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The Cancer Issue

October 20, 2008|Shari Roan; Susan Brink; Rosie Mestel; Jeannine Stein; Melissa Healy

Judi Kaufman

Beverly Hills, 64, community activist and retired business owner.

Diagnosed with: Brain cancer 15 years ago. Had a recurrence and second surgery in 2002 and a third recurrence this year.

What cancer inspired her to do: Kaufman describes herself as a creative person and lifelong caregiver. But after learning she had cancer, she felt a wave of insecurity over her identity. She worried about the loss of certain cognitive abilities due to the surgery; whether she would ever be creative again; whether she had become a burden to her family. Kaufman's solution to her problem was to help others. Art of the Brain, a nonprofit organization she founded at UCLA, pairs brain cancer patients with former patients or others who can serve as mentors. One of its programs, "Brain Buddies," provides patients with support, information, friendship and a hopeful new destiny. "These men and women are intuitive and have insight," Kaufman says of the program's volunteers. "They just know what to do." For more information, e-mail Judi@JudiKaufman.com.

-- Shari Roan

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Beverly Tiffany

Westwood, 54, retired healthcare lawyer.

Diagnosed with: Primary lymphoma of the humerus, upper arm bone. After six rounds of chemotherapy spaced over 18 weeks followed by five weeks of daily radiation, she's been cancer-free since 2002.

What cancer inspired her to do: Tiffany had a degree in social work before becoming an attorney, and knew after her diagnosis and treatment that she wanted to get back to that kind of work. She now volunteers at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai. "I knew I wanted to work with cancer patients," she says. "My job description is to provide emotional support. I chitchat." She rotates from the chemotherapy infusion room to the radiation treatment waiting room to private rooms. She listens to patients and, when appropriate, tells them how it was for her. "I thought I would never feel carefree again. It took a few years, but I have that carefree feeling back." Some conversations last a minute. Some last an hour. "Every time I leave, I feel like a million bucks."

-- Susan Brink

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Candace Brady

Chatsworth, 55, a retired LAPD police captain and attorney.

Diagnosed with: Stage 2b breast cancer, in 1998. Had surgery, radiation and extensive chemotherapy, still has annual check-ups with her oncologist.

What cancer inspired her to do: At the time of her diagnosis, "I had just been promoted to captain and was a workaholic," she says. "But after getting cancer. . . your priorities change." Driven to investigate the disease that was threatening her life, she absorbed book after book on the topic and attended scientific seminars, conferences and courses. She's given talks to medical professionals, sat on review boards helping assess grant proposals for cancer research at USC and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She frequently talks with women who are newly diagnosed, sometimes attending doctors' appointments with them or helping to decipher their pathology reports. "Cancer is a very cruel experience," she says. "It's helpful to have somebody nearby who can guide you."

-- Rosie Mestel

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Julie Davey

Duarte, 66, writer, teacher, retired college professor.

Diagnosed with: Breast cancer in 1986 and 1996; cancer-free since then.

What cancer inspired her to do: Davey, who has an extensive background in writing, editing and teaching, began offering writing workshops for cancer patients, caregivers, family members and health professionals about seven years ago, when her cancer diagnosis and the events of Sept. 11 inspired her to help others. The author of "Writing for Wellness: A Prescription for Healing," she says she wanted to provide a setting for participants to write about "their "entire life, not just the cancer part. How their priorities have changed . . . how they might be more grateful for life." For more, go to www.writingforwellness.net, or e-mail jdavey@fullcoll.edu.

-- Jeannine Stein

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Mike Dubron

Santa Clarita, 45, a firefighter paramedic with the air operations section, L.A. County Fire Department.

Diagnosed with: Colorectal cancer, in 2003, surgically removed. Dubron just passed his five-year mark cancer-free.

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