September 11, 2012 | by nlindsey
If there is anyone whose spirit embodies the word indomitable, it is Michelle Gearhart-Pash. She has battled six separate occurrences of breast cancer and bested the disease every time.
Rather than retreat to her own life and avoid all talk about cancer, Gearhart-Pash has become a shoulder to lean on, a person to talk to and an advocate for others as the chair of City of Hope’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. That’s a group of patients and caregivers who give feedback and recommendations on City of Hope patient-care services.
“I don’t have a problem hearing someone’s story,” she says. “People ask me if they can have a friend or co-worker talk to me, and I always say ‘of course.’”
She and her husband, Bob, have both served on the council as members – and she succeeded him as chair earlier this year.
To say that cancer has insinuated itself into their household is probably an understatement. Taking on the role of chair of the council has made cancer, and discussion about it, part of everyday life.
But for Gearhart-Pash, the role makes sense.
Who better to find out how to maintain a positive outlook or a can-do attitude than someone who has undergone the gamut of treatments -- from double mastectomy to a stem cell transplant -- and still managed to know she’ll come out on top?
“I accept whatever I’m dealt in life,” she says. “I love to play poker, and if I’m dealt a tough hand, I’ll work with it.
“You can’t run away from your cancer.”
If you’re around the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope, you might run into her on a meeting day. You’ll recognize her as the slim, smiling woman who seems to know everyone. Be sure to say hello.
But just know: If you’re a patient, family member of a patient or a caregiver, you might find yourself recruited as a new friend – and a new member of a group that’s making a difference.
To learn more about the Patient and Family Advisory Council, contact Annette Mercurio, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., of the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at 626-256-HOPE (4673), ext. 64888.