New Year, New Updates

As the new year unfolds I wanted to post the highlights from 2018 and what’s happening in 2019. And in the spirit of Marie Kondo-ing, it is all in one tidy post.

Last year was full of: everything. I pushed myself professionally, from trying out new speeches and workshops to writing more effective emails. I had the energy to travel more, which was exciting and soul-filling (and stomach-filling). I felt fear (pancreatic endoscopy and Zometa infusions) and relief (all-clear results and stronger bones). For the first time I lost people I loved and admired to cancer. I also became a caregiver to a dear friend with cancer. I can’t describe how it feels to see this other side of cancer, or to realize they were all under the age of 45. I can only say I didn’t know I would need a constant reminder of compassion and strength and that there is no answer to the question, “why this person?”

I also learned—am learning—when to back off, tune out, and then dive back in. Recharging is a must, even if it is just a walk around the block.

But all of this has compelled me to write more about patient issues and search for more ways to educate the oncology world (doctors/providers, nurses, health insurance companies) about the patient experience. I learned that there is so much THEY don’t know—it underscored the need for self-advocacy among patients. I’m immersing myself in the science of precision medicine and attended my first science-based medical conference. I’m slowly learning about the science behind cancer drugs as well as genetic testing. (This is quite a shift for someone who until recently didn’t know a biome from a garden gnome.)

A few things I learned in 2018:

  • Sometimes the hard things are the right things;
  • Amazon book reviews actually matter;
  • Adjusting your message based on the audience is crucial;
  • There are still people who will say to your face, “Well, these days breast cancer is kind of like getting the stomach flu, right?”
  • Keynote is better than PowerPoint (and from that, you can teach an old dog new tricks);
  • Just when you think your kids aren’t paying attention, they are; and
  • Chocolate mousse is almost always the answer.

A few more highlights from 2018:

  • I spoke at the ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Orlando kick-off event in September. (The Orlando chapter has the largest MSABC walk in the U.S.) It was fantastic to see a roomful of women (and men) in pink and feel their dedication and commitment to ending this disease. (Side note: it was also my first time walking on a nature path that had a sign warning people of alligators. I retreated to the hotel gym.)
  • With Breast Cancer Awareness Month in full swing, my essay about the color pink (How I Became a Pink Person) was published by Folks, an online magazine focused on patients’ stories.
  • In October 2018 I was a speaker at the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA in Rye, New York. It was a gorgeous fall day and survivors and patients ate lunch, took a Zumba class, and shared stories. I can never, ever hear enough survivor stories.
  • In October 2018 I led a “The New Normal: Planning for Survivorship” workshop at SOUL RYEDERS in Rye, New York. SOUL RYEDERS was founded by a group of volunteers who wanted to help women in their community facing breast cancer. They’ve expanded their mission to include those affected by any type of cancer. They offer a variety of programs and client services for patients that serves so many women and families in Westchester County. I feel so lucky to have been a part of their program and spent an evening surrounded by incredibly strong women who inspire me to keep up the fight for all cancer patients.
  • I spoke (and walked!) at the ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of the SF Bay Area walk in Oakland in October 2018. Having my family and friends there right beside me was truly one of the highlights of the year. Go Team RaRa!
  • I volunteered at “This Old Bag,” a fundraising event for the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund in San Francisco. The BCEF is one of the very few nonprofits that gives cash grants directly to clients who need it in three Bay Area counties. They are remarkable and I was, and am, so proud to help them raise money so they can help more women in need. I will be sure to post this year’s date and ticket information; it is a night of handbags and inspiration, where we can all enjoy a night out while also providing critical funds to cancer patients in need.

Podcast alerts:

  • In July 2018 I was interviewed by Shari Coskey, PhD, a psychologist who practices in the SF Bay Area. Dr. Coskey and I had a lovely, honest (one hour!) conversation about getting through a health crisis. For more about Dr. Coskey and a link to the podcast episode, visit her website:
  • In January 2019 I was interviewed on the Precision Medicine Podcast, created by Innovation Insights, makers of Trapelo, where I discuss my experiences as a patient and clinical trial participant.


Some upcoming events:

Bay Area Cancer Connections (BACC)   Palo Alto, CA

April 23, 2019

I will be leading a workshop for BACC clients called “A Patient’s Perspective on Planning for the ‘New Normal:’ Strategies & Tips in Cancer Survivorship.” BACC is a nonprofit that was founded in 1994 to serve women with breast cancer and was expanded to include women with ovarian cancer. They offer a wide variety of support and client services (including a support group in Spanish) to women in the Bay Area. The workshop is free but you must register in advance through the website.

Stowe Weekend of Hope    Stowe, VT

May 3-5, 2019

I am proud to be the keynote speaker at this annual cancer survivor retreat. Stowe Weekend of Hope is a nonprofit that runs a three-day retreat for cancer survivors, families, and caregivers. The conference has speakers that discuss everything from current medical research to mind/body programs. There is also a health fair (you can look for me there in my booth, selling copies of This is Cancer.) All ages are welcome. Registration for the conference is completely free; you just cover the travel costs. (And from what I’ve heard, Stowe is a lovely town—a win-win!) For more information and registration, visit the SWOH website. I hope to see you there!


Finally, in the spirit of survivors helping survivors, I am thrilled to tell you about Everviolet. They make beautiful, comfortable loungeware for women (sorry, guys). It was founded by cancer survivor and artist Keira Kotler. I met Keira at a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event last fall and loved her products and her remarkable spirit. As any woman will tell you, finding comfortable loungeware that doesn’t make you look like a granny is like finding a unicorn. Finding something comfortable and beautiful after cancer surgery is even harder. But Keira has done it, making luxurious, organic loungeware that fits in all the right places. (And the entire line is made in Los Angeles.) Check out her product line and her inspiring blog—for yourself or the patient or survivor in your life.

Thank you again for your interest in my work and supporting This is Cancer.  If you know anyone who might want more info about me or the book, please share this post and encourage them to sign up for my updates. And if you are so moved, please review and rate This is Cancer on Amazon. Those reviews matter!

Finally, I welcome any patient resource ideas, websites, and nonprofits that I can share with my followers. Send them my way!

All the best for 2019,


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