A wife and mother of three, Steen-Ciolek took her question and began years of soul searching, combined with digging into her Irish heritage and a little scientific research, which eventually led her to write her first book, Imprinted Survivor.
First diagnosed in 1998 with lung cancer, Steen-Ciolek was only 43 years old and raising her three young daughters when she was given her prognosis. From the very beginning of her battles, Steen-Ciolek said she chose to be an "active participant" in beating her illness by educating herself as well choosing to live a healthier lifestyle.
It was at the start of her journey when Steen-Ciolek also began to meet people that had been put in her path to help "guide her." From the employee at the health foods store who had "survived against the odds" to the woman survivor she met in the hair salon just before she started chemotherapy, Steen-Ciolek said these were the types of people she somehow found herself surrounded by and who gave her hope.
Two years later, after beating her first form of lung cancer, Steen-Ciolek had gone in for her annual mammogram when doctors discovered a pin-sized lump in her breast and then again in 2001, the Brighton mother was diagnosed with a second primary form of lung cancer.
In 2009, after going into remission three different times for three different cancers, Steen-Ciolek was in her garden one day when her leg went numb. The prognosis was brain tumors and due to their placement, doctors were limited in their treatment and it became a "wait-and-see game."
It was during this time, after her many years of fighting, winning and counseling others in their own battles, a friend encouraged Steen-Ciolek to write a book about her experiences, her hope and faith and her own personal conclusion that she was just "too stubborn to die."
"I remember growing up and my mother saying my stubbornness is going to be the death of me, when actually it was my salvation," she said.
During the three years it took her to complete her first book, Steen-Ciolek said it became a revelation to her that her genes and her ancestors had helped her beat cancer by "imprinting" her with a "survival gene."
While the book follows her life with cancer, focusing on the spirit, mind and soul of a survivor, Steen-Ciolek also merges in her heritage and how the strength of ancestors that became ingrained in her gave her the will and ability to "never give up."
"People do survive and things do happen and you can't always put a finger on why those things happen," she said. "But I want to give people hope and have them believe in miracles."
Susan Steen-Ciolek will be signing copies of her book, "The Imprinted Survivor" on Sunday, October 6 from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. at the Brighton Barnes & Noble Booksellers.