What brought you to the field of survivorship?
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28 years old, one of the first pieces of advice I received from a fellow survivor was that the “hard part would come later.” At the time, it seemed impossible to believe: I was in chemo, prepping for my mastectomy, navigating all kinds of side effects. How could it get any harder?
But it was true.
It was in the six months after active treatment that I began to digest what had happened and to re-adjust to “normal” life. After over a year of hands-on care, I felt like I’d been thrown out into the universe with no plan for re-entry. My mind was constantly flooded with questions: What would my future look like as a young breast cancer survivor? How would I manage the various side effects that were lingering after treatment and as part of my ongoing cancer meds? How could I manage my risk moving forward through things like nutrition and exercise—while still enjoying the good things life has to offer? And, of course, the most nagging question of all, the one that woke me up in the middle of the night: What if the cancer came back?
Hungry for answers, I started looking around for anything that could help. And while it wasn’t easy, I finally found two different individuals that changed the game for me: a therapist trained in working with folks who have experienced trauma, and an OB/GYN who specialized in cancer survivors on hormone therapy.
And while I was lucky enough to find and have access to this care, the truth is that most survivors do not—and I was hearing that from folks in our community on a regular basis.
That was when I became completely obsessed with the concept of cancer survivorship care and how we could fill the enormous gap that currently exists in our healthcare system.
And that’s how VivorCare was born!
What excites you most about the future of survivorship?
Oh, man … so much does. At VivorCare, we like to say that we think survivorship is the next frontier in cancer care. As the population of survivors grows rapidly—putting unprecedented pressure on both the oncology and primary care workforce—we will have to figure out a long-term strategy for managing our mental and physical health, especially since we are such a high-risk and high-cost group.
And the amazing thing about filling a white space like this is that we have the opportunity to be bold: to draw on what we’ve learned in the decades we’ve been fighting cancer, but also to leverage new areas like virtual-first care delivery, predictive analytics, and personalized care navigation to entirely redefine the long-term management of cancer survivors.
And the best part? We get to keep working alongside the community, our community of cancer survivors, to build it. Nothing excites me more than that.
What’s the best part of being part of the VivorCare team?
I’m completely serious when I say I wake up every day feeling lucky to work with the amazing folks on Team Vivor, including our awesome advisors. We all bring different backgrounds: as clinicians, innovators, health policy wonks, product experts … and, of course, a large chunk of us are survivors ourselves. But what unifies us is that we are all die-hard believers in the need for better survivorship care and the opportunities that lie ahead.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A “singing paleontologist,” which is for sure a real job that actual humans have.
(I loved to sing and I was obsessed with Jurassic Park. Points for creativity, I guess?)
What’s your favorite way to spend a Sunday morning?
Some combination of the following: a walk by the Charles River in Cambridge with my dog, Levi; some lox and bagel from the deli down the street; and a nice, long catch-up with a friend or two. Bonus points if I’m wearing some VivorCare swag while I do it all!