Help From A Long-term Survivor

Marcia Donzinger cancer advice

Did you ever meet someone and just know you were meant to be friends?  Marcia was one of the people who was organically introduced to me when my cancer journey began.  An original “my cancer family” member.  We met through one of my first “cancer friends”.  Matt reached out to me when he read my story on  He was on a long battle with melanoma (sadly we lost him last  year).  He quickly introduced me to his wife’s college roommate, Marcia Donziger.  Marcia was a divorced mom of two boys also.  She was a cancer survivor (diagnosed in her 20’s) and founder of MyLifeLine.Org.  Ironically, though she lives in Denver, and I live in NYC, our kids also connected randomly, or were meant to as well?!?  Marcia’s book, You Are Meant For Great Things was recently published and she’s an inspiration in every way.  

Denise: What would you say to someone diagnosed today on how to get through and reach the greatness they are meant to be?
Marcia: For someone diagnosed today, I would say to slow down to speed up. Take the process slow at first – step-by-step – and follow what the doctors say. Get a second opinion if you can. Then, prioritize what YOU need for healing and recovery along the treatment path. Know there will be a steep learning curve of medical information and be patient with yourself. Trust your gut to make decisions right for you. Never be pressured into a certain treatment protocol.
Start to build your support team. This team includes your trusted oncology doctors and nurses. Having a primary caregiver(s) to join you at doctor’s appointments is very helpful. It will be hard to absorb the information about your treatment options by yourself. Especially if you are not feeling well. Bring a friend, partner, or family member to take notes, and help you process the information after the appointments.
Check out Cancer 101 to order a planner which will help you stay organized. They have wonderful resources for newly diagnosed patients and caregivers.
Go to Cancer Support Community’s Diagnosed section, and you will find a video with the 10 Tips to Navigate Your Cancer Diagnosis Quick Guide. They also have a Cancer Helpline to speak to a counselor who can direct you to relevant resources. 

Denise: What are your favorite products that you suggest for someone on a cancer journey?
Marcia: I recommend any of the products within My Cancer Family’s portfolio.  Also, during my chemo treatment, it gave me a metal taste in my mouth. If this is the case for you, try white Tic-Tacs or Lemonhead candies. They work!
Denise: What advice do you have for someone diagnosed with Cancer at the age you were?
Marcia: Diagnosed in my 20’s, I felt isolated and alone despite having a loving family and friends. I wanted to find someone my age who had been through it and made it through to the other side.  Don’t go through it alone. There are many organizations I recommend to young adults with cancer to meet others going through similar circumstances. 
Denise: Where did you get your inspiration from, at such a young age, to go through cancer and have kids via surrogate?
Marcia: Thank you. I am a person determined to achieve my dreams. When my fertility was cut off due to a hysterectomy after Ovarian Cancer diagnosis, I never veered from my dream of wanting to become a mom. I researched the options – adoption and surrogacy – and my husband and I chose the option best for us.  My twin boys are 17 years old now, and they are the children I was meant to raise and love.  As far as starting a meaningful company,, it was natural progression for me, because I love connecting with and helping people impacted by cancer. 
Denise: For someone going through cancer, who thinks they can’t have kids or won’t be able to, what would you say to them?
Marcia: There are options – adoption and surrogacy. Unfortunately, they are both costly and time-consuming. For me, it was also a painful process of grieving the loss of my fertility. What was crucial for my healing was to meet with an oncology social worker at my hospital. Social workers are incredible in that they help you with the mental and emotional aspects of healing. Please make sure you are meeting with a therapist or social worker who specializes in helping people through cancer.  In addition, there are advocacy organizations out there fighting for infertility treatments to be paid for by health insurance – this needs to happen.  Resolve is a national infertility organization doing this advocacy work, and they have resources to help. 
Denise: What great things do you still want to do?
Marcia: I worry about the state of healthcare in our country. My dream is to help the nonprofit and healthcare sectors maximize their impact. There is a huge problem with burnout, and we need to restore work-life balance. Then, we can recruit and retain talented people towards these important fields of work.  Today, I do keynote speaking, leadership training, and culture consulting to help leaders build healthy, inclusive, and empowering cultures, so their employees can thrive. Ultimately, I want to create an online school called The Social Impact Academy to give every nonprofit and health organization access to a library of leadership training and cultural support. 

Marcia's Top Non-profits

Young Survival Coalition for women with breast cancer

Resolve – a national infertility organization

First Descents – connect on an adventure trip, free to young adults

Imerman Angels connect with a cancer mentor

Cancer Support Community (join their MyLifeLine community)

Cancer 101 to order an organizer that keeps everything together