Survivor shares twelve lessons to empower cancer patients and caregivers
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Kelley Skoloda was the healthiest person she knew—until the day she became a cancer patient. During her first, routine colonoscopy, Kelley received a shocking diagnosis: colon cancer. Three years later, her new book reveals how stories can be powerful motivators and how painful distraction can be turned into advocacy and action.
Based on the true story of her cancer journey, “A Way Back to Health” (She Writes Press, November 9, 2021) reveals surprising lessons that paved the way for her recovery, shares helpful action steps for those who find themselves in a similar situation, and illuminates how personal stories can powerfully motivate and heal. With a foreword by Lisa Lurie, co-founder of Cancer Be Glammed, the book also features examples of how other amazing survivors have learned to manage, survive and thrive in the face of cancer. She also explores how often overlooked actions, such as trusting your instincts, speaking up, getting a second opinion, and watching for miracles, can have a profound impact on recovery—lessons meant to help patients advocate for themselves and help friends, family, and caregivers as they wrestle with cancer and its treatment.
“Stories can be powerful motivators and, with cancer, can promote advocacy and action,” said Kelley Skoloda, author. “By sharing my story, I hope that someone will find the help they need on their cancer journey.”
Cancer will affect one in three people directly, and many more indirectly, in their lifetime. With its real-life stories and unexpected lessons, “A Way Back to Health” is a helpful and relatable guide to the most important information you need to know about cancer—for the time you need it most.
“A Way Back to Health: 12 Lessons from a Cancer Survivor”
Kelley Skoloda | November 9, 2021 | She Writes Press | Nonfiction, Self-Help
Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-64742-217-2 | $16.95
KELLEY SKOLODA: Kelley is a wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, author, and MBA; the founder and CEO of KS Consulting & Capital; and, now, a cancer survivor. She is a recognized authority on consumer brand marketing whose business book, Too Busy to Shop: Marketing to Multi-Minding Women, was named a “must read” by Publisher’s Weekly. As co-chair of the investment committee of the Next Act Fund, she invests in female-led startup companies. She has been named one of the “most influential women in business” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and serves on several boards of directors. She has been quoted in HuffPo, Time.com, TODAY.com, Fortune.com, Forbes, Adweek, BRANDWEEK, C-SPAN, and many other media outlets. Kelley’s family is the center of her life and she loves to golf, cook, travel, and enjoy cat humor with them. She is grateful every day for the love and support she received throughout her health challenges and hopes her story can be helpful to others navigating cancer. For more information, visit: https://www.awaybacktohealth.com/
In an interview, Kelley Skoloda can discuss:
- How the response from sharing an article on Medium inspired a full-length book
- How stories are powerful motivators to get health screenings
- How and why she blended her advice with the personal stories of other survivors
- How her approach to cancer treatment changed from distraction to action
- Why self-advocacy is critical for cancer patients and is particularly challenging for women
- Five lessons and suggested action steps for turning a frightening diagnosis into a manageable journey
- Counter-intuitive actions that she took that helped her
- How she managed being an entrepreneur and running a business while having cancer
- What she ultimately hopes readers will take away from this book
An Interview with Kelley Skoloda
1. Before you wrote “A Way Back to Health,” you had shared an article on Medium that touched many readers. Can you tell us about your article, and how this turned into a full length-book?
After a life changing diagnosis, I felt the need to let my friends and business network know what had happened. Through an article on Medium (which can be found in its entirety in the Appendix of the book) and a Facebook post, I shared the story of my situation, diagnosis, and surgery. As a result of sharing my story, I was soon inundated with not only well wishes but also reactions like “I’ve been meaning to schedule my colonoscopy screening and now I’m doing it,” and “Your story has incentivized me to get my [husband/mother/father] scheduled for their next screening.” Dozens and dozens of people responded and were taking action, not because of the new guidelines (which had just been released and in the news that week), but because of a personal story.
2. How are stories powerful motivators?
I still wrestle with sharing my story because I don’t want the pain of reliving even a second of the ugliness. But what I have found is that there is pain in not sharing a part of my life that has forever changed who I am. After undergoing the full process, from diagnosis to surgery to chemo and back to health, I learned a great deal along the way. I witnessed other patients and their families struggling with challenges like I had experienced. They are lessons I never wanted or expected to learn, but they helped me and, based on the power of personal stories, could help others who are coping with a similar situation.
