Getting Things Off My Chest: A Bitter Pill To Swallow: The Cost of Getting Sick

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 I was running a successful wine and food public relations agency, eating at the top restaurants and visiting the world’s great wine regions. Five years later, I came to a point where I considered applying for food stamps. My income was dried up and I was behind on my house payments. How did this happen to me?

I learned I was not alone and should not be ashamed. I decided to speak out and learn more. According to a University of Michigan study  25 percent of breast cancer survivors reported financial decline during treatment. One in three breast cancer survivors end up unemployed after treatment. Twelve percent of survivors were still paying off medical debt four years after treatment. Women who underwent chemotherapy had a 27 percent higher job loss rate among more than 1,500 breast cancer survivors surveyed.

Medical Debt is a Bitter Pill (Photo:

Medical Debt is a Bitter Pill (Photo:

Medical debt is one factor. Health insurance deductibles and out of pocket costs not covered by insurance drain bank accounts. It is very important to understand the fine print with your health insurance provider to make sure you know how to submit correct paperwork. It is also important to work with your hospital or clinic to make sure your treatment options are covered. My hospital’s financial services department required me to sign paperwork guaranteeing I would pay the cost of a specific drug ($4,000 per shot) if my health insurance did not cover the expense.

Many women cannot work or need to adjust their work schedule during and after treatment.  Their spouse or partner may also need to take more time off from work to care for them. Their household income is impacted.  I continued to work full time but not at full speed. A side effect called chemo brain impacted my memory and concentration despite all my best efforts to eat well, exercise daily and get enough sleep. No warned me about chemo brain. It just happened. I later found it the condition is common and can last for years after treatment.

Some women simply cannot or do not want to go back to the lives they led B.C. (before cancer). I’ve interviewed dozens of women who said the careers they had before cancer were A) no longer fulfilling to them B) too stressful C) no longer available to them. Employers too often look at someone who survived cancer not as a brave person but as a weak link in their system.

A mindset may shift when you face mortality, but the bills remain steady and for many are overwhelming. Dealing with the financial fallout of breast cancer treatment is something women may be hesitant to address or discuss. Your first priorities are healing physically and emotionally and caring for your family. But the reality is many of us need to find help and make lifestyle adjustments to upgrade the quality of our lives to stay healthy while downsize our cost of living to manage financially. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is a sign of strength to face the situation and seek help.

The high cost of illness cannot be avoided, but there are precautionary measures you can take: Continue reading

Fearless Fabulous Women: Ann Ogden Gaffney: Cook for Your Life

In the early 1990s, fashion industry executive Ann Odgen Gaffney found herself cooking and caring for a designer in the industry fighting AIDS, The experience taught her to be fearless which was especially helpful when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2001. Fortunately, Ann recovered following her surgery and her life went back to a new normal….well, sort of. A second diagnosis of unrelated breast cancer came later and was a more difficult journey with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Ann Ogden Gaffney

Ann Ogden Gaffney, Founder, Cook for Your Life

Ann learned from this experience that cooking was solace and nutrition was essential to manage side effects from treatment and support her recovery.  Her own experience plus listening to others facing dietary and eating challenges during treatment gave Ann the impetus to leave the fashion world to create Cook for Your Life in 2007. The organization’s mission is to give the cancer community the practical knowledge, tools and inspiration to cook their way into healthy survivorship. To date, the free classes and programs in the New York City area have served over 7000 individuals and on the free website some one million unique visitors around the world. Continue reading

Getting Things Off My Chest: No Experience Necessary

The ad announced a search for the next food and drink critic for the weekly, Time Out NY.. It stated: Here’s the deal: We’re on the hunt to crown the city’s next great food writer. You don’t have to have any professional experience as a critic—just a passion for New York City’s culinary scene and the world of eating.

My professional food writer friends blanched. No professional experience necessary. On one hand, I support giving a newcomer a chance at a career. On the other, it is absurd to hire someone with no professional food writing or reviewing experience, who may have not even have restaurant experience, in the role of an “expert.”  A review can make or break a business, but we’ve seen with the explosion of Yelp and other online forums that instant “experts” are popping up everywhere.

