FORT WALTON BEACH — Hundreds of underserved women in Okaloosa and Walton counties can now receive free mammograms and biopsies each year, all thanks to one 10-year breast cancer survivor named "Suzy."

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Suzy Nicholson Hunt, the namesake for Sacred Heart Hospital's "Suzy Fund," never imagined her story would be saving women's lives today.

In 2007, however, after being diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, Hunt decided that going through chemotherapy, a partial lumpectomy and 33 rounds of radiation wasn't enough.

She wanted to do more than fight for her own life — she wanted to fight for the lives of other women as well.

While still undergoing treatment, Hunt partnered with local restaurants and Sacred Heart Hospital to raise $20,000. The money was used to begin a fund to offer no-cost mammograms for locals who could not afford them.

"It's surreal," Hunt, 52, said. "The fund has grown so big that they now provide money for biopsies and whatnot. We wanted to raise money that stayed local, that helped local people."

Although Hunt is celebrating the Suzy Fund's anniversary this year, she's also proud to celebrate 10 years of being cancer-free.

"When you get to 10 years, it's like, "Hurrah! This isn't going to come back,' " she said. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel if you can beat this."

Nowadays, Hunt volunteers her time encouraging women — most she's never even met — through their breast cancer battle. Hunt said her story is proof women can survive breast cancer, and she's always available to remind women they're stronger than their diagnosis.

"You don't know how strong you are until that's the only choice you have," Hunt said. "I was bald, my hair grew back just the way it was before. I was sick, now I'm fine. I don't really have anything lasting physically, other than scars. I think scars are badges of honor. I'm not ashamed."

Hunt said the one thing that changed when she became a cancer survivor was her enhanced value for life. She encourages other survivors to make a checklist to get through treatment, then begin enjoying the rest of their lives.

"I wake up each day and try to be happy," Hunt said. "Life is too short to not be happy. Start a bucket list. Tell people you love them.

"I don’t take my life for granted. It could come back. And, if it comes back, I don’t think I’d be as frightened or scared. I would just tackle it the way that I did. Life's a gift."