Survivor Advisory Council & Committee

People who have traveled the path understand the journey in a way others cannot. The role of the Medical Advisory Council is crititcal, but the wisdom of the Survivor Advisory Council & Committee is what makes SURVIVEiT® unique. 

Survivor Advisory Chair, Peggy Pollock Dennis - CO (Lung Cancer)

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am a wife and a mother.  I am a seeker and a believer.  I had a 26-year career as a licensed massage therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. I am a vocalist. I love the mountains and the oceans. I love to travel and explore.  I am an animal lover.  I enjoy reading. I am a meditator and I pray. I find great satisfaction in helpingothers maneuver through the complex world of cancer treatments and sharing my views on thriving with cancer. I am a student of experiencing life while living in the moment. I am a cancer survivor.

Q.Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A.  1. I would do my best not to panic. Fear stops us from recognizing that there are many options when it comes to cancer treatment. Allowing time to digest test findings makes it easier to disseminate information to family and friends. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into a treatment because of fear. Take the time to become informed.

2.  I would seek a second opinion with a specialist in my specific type of cancer.

Not every oncologist is a specialist in your type of cancer.  Getting a second opinion does not mean that you don’t trust your doctor. You are your own best advocate   so seek the best and most up to date options from the specialists in the field. 

3. I would ask for my cancer to be tested for genomic mutations and bio markers.

Getting the results from these tests helps inform your doctors to the best possible treatments for your specific cancer.  Having these results can also alert you and your oncologist to newly approved drugs and clinical trials.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. First and foremost: Listen. They have just received a shock and need time to process.  Be prepared to answer questions and/or give references to where they can find answers to their questions. Offer hope in the best ways you know how without giving false hope.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I find strength comes from my spiritual beliefs. Hope, I find in stories about others who are on a similar journey. Inspiration, I find in science as well as seeking out others who are thriving while living with cancer.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. Surviving with cancer is a cyclical process.  There will be days that you are not your best and there will be days when you feel wonderful so be gentle with yourself. There will be days that you wonder if the treatment is worth the side effects. Complementary treatments such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, meditation and energy work can go hand in hand with medical treatments. There is also an opportunity to discover who you truly are on a very deep and intrinsic level. YOU choose how to approach your cancer. By this I mean we can choose to live, truly LIVE, without the need to know ‘how long' we have to live.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Meeting extraordinary survivors, doctors, researchers and advocates who share a similar desire to further understanding, research and survivorship.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “Creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. Cancer does not necessarily mean a death sentence and there are ways to thrive while living with cancer. By tearing apart my beliefs about cancer, I have found that the best way I can share my love and gratitude for life is to live ‘fear-less-ly’!

Hayley Dubin - Council

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 16-years ago. At the time I had a two-year old son, was trying to manage my sales career and felt completely stressed and out of balance. Although it was an extremely difficult time, as I had extensive surgery and chemotherapy, I have learned and grown so much from my experience. I look at my cancer journey as a gift because it led me to live my life with integrity; not only allowing me to focus on what is most important to me but to enhance my life in ways I could have never imagined. Consequently, I decided to quit my job and stay home with my son, and my husband and I were blessed to adopt a second son less than a year after I completed treatment.

After learning how to better take care of myself through proper nutrition, managing my stress and getting in touch with what I truly wanted, I felt better than ever. It was then that I knew I wanted to help others feel the same. So, in March of 2011, I decided to attend the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified health coach. I am now fortunate enough to help others that have been touched by cancer, whether they have a strong family history or want to prevent cancer recurrence. I help them heal physically, emotionally and spiritually, by teaching them the tools of wellbeing- good nutrition, movement, positive thinking, managing stress and getting in touch with one’s true self.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. 1) I would research the top oncologists according to cancer type and get more than one opinion on treatment protocol.

    2) I would make sure that I had a team of health care providers, incorporating both western and eastern modalities, as I believe that the holistic approach to wellbeing is so important.