No experience necessary. It took me over 100 rejection letters to land my first job despite a book of published, by-lined articles. Today, young novices are hired in jobs to replace older, experienced professionals. Then, where do you go? Back to the drawing board to figure out how to re-purpose your existing skills. Back to school to learn new skills.  You start a blog that you hope people will read and will provide you income. You reconsider your salary requirements. You connect through events and social media. You attend PR events where everyone seems to be half your age and wonder, “When did this happen?”

A former client once warned me when I requested a fee increase, “Be careful, Melanie. At some point everyone becomes too expensive and is dispensable.”  I responded, “I may become dispensable one day, but I intend to remain unforgettable. I am worth my work.” Continue reading

Alana Chernila’s Homemade Kitchen Wisdom: Books By Fearless Fabulous Women

“Do Your Best, and Then Let Go”

So reads one of the 13 chapters- and morsels- of kitchen wisdom in Alana Chernila‘s new cookbook, “The Homemade Kitchen.” This is a book whose message is as much about how to approach life at a slow, measured and pleasurable pace as it is about about cooking with the same intentions.


“Start Where You Are.” “Feed Yourself.” “Put Your Hands in the Earth.” “Do the Work.” “Slow Down.” Alana has these phrases and others taped to her refrigerator. I do the same thing on mine with inspirational quotations such as: “Just as the Caterpillar thought the world was coming to an end, she became a butterfly.” “Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” This latter quote is the lead in my second book, “Fearless Fabulous You! Lessons on Living Life on Your Terms.”

Feeding your body also nourishes your soul. The kitchen is both heart and hearth for many home cooks, including Alana. She says, “The process of cooking at home is my window into what I want to create in life as a whole.”

Alana Chernila

Alana Chernila

If the kitchen is the heart of her home, her gardens are the arteries. Alana looks to nature for inspiration in the kitchen and shares practical insights to working with and not against it, from honoring the ingredients to utilizing bits and pieces and not being wasteful.

I’m a fan of the section of “The Homemade Kitchen” that address waste and re-purposing different foods, something I am just learning to do in an effort to be more respectful of the fact than we live in a nation of abundance where too many still go hungry.

“The Homemade Kitchen” is a follow up to Alana’s first book, “The Homemade Pantry.” You can also follow her blog, Eating from the Ground


Alana Chernila shares her story and her kitchen wisdom on Fearless Fabulous You! September 28th, 4pmEST on W4WN. The show podcast is available on demand any time at and the iHeart App. Here is the direct link:

Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime, Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime.

Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime. Follow Melanie on and Instagram/Melanie Fabulous. Website and blog:

Books by Melanie Young. Available nationwide. Learn more and purchase here.

If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer this helpful, comforting and resourceful guide will be your best mentor-friend. Filled with tips!

If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer this helpful, comforting and resourceful guide will be your best mentor-friend. Filled with tips!

Fabulous tips to reboot and redefine how you want to live your life

Fabulous tips to reboot and redefine how you want to live your life


Fearless Fabulous You! Sept. 28: Could Your Kids Make You Sick?

Recently I was at a birthday dinner where a mother shared her experience with lice. Both her sons had contracted lice at their school. I’ve heard this story from other parents whose children contract lice-or fleas-and infected the rest of the family. It made me curious: How can you keep your kids safe from germs at school?  Also, how can you keep your self free from germs that your kids bring home from school?

No one can live in a bubble. I’ve invited Columbia University Medical Center Pediatric Specialist Dr. Clare Bush to join me September 28th to discuss how to keep both your kids and you safe from germs and illness this school season.

Dr. Clare Bush, Pediatric Specialist, Columbia Doctors

Dr. Clare Bush, Pediatric Specialist, Columbia Doctors

We’ll discuss the obvious (washing your hands and smart sanitation), the less obvious (what childhood diseases can adults contract from their kids?) and controversial (vaccinations: which ones should you get, at what age and why it matters).

Monday, September 28, 4:28pm EST on Fearless Fabulous You! on W4WN and and the iHeart App. Link to show:

Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime, Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime.

Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime. Follow Melanie on Twitter@mightymelanie, and fabulous

Books by Melanie Young. Available nationwide! Click here to purchase.

