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From Shadows to Life: A Biography of the Cancer Survivorship Movement

A Conversation With Author and Cancer Survivor Judith L. Pearson

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Watch the conversation with From Shadows to Life author Judith L. Pearson, featuring NCCS CEO Shelley Fuld Nasso, NCCS Co-Founder Susan Leigh, RN, and Julia Rowland, PhD, former longtime Director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute.

Since its founding in 1986, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) has helped researchers, clinicians, and policymakers understand what it means to be a cancer survivor. NCCS has advocated for policy changes to ban discrimination, increase access to health insurance, improve cancer care, and stimulate research on the long-term effects of cancer.

No More Cancer display at The MARCHBut how? And why? From Shadows to Life is the story of 23 ordinary people, all with a connection to cancer, who founded NCCS and gave birth to a social movement that continues to improve life for millions. Part medical history, part inspirational group biography, this book leaves literary breadcrumbs for the millions who follow this path.

This conversation is for anyone touched by cancer. You do not have to read or purchase the book.

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About the Book

In 1971, with the next election looking less than promising, President Richard Nixon knew he couldn’t win the Vietnam War. But another war was brought to his attention. On December 23, 1971, Nixon signed the National Cancer Act and declared war on cancer.

In time, the law would lead to safer, more effective treatments. It saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But it did little to erase the stigma associated with the world’s most feared disease.

Shunned. Ignored. Discriminated against. Forgotten. For many shameful years in our nation’s history, that was the fate of anyone who received a cancer diagnosis. Many individuals—sometimes even the patients’ relatives—thought it was contagious. This ignorance cost people their families, their jobs, and, in some cases, their entire sense of self-worth. They were no longer seen as people who could contribute to society. As if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, they were seen as a drain on the country.

Then, in 1986, twenty-three men and women—all with a personal connection to cancer—came together for a weekend summit. Their goal was not to cure the disease, but to destroy its myths and stereotypes. The creation of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) that weekend launched the cancer survivorship movement, and forever changed the way we look at those diagnosed with the disease.

With the determination of its founders and the dedication of its growing numbers of supporters, the NCCS grew from a grassroots cause to a national mission. Twelve years after its inception, it led a march on Washington of more than 200,000 people. It has since succeeded in banning discrimination, ushered in survivor healthcare reform, and provided researchers with invaluable knowledge about the long-term impacts of treatment.

Part medical history, part group biography of average citizens who did extraordinary things—and set to be published during the fiftieth anniversary year of the war on cancer—Judith L. Pearson’s From Shadows to Life is the story of a social movement that continues to improve life for millions of Americans.

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About Judith L. Pearson

Judith L. Pearson

Judith L. Pearson

Judith L. Pearson’s previous books include Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy and Belly of the Beast: A POW’s Inspiring True Story of Faith, Courage, and Survival Aboard the Infamous WWII Japanese Hell Ship Oryoku Maru.

A diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer led Judy to found A 2nd Act, a nonprofit that raises funds through live storytelling performances, publishes a book (an ever growing collection of the stories told on their stages), conducts workshops helping guide women survivors as they discover their 2nd Acts, and makes micro grants to survivors ready to launch or grow their 2nd Acts after cancer. In 2014, she was honored in Washington, D.C., by the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR).

A member of the Society of Integrative Oncology and the American Psychosocial Oncology Society, Judy is a founding board member of Arizona Women for the Arts, a member of the American Association for University Women, and a past board member of the Michigan State University Alumni Association. Named one of Chicago’s Most Inspirational Women by Chicago Magazine, she was selected as a finalist for the Arizona Healthcare Leadership Awards in 2018 and named a Phoenix Healthcare Hero that same year. She and her husband live in Arizona, at the base of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

Judith Pearson’s Website »