    3) I would get support from someone who has been in my shoes.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Be there to listen to their struggles and concerns and offer them hope, compassion and understanding, as well as empower them to take control of their own health.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I find hope, inspiration and strength from my husband, children, my Jewish faith and the many cancer survivors that I have been blessed to know.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. I want others to know that cancer can be your best teacher. Although we often ask ourselves why it happened or if we did something to cause it, I think it is better to ask what we can learn from it.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Working with amazing, inspirational people; helping them take charge of their health so that they can gain confidence that they will remain vibrant and health.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. I LOVE this vision because with the right tools, we don’t need to be afraid of cancer; with the right support we can heal and live to our fullest potential. 

Ashley Williams - Council

Q: If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. Hi! My name is Ashley Williams. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Aggressive Fibromatosis of the left popliteal fossa following a major car accident. This is a type of desmoid tumor, which is a type of sarcoma, that is located in my left knee. So far, I have been through two rounds of chemotherapy, one intravenous infusion and one oral chemo pill.  I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has a passion for helping people overcome the emotional and physical trauma they experience as a result of their cancer diagnosis.

Q: Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A: 1. Seek support. Cancer and cancer treatment can be an extremely isolating experience. During treatment, I kept much of my emotional pain to myself in an effort to not be more of a "burden" on my family and friends. However, what I really needed was a healthy outlet for those emotions.

2. Research. Upon first being diagnosed, I was in such shock that I COULD NOT bring myself to do any research. Every time I tried the process was traumatic, because there was TOO much information about cancer, and NOT ENOUGH information about my particular diagnosis. However, had I taken the time to do more research upfront, I would have been aware of additional treatment options available to me.

3. Grieve. Upon first being diagnosed, everything can happen so fast. It is easy to jump into all the things that NEED to be done: doctor's appointments, medical tests, etc. I kept myself so busy with cancer and treatment for years, that I never allowed myself the opportunity to grieve. I feel this is such an important step in the process. 

Q: What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A: Acknowledge their diagnosis. It's true, most people don't know what to say when someone is actively experiencing a trauma. By default, we tend to ignore it in an effort to "not remind" the individual of the devastation. I can't tell you how many people ignored what I was going through. The slightest acknowledgement and encouragement went a long, long way. 

Q: Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A: I am a Christian, so I find hope in my relationship with Jesus Christ. 

I find inspiration through my support system who consistently encouraged me. 

I find strength in setting small, realistic, and achievable goals that I set me up for some type of success everyday. During chemo, a goal may have been as small as going downstairs to get a glass of water.

Q: What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A: Fighting cancer may be the hardest thing you ever do. Be kind to yourself. 

Q: What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A: Cancer has taught me so many  life lessons: the realization that life is precious and the irreplaceable value of our closest relationships.

Q: What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “Creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A: The word "cancer" represents something so vast. There are so many different types of cancer with different levels of aggressiveness requiring different treatment options and bringing about different prognoses. To say cancer is fear-inducing and stressful is an understatement. SURVIVEiT's vision is an AMAZING vision. To bring information and resources to one, organized, central hub eliminates that feeling of feeling there is TOO MUCH information on cancer, but NOT ENOUGH information on your particular diagnosis.

Jonny Imerman - Committee

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I LOVE people!  And I love working on projects with people that make the world a better place!  I love animals, I’m a vegan, and I’m a minimalist.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why? 

A. LIVE the life you love!  Build things to make the world a better place.  Find the BEST people you can in the world and keep them close to you!

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. BE PRESENT.  That’s #1 and most important.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength? 

A. My mom, my brother, my friends and people who care about me.  Couldn’t have made it without them!

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. That they are not alone! Survivors and good people are here to share, help and support them!  TOGETHER we are all stronger!

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. The ability to share my story, and partner with others, to help the newly diagnosed!

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. It means we all work together to help the newly diagnosed keep a HEALTHY MIND and SPIRIT and find a way to win their cancer fight!!!

Iram Leon - Committee

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am just a guy who loves the basics of life: putting one foot in front of the other, hanging out with people I love, and daring to dream.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. 1. Figure out what you’re living for and make that the reason to avoid dying since the dying part will get there anyway someday.