If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer this helpful, comforting and resourceful guide will be your best mentor-friend. Filled with tips!

If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer this helpful, comforting and resourceful guide will be your best mentor-friend. Filled with tips!

Fabulous tips to reboot and redefine how you want to live your life

Fabulous tips to reboot and redefine how you want to live your life

Getting Intimate with Your Man’s Prostate and Why It Matters

September is National Prostate Awareness Month. Frankly, I would never have known if I did not write and report on health topics. Prostate cancer does not get the “noise” that breast cancer, or even ovarian cancer, receives. Yet, it is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer.

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, one in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer as compared to one in 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer. There are about 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer and 26,540 deaths from the disease. While prostate cancer is a serious disease, many men diagnosed do not die from it. More than 2.9 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.

Unfortunately, my father, Mel Young, is not one of them.  He died from metastasized prostate cancer in November 2009. He lived a long time with the disease and underwent many forms of treatment including radiation, but the cancer spread to his kidneys and eventually we realized until too late, his brain. During that time I learned about things like PSA counts and a prostatectomy (Dad chose not to have one). But I never really knew what the purpose of the prostate was and wasn’t 100% sure where it was located in the men’s plumbing department.

Now that my husband is in his 50s, I am urging him to have his first digital rectal exam, and he is avoiding the conversation.  While most prostate cancers occur in older men- the average age is 66- men should discuss when to start screening, especially if there is a family history. This is especially important because there are no early symptoms associated with early prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer affects men of all background and ethnicities. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, prostate cancer is 1.6 times more common and 2.4 times more deadly among African-American men than Caucasian men.

Prostate health is important to men, and it is important for women to understand why and to start the conversation if your man is not taking care of his medical appointments.


Dr. Dudley Danoff, Author, The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health

Dr. Dudley Danoff, Author, The “Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health”

Dr. Dudley Seth Danoff, MD, FACS is a renowned urologist who is president and founder of the Cedars-Sinai Tower Urology Medical Group in Los Angeles. He’s written a frank book, “The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health.” which really digs in deep without too much medical jargon on everything you need to know about the penis, the prostate and male sexual health.

male sexual health

He joins me on the September 21 edition of Fearless Fabulous You! discuss what every woman needs to know about prostate health and how to open the conversation with your man. W4WN, 4:28 pmEST). This will be the first of a two part series. On a later date, Dr. Danoff will be back to probe the penis and explain all how your man can stay vital at any age. As always you can listen to all of my shows on and the iHeart App. Direct link:


American Cancer Society

Prostate Cancer Foundation

Blue Cure Foundation

Host Melanie Young is a certified holistic health coach, award winning author and motivational muse. Follow her blog at Connect with her on Twitter@mightmelanie and Facebook/FearlessFabulousMelanie

Host Melanie Young is a certified holistic health coach, award winning author and motivational muse. Follow her blog at Connect with her on Twitter@mightmelanie and Facebook/FearlessFabulousMelanie


From Hospice to Healthy: This Former Air Force Colonel Fought Ovarian Cancer and Won

Deanna Won  is a former U.S. Air Force Colonel and physicist who specialized in electro-optics and lasers for over 26 years. She worked in space launch, missile defense, biological defense and NATO operations.  But no military training prepared her for a battle with ovarian cancer.

Colonel Deanna Won

Colonel Deanna Won

“When I was 45 years old, I experienced excruciating pain in my abdomen and had trouble breathing, which landed me in the hospital, where even the morphine could not reduce any of my pain,” says Deanna. “When I found out that I had ovarian cancer, I made the immediate decision to completely change my nutrition and diet to an organic, raw living vegan one with plenty of fresh green vegetable juices. Within 3 months of making this change, my elevated tumor marker became normal again, and my tumor began to shrink.”

Ten months later, the tumor was starting to die from the inside out, and Deanna went back to work which required traveling overseas and long days. It was hard to maintain her healthy regimen, which is common when you travel for work.

Working 16-18 hour days without taking enough time to care for herself took their toll.  Deanna’s cancer ended up spreading to her entire abdominal lining, causing her to experience multiple hemorrhages. By the time she reached age 47, Deanna’s lungs had collapsed and filled with fluid, upon which doctors lost hope for her survival. She was placed under hospice care and on an oxygen machine, with the grim prognosis of 1 to 2 months left to live.

