BURLINGTON, N.C. – Over the past year, a cancer diagnosis would take one North Carolina family on a roller coaster ride of emotions, including an appearance on the Ellen Show.

Earlier this year, Ellen DeGeneres surprised Natalie Hopkins and her family $25,000 to make their Christmas a little brighter this year.

This time last year, uncertainty and fear hung in the air, when Hopkins learned life-changing news: she had breast cancer.

“Yesterday was a year,” she said, “And I was out Christmas shopping - as I was yesterday, to get a few little last-minute shopping items. [This year] we kind of talked about that it was a year ago yesterday.”

Over the past year, the Guilford County Schools educator went through chemotherapy, a double mastectomy & reconstruction. Through the grueling battle with cancer, she stayed positive. Then late this year, she was surprised on the Ellen Show.

Since that appearance, things back at home are looking up: Hopkins is cancer free - with an end in sight for treatment.

“Once we got back radiation started. And I go daily,” said Hopkins, “My last day will be in the beginning of the year.”

“We couldn't have done this without the Lord and all the people he put in our lives,” said her husband, Nathaniel.

“It's amazing what a difference a year makes,” Hopkins said.

This Christmas the best gift is enjoying time with family, with a weigh lifted off everyone's shoulders.

“Our outlook on moving forward is so much brighter. We are not thinking about what is going to happen to mommy because we know mommy is cancer free and she's going to be great,” Hopkins said.

The Hopkins family were invited back to the Ellen Show for the "12 Days of Giveaways," where everyone in the audience won a trip to Dubai. They're hoping to take a trip this summer.