2. Even as overwhelming as cancer can be, don’t let yourself be completely self-absorbed. Continue to care for the people who care about you because it’s overwhelming for them, too.

3. Realize that even with a complicated diagnosis or treatment, the simplicity in wanting to live with the right team will make it easier.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. There will be financial overwhelming, overwhelming feelings both physical and emotional. There were people who helped with those and they were life-savers in their own ways. For me, the best gifts were the ones of presence. The people who could make the phone call or the drive over.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I don’t have to look far. I have a 7 year old daughter who it takes all the energy I have to just try to keep up with her. I also know people who have had to relearn to walk or talk, and others who run marathons or have done Ironmans; people whose relationships have collapsed and those who find a way to love others deeper. It’s not so much about bouncing back as I get inspiration from those who bounce forward.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. If you weren’t already doing some things right, be grateful you have a second chance. If you were, take the chance to do it better.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. I’ve long joked that if brain cancer makes my daughter into a neurosurgeon it’s totally worth it. I think it’s that it woke me up to an age old adage: work on the relationships you want to keep and do not take them for granted. I’ve gotten to do many more things with friends and family.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. It means that all of life’s problems, and certainly the chronic ones a cancer diagnosis can cause, can be utilized to live by hope and not by fear. 

Don Stranathan - Committee

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am a survivor. I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 1995 and was told I would need a heart transplant within two years. I started exercising, researching supplements and I reversed a condition my doctors told me had no cure. So when I was diagnosed with Stage IV NSCLC in 2009. The first thing that crossed my mind was, "I can beat this." I am happy to say I am still going strong after five years. Keep a positive attitude, exercise as much as you can and don’t lose hope.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. Get a second opinion from a lung cancer specialist, have all genetic testing done that is possible on my tumor and I would not start any treatment until I knew all my mutations and options. Throwing chemotherapy drugs at cancer that don’t work just make the cancer stronger.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. People I had known for years turned their back on me when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I know now they didn’t know how to react or what to say. I tell my friends to just treat me like normal and be there for me if I need support. Sometimes they just have to offer because I might not want to ask. I think about cancer 24/7 so I am always glad to have a normal conversation with my friends.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. Through others that are fighting cancer. I also live my life by spiritual principles which have brought me through some rough patches and keep me grateful for the life I have today.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. Cancer is no longer a death sentence with all the new targeted therapies being approved. Stay strong, exercise, eat healthy and surround yourself with people that are positive and supportive. I think the best tool in my toolbox is having a faith in a power greater that myself. It reminds me I am not in charge.   

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. I met Penny Blume, the love of my life, on a cancer web site in October of 2011. We fell in love and spent the next 32 months living life to the fullest. Penny passed on January 21, 2014 from small cell lung cancer. I made her a promise I would continue to advocate for more research and awareness for lung cancer, so that is what I do.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. The word fear means to me False Evidence Appearing Real. SURVIVEiT is made up of survivors and caregivers that have walked in your foot steps and are here to make your journey a bit easier. They can dispel some of the myths about cancer. 

Jill Feldman - Committee

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am 44, married with 4 kids.  I may have stage IV lung cancer, but that is only part of my identity - it does not define me!  I am thankful for each day and try to live by what I know today.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. The most important thing to me was finding the right doctor to treat me; someone who treated the patient, not the disease. I always kept copious notes and all records. I also was able to communicate my feelings and needs with my husband, family and friends, but I had been on both sides of cancer and in so many way it's much harder to be the loved one than the patient so I made sure that I gave them time to communicate their feelings and needs. Also, when people asked what they could do for me, I told them to help my husband and kids, who take the brunt of it all.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Listen first. Every patient is different so it’s important to figure out what that individual patient’s, and family’s, needs are; what they want to know/hear and how involved they want to be in their treatment.  Try not to give medical advice, rather simply advise the patient/family and provide appropriate information and resources.  Be hopeful!

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. I find hope, inspiration, and strength in my family. I find it in my survivor family and I find it in knowing that research is moving and there are new discoveries all the time.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

You have no control over cancer physically - in your body, but you do control the mental game.  It takes time, and a lot of work, but once you control that, and cancer has to fit into YOUR life, living becomes easier.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. My work with LUNGevity since 2001 gave me the honor of being part of the growth and success of the first organization in the country dedicated exclusively to lung cancer. Also, supporting other patients and knowing that makes a difference in their journey.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. It means that no one has to go through this journey alone.  It means that every patient has a readily accessible advocate.  Without fear, patients have more control.

Greta Kreuz - Committee

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I love life and people, and live every day to the fullest. I believe in helping others, and that a sense of humor is key.  

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. Actually, what I did: cry, pray and reach out to others. It is a normal reaction. You must absorb the shock, grieve the loss of your former life, and move on to the new. Reaching out to others to learn as much as possible about lung cancer/your situation - and also simply for moral support - is critical. Knowledge is key to decision-making, and knowing you're not alone and carrying the burden single-handedly is paramount. 

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Ask gentle, open questions - let them be the guide as to how much they want to proffer. Based on their feedback, you can offer resources, connections, or advice. Initially, just be there and listen and hug. Let them know your situation so they realize they're not alone. That is huge. Telling people I am Stage IV when I look and live a normal life typically gives them tremendous hope. 

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. My faith, my church, my children, my family and friends and fellow lung cancer survivors.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A.  It is a journey. A unique, customized journey. There will be ups and downs, good chapters and bad. But you can do it! And there are silver linings: a new appreciation of life and family, not sweating the small stuff, a new joy in simple things. Life can become much richer. And you will find you may have new missions in life. I like to say I've always lived my life in color. But now I live in technicolor.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Living more richly. No longer stressing about "stuff" that used to mean more than it should. Being free to love, empathize and help others in ways I never thought possible.  

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer,” mean to you?

A. To me it means eliminating cancer as a death sentence. Whether that means through a cure, or through treatments that afford a normal lifestyle, and normal life expectancy, or through a vaccine/lifestyle that prevents it in the first place. Tall order, but fear comes from the prospect of suffering and dying, so we need to get rid of both. 

Dolio Kafri - NY Committee

Q. If you had one minute to tell someone about yourself, what would you say?

A. I am a father, husband, entrepreneur, and lung cancer survivor who is passionate about physical activities and is trying to remain healthy and focused on life's priorities that were rearranged after I was diagnosed with cancer. My desire is to spend more quality time with the people I love and give back to the community.

Q. Knowing what you know today, what are the first three things you would do after being diagnosed with cancer for the first time? Why?

A. I was fortunate to have a "professional cancer quarterback" at my side since day one. My brother in law Dr. Alexander Krupnick lung cancer researcher at Washington University. This enabled me to navigate and make good decisions from very early on that had a major positive impact on my treatment, recovery, and positive state of mind. If possible, that would be what I'd recommend to anyone.

Q. What is the best way to support someone (and their family) who has just been diagnosed with cancer?

A. Listen. Help with information when asked for. Answering questions specifically while avoiding telling long horror/bravery stories. Point them to SURVIVEiT®.

Q. Where do you find hope, inspiration and strength?

A. Looking at my wife and kids, I want to be here for them. I also find strength from within.

Q. What do you want others to know about surviving cancer?

A. Stay in the moment, if you think about the bad things that can happen in the future you WILL BE miserable. Be knowledgeable but avoid data oversaturation. There is a lot of crap you will receive from well wishing people, the internet, and more - focus only on the reliable sources of information.

Q. What has been the most rewarding experience in your cancer journey?

A. Realizing that this might be an opportunity for my family and I to rethink the next 50 years. Discovering that my way of handling this disease and what I do at supportersize has a positive impact on people. I consider that a gift.

Q. What does SURVIVEiT’s vision, “creating a world free from the fear of cancer” mean to you?

A. In my case I wouldn't know that I have cancer unless I see my Dr. (scans, tests, etc.). I really don't have any physical symptoms. What's left for me and my family is the awareness that I'm a cancer patient, which means fear of the unknown and of what can happen. For us, uncertainty is scary, knowledge gives strength, and I can relate 100% to the need of SURVIVEiT®'s mission.