Despite facing homelessness, young cancer survivor thankful for every day

CHICAGO -- Holidays can be difficult in shelters like Covenant House in Chicago, especially for those without friends and family to share them with. But one young man says he's still thankful every day, despite facing illness and homelessness in his own life.

Raised by a single mother who died of breast cancer three years ago, 22-year-old William Lavinder was left on his own, with nowhere to turn.

"The baby bird wasn’t ready to leave the nest yet, but I really didn’t have a choice," Lavinder said Thursday. "After my mother passed, I was just stressing a lot, trying to figure out where I was going to live, what I was going to do, how I was going to support myself.”

The overwhelming stress led to a seizures, a brain hemorrhage and an even darker discovery: stage 3 brain cancer.

"It’s difficult, but at the same time, it builds character and with me being so young, I don’t look at it as depressing, I just look at it as learning my way and trying to find my own way," Lavinder said.

A March surgery to remove the cancerous tumor left him with scars, but also gave him a new perspective.

"Every day I wake up, I’m just thankful," Lavinder said. “I still wake up with a smile every day on my face and thank God... I’m thankful for my health and thankful to be alive."

Lavinder spent his Thanksgiving at Covenant House, which provides a safe place to go during the day for some of the 2,500 to 3,000 teens and young adults that are homeless in Chicago.