3. There’s a feeling of warmth and community that shines through this book. Why did you decide to highlight the stories of other survivors in this book?
In talking with other survivors, I found that many share similar sentiments. To explore an even wider range of experiences, my editor suggested that I incorporate lessons from other cancer survivors. My “call for survivor stories” on Facebook and LinkedIn received an amazing response. Fellow “warriors” shared moving and powerful stories with me and granted me permission to share them in this book. While reading the stories shared with me, I felt like my immense pain and suffering paled in comparison to what so many others and their families, especially children, have endured. There is such a quiet strength among these survivors. Given the ubiquity of cancer in general, someone you know is likely suffering right now, and there is always someone who is having a worse day than you.
4. How did your approach to cancer treatment change from distraction to action?
Once you are diagnosed with cancer, cancer can take over your life. The doctors’ appointments are time-consuming and the healthcare system is maddening to navigate. The anxiety and mental anguish infiltrate daily life and impact everyone in the family. When I started to advocate for myself and take action, I felt less distracted and started to gain more mental control of my situation.
5. What does it mean to advocate for your health? Why is this important and why is it particularly challenging for women?
Medical expertise is critical, but only YOU know you best. One month into my chemo regimen, I was in dire straits due to side effects, and I found it hard to speak up. Self-doubt about my condition, a significant loss of energy, not getting much of a reaction from the medical team, and not wanting to be a pain all contributed to my reticence. Don’t let yourself get to this point. If things don’t seem right to you, then they aren’t. Speak up for yourself.
Speaking up is important, critically important, and, in fact, encouraging patients to speak up about problems that occur during hospitalizations can improve patient experience and safety, research indicates. However, it is a universal challenge. While many people speak out about many things, speaking up for yourself is not nearly as common. It’s particularly difficult for women the world over, given how our society and culture trains both men and women to think and behave, and shapes how we all perceive assertiveness. Having spent decades in the marketing industry working with powerful women and men, I have seen the tendency firsthand for women to advocate strongly for others but neglect to speak up for themselves. Whether it’s a result of politeness or uncertainty, many women tend to not speak up, or not speak up loudly enough.
6. What are the top 5 actions you would recommend for turning a frightening diagnosis into a manageable journey?
- Do Your Research, knowledge is power.
- Get A Second Opinion, your doctor is one expert in a field of many.
- Watch for Miracles, especially when you are facing cancer, every part of your life can produce miracles, if you look for and recognize them.
- Prepare to Speak Up, if things don’t seem right to you, then they aren’t
- Trust Your Instincts and Take Action, only you know you best.
7. What are some counter-intuitive actions that you took that helped you?
In one chapter in particular, Fake it Til You Make It, I talk about how I got up, got dressed, put on make-up, combed my hair and worked almost every day, despite pain, fatigue and despair. Though my mind and body were not up to the task, I found that “faking it” helped me get through tough times. I refused to let cancer define or lessen me. I even dressed in “work clothes” for doctors appointments and chemo treatments.
8. How did you manage being an entrepreneur and running a business while having cancer?
Having just launched my consultancy eight months before my cancer diagnosis, dealing with a life-changing health condition in addition to being solely responsible for my business was a lot. So, I got up every day, got dressed and worked. I received good advice from friend Lisa Lurie, also a cancer survivor, to not take on too much work and allow myself some flexibility, which I did. But when you are responsible for helping to support your family, it’s a big incentive to work through the challenges.
9. Who do you hope will read this book, and what do you ultimately hope they take away from it?
I’ve seen the quote, “Stories help others. Share yours.” While talking recently to a friend who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she said she had read about my story on social media. She went on to say that she and her family had taken several of the actions that I recommended and that they helped her. It is my hope that by sharing my story, someone will find the help they need on their cancer journey.
A former award-winning journalist with national exposure, Marissa now oversees the day-to-day operation of the Books Forward author branding and book marketing firm, along with our indie publishing support sister company Books Fluent.
Born and bred in Louisiana, currently living in New Orleans, she has lived and developed a strong base for our company and authors in Chicago and Nashville. Her journalism work has appeared in USA Today, National Geographic and other major publications. She is now interviewed by media on best practices for book marketing.