“ Take your time to get as much information as possible before you make decisions.
Monica Bryant has a license to “legally” Kick mAss! Literally. We met her at a conference a few years ago. She is a cancer rights attorney, speaker, and author, dedicated to improving access to and availability of quality information on cancer survivorship issues. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Triage Cancer, the principle consultant at North Star Alliances, and an Adjunct Professor at The John Marshal Law School in Chicago. She has prior experience working in advocacy from the legal side as Legislative Counsel for a Congresswoman in the US House of Representatives and as a Law Clerk in the US Senate. We were very fortunate to catch her in her precious spare time to ask her a few questions.
mK: Thanks for doing this Monica. What is your relationship to tumors/cancer?
MB: Personally, like too many people, cancer has touched my life through friends. And through my work I have had the privilege of meeting thousands of amazing people coping with cancer – all of whom are an inspiration.
mK: Why was Triage Cancer formed? What do you do?
MB: Triage Cancer started out of a very practical need – connecting those who were hosting cancer education events with great expert speakers. The idea grew from there – so in addition to hosting a Speakers Bureau with all types of experts we also have online resources and a blog.
We named it “Triage Cancer” because when someone is dealing with a cancer diagnosis there are so many different things that need to be dealt with, decisions to make, and information to learn. Often times trying to juggle it all can be incredibly overwhelming. Our goal is to provide access to quality information about all types of cancer survivorship issues – from practical and financial to health care professional burnout. Armed with that information, survivors and caregivers can better decide what needs to be handled first and what can wait until later – the very definition of triaging.
mK: Knowledge is power! What motivates you?
MB: Injustice and inequality. The fact that some people end up dying or having a poor quality of life just because they have a lower income or education level is outrageous and unacceptable to me.
mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
MB: I have many – I’m a big fan of Wonder Woman, Madeline Albright, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Not necessarily in that order, but I think you’ll see a common theme, I respect and honor people who fight injustice and struggle to combat inequality. That being said, I meet true unsung heroes every day: survivors, their caregivers, and the advocates in the cancer community who fight for them.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
MB: We’ve covered how I feel about inequality – but thankfully I have my dogs who manage to make me laugh every day!
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
MB: I’ve been lucky enough to do many interesting things in life, including travel all over the country talking to people about cancer related legal issues. But if I had to pick just one I would say – while I was working in Congress I got to participate in the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito.
mK: Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
MB: There are so many challenges survivors have to overcome – but something I spend so much time talking about are the practical and financial issues that directly impact access to care (e.g., navigating health insurance and employment).
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
MB: Watching college sports (mostly UCLA) with good beer.
mK: If you had to write an autobiography, what would the title be?
MB: Well if I didn’t have to worry about copyright laws I would probably call it, “Oh The Places You’ll Go” – because you never know where life is going to take you (I didn’t always plan on becoming a Cancer Rights Attorney) but I would hope that a retrospective look at my life would show that no matter what direction it took, I made the most out of life and had a positive impact on those around me.
mK: Cool. Dr. Seuss rocks! What are you up to now?
MB: Working hard to expand the reach of Triage Cancer. We accomplished a lot in 2013, but our work is far from done!
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
MB: Take your time to get as much information as possible before you make decisions. For example, before you run to your boss to tell them about your diagnosis make sure that is the best decision for you – I cannot tell you how many times after a seminar we give we hear someone say “I wish I had that information when I was diagnosed, I would have made different decisions!”
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
MB: One day I hope to have a hobby vineyard
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
MB: Stay strong and remember you are not alone!
Monica Bryan: Real life Wonder Woman, Die-Hard UCLA Athletics Fanatic, Dr. Seuss Disciple, future hobby vineyard owner, and powerful survivor advocate. Thanks for hanging out with us Monica! Check out Triage Cancer for a wealth of resources!