Deanna refused chemotherapy, choosing a holistic approach to treating her condition, focusing on diet and nutrition and lifestyle changes. She says “By the Grace of God I miraculously recovered.”

From Colonel to Holistic Health Coach: Deanna Won

From Air Force Colonel to Holistic Health Coach: Deanna Won

Choosing a holistic approach to manage metastatic cancer is a very personal choice. Deanna will discuss her decision and its outcomes September 21, 4pm EST. on Fearless Fabulous You! on and IHeartRadio. Direct link:

Deanna’s near death experience from ovarian cancer made her change her life and enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified holistic health coach and serve as motivational speaker.  I share this path and professional training with with Deanna and know where she’s coming from: Once you visit CancerLand, you never want to return. Making healthy lifestyle and diet changes are both your first steps of defense and offense against any disease.

Ovarian cancer has been called the “silent killer” because it is too often detected at an advanced stage. There is currently no reliable screening for ovarian cancer, an issue I addressed in a recent edition of Fearless Fabulous You! and on Huffington Post for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (September). But you have treatment options and you can choose to make healthy changes. I have interviewed many women who are long-time ovarian cancer survivors. I salute Colonel Deanna Won for her resilience and thank her for sharing her message.

Connect with Deanna Won:

More information on Ovarian Cancer:

SHARE:    Ovarian Cancer Alliance:

Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime,

Inspiring Women Around the World. Listen to all episodes on and the iHeart App anytime,

Have you connected with me yet? on Twitter@mightymelanie and Facebook/FearlessFabulousMelanie



Are We Having Fungi Yet?

A recent walk in the woods yielded a brilliant treasure. Attached to the trunk of a dead tree was a giant mushroom. It was splashed with colors of yellow and orange and fanned out in layers resembling firm giant petals. We delicately removed it from the tree trunk and carefully carried it home.  Research on the internet and a consult with a mushroom foraging expert confirmed it was a Chicken of the Woods, considered a delicacy in the food world.


After photographing our find for posterity and Instagram we sliced it into thin strips and sautéed them in olive oil with a little salt, pepper and Slap Ya Mama spice. Our magnificent mushroom revealed a nutty taste and meaty texture. Yes, it tasted a bit like chicken.

I am mad for mushrooms, whether for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sliced, diced, roasted, sautéed, grilled in kebobs or crunchy in a light tempura batter or nut crust. I lust for fresh Chanterelles and Morels in season, savor the flavors of Enokis, Oysters and Shiitakes in Asian dishes and fish and substitute earthy Creminis and Portobellos for meat dishes. On the rare occasion I can locate a Hen of the Woods (Maitake), much less the Chicken version, it’s swoon-worthy.  I’ll even take mild mainstream white buttons (the white bread of mushrooms) which can be transformed from bland to grand with the right accompaniments and spices. The only mushroom I don’t like is a poisonous one.


Morels (photo:

I’ve had mycology on my mind after our fabulous forest find. “Let’s take up foraging,” I mentioned to David. A sigh and then silence usually means “Here she goes again….”

I’ve never foraged for wild mushrooms out of concern I’d pick the wrong ones. And I made damn sure David chewed and swallowed a few of those Chicken of the Woods before I dove in with my fork. “Death by Mushroom” isn’t how I want my obituary to read. You should always buy wild mushrooms from a knowledgeable and reliable source unless you are an experienced forager. Meanwhile, I did some foraging about mushrooms on the internet. September happens to be National Mushroom Month. (For those of you not rabidly following the food and drink world, there is an official day or month for almost anything edible or drinkable).

Chanterelles (

Chanterelles (Photo:

Mushrooms are categorized as a fungus (plural: fungi), even though they are usually grouped with vegetables. The fungi family defined by Merriam-Webster is “a group of related plants such as molds, mushrooms, or yeasts that have no flowers and that live on dead or decaying things.”

Fungus and mold are usually associated with unhealthy things like Athlete’s foot and allergies, But mushrooms are good for you. They are loaded with nutrients such as essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and digