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Charyn Pfeuffer
Author of Breast Cancer Q&A
charyn@breastcancerqanda.com

In addition to authoring Breast Cancer Q&A, Pfeuffer's editorial work has been featured in newspapers and national publications such as The Boston Phoenix, Urban View, Philadelphia Weekly, Portland Phoenix, Providence Phoenix, New Living Magazine, Style Magazine, Marie Claire, Bride's and Mademoiselle. Her book has been mentioned in Los Angeles Magazine, Philadelphia Style Magazine, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia City Paper, and First for Women Magazine. She has also been interviewed on TV programs, as well as on numerous radio talk shows, including National Public Radio and Way Too Early with award-winning Public Affairs Director, Harry O. She lives near the beach in San Francisco with her long-time boyfriend and lop bunny.

MHWhat inspired you to write this book?
CP

I lost my mother when I was 17 years old to a whirlwind battle with cancer. Even though I was only a senior in high school, I was frustrated by the lack of resources for women, much less comprehensible resources. Medical lingo can be difficult to digest, especially when the letters RN or PhD don't follow your name or you're facing the confusion of a diagnosis. Making choices, or I should say, informed choices is difficult when you can't get your hands on what you want/need to know. My personal experience, coupled with my volunteerism with the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA and a passion for empowerment is what truly sparked this project.

 

MHWhat would it take for this book to be a success?
CP

I'm not seeking what most people would consider 'success' in terms of this book. It's unfortunate that such resources need to exist in the first place, and that in the 30+ years since Nixon declared a 'war on cancer,' trillions of dollars have been spent on research and yet more Americans than ever are dying from cancer and there still isn't a cure. I'm grateful to be in a position where I can use my writing skills to help educate and empower women. I've been able to apply my research and knowledge on very practical levels, like conducting information sessions for underprivileged women in transitional housing. To me, that is success.

 

MHThe forward of your book talks about your volunteer service at the Women's Cancer Resource Center (WCRC), how has your volunteer service shaped your life? How has it shaped the book?
CP

Volunteerism, especially in the area of women and cancer, has been a grounding experience for me. I feel strongly about giving back to your local community in whatever way you can, and since I work from home, I have the luxury of donating a bit of my time each week. Working with emotionally charged women, who are dealing with a life-threatening illness puts everything into perspective for me. It is inspiring, and an honor, to have my life intersect with these woman warriors each week. I've also learned, mostly from the work of Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, that it doesn't take much to make a difference. In my volunteer role, I can simply listen to someone and it will make a woman's day. Likewise for this book, I felt that it was a natural transition of my contributions at WCRC into my professional career to make a difference.

 

MHHow has the development of this book changed your life?
CP

Where do I begin? The actually process of developing and writing the book has been a wild ride. I don't know many people who look forward to getting up and doing their work each and every day, so I am lucky. Many, many women shared a bit of themselves and their experiences with me, and were a constant source of inspiration. I learned a tremendous amount of information about cancer, biology, medicine, holistic health, politics and humor. Every woman I encountered emphasized the importance of humor in the face of adversity. Now that the book is published, the amount of support I've been receiving from random women and organizations has been overwhelming.

 

MHHow did you choose the questions?
CP

At WCRC, I kept a notebook of the questions women were calling in with. I also asked a lot of breast cancer survivors, "What were your immediate questions and concerns when you were diagnosed?" Over a period of 3-4 months, I tallied up the top contenders and made a list, and divided it into categories.

 

MHYour book lists the 100 most frequently asked questions about breast cancer, what is the #1 asked question?
CP

In my experience, most women seem immediately concerned with whether they are going to live or die. Once they get over the initial shock of hearing the "C" word and start to process the diagnosis, the focus typically shifts to living.

 

MHWill you continue to write books? What is your next step?
CP

Yes! I'm currently finishing up ghostwriting a manuscript for the former VP of the Men's Wearhouse about his business and personal experiences during his 28 years of managing the day-to-day marketing and merchandising for MW. I would like to write more female-focused books in the future-I have a mental Filofax overflowing with possible projects.

 

MHHow did you choose the questions?
CP

At WCRC, I kept a notebook of the questions women were calling in with. I also asked a lot of breast cancer survivors, "What were your immediate questions and concerns when you were diagnosed?" Over a period of 3-4 months, I tallied up the top contenders and made a list, and divided it into categories.

 

MHYour book tour starts soon. Is there a schedule available so people can meet you in person?
CP

Yes. All of my events are listed on my website, BreastCancerQandA.com. It is updated regularly, and it looks like events are extending though October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month.) People can also email me at charyn@breastcancerqanda.com.

 

MHIf you could give some advice to women before or after they are diagnosed with breast cancer, what would you tell them?
CP

Breathe. Since I've only been a bystander to cancer, this may be easier said than done. But, as an observant bystander, I think it's important to breathe and take your time in making decisions. It takes a long time for a breast cancer tumor to form, so while your immediate reaction may be to rid your body if it ASAP, there are many factors to consider-treatment options, getting second opinions, complementary health, surgery, drugs, side effects, long and short-term effects, fertility, etc. I feel that it is better to take an extra week or two to talk to other women and to make informed decisions, rather than by default. It's important to remember that it's your body, and although doctors possess a wealth of medical knowledge, only you will know what is best for you.

 

MHCan this book help family members of breast cancer patients or is this book designed specifically for individuals with breast cancer?
CP

I wrote Breast Cancer Q&A with the intent of it being helpful to anyone who wants quick, easy-to-understand answers about breast cancer. Sometimes, it's hard for the person with cancer to keep friends, family and co-workers in the loop of the treatments, drugs, etc. and this book provides a glimpse of what is taking place, It also has an extensive resource section, with information specific to a variety of groups (Children, Lesbians, Latinos, Low-Income, etc…)


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