole time — worries of never being able to sing again in the back of her mind.
“It was really hard thinking…the “what ifs”…what if I can never do this again?”
But she smiled and sang through it all — earning her the nickname “Wonder Woman”. Her good friend even getting her a Wonder Woman cape.
“Throughout my journey in the hospital and everything, my nurses, my doctors, all my visitors have signed it and put little messages on it,” Strandin explained.
“She’s very upbeat and wants to confirm to everybody that ‘this is not going to beat me’,” adds Deb Schwarz, Art Therapist and Counselor at SwedishAmerican.
Her perseverance inspired a fellow performer, Tamara Woodrow, to host a benefit in Savannah’s honor to raise money for medical costs. The theme? Women in Wonderland.
“Franchesco’s is making funny cocktails like Mad Hatters and Queen of Hearts, and Savannah’s gonna be our Queen of Hearts. And then we’re gonna have live bands and raffles, and we’re gonna do mini makeovers for women going through chemo or have been through chemo,” said Woodrow.
Both Tamara and Savannah hope to send a message to young women and girls struggling with health issues.
“I say be strong and smile through everything,” said Woodrow.
“Stay positive, keep a smile on your face. Know that everyone loves you and supports you. Because that’s what’s gonna get you through,” said Strandin.
The benefit takes place Sunday, October 14th at Franchesco’s in Rockford. If there are leftover proceeds, those will go to other local women battling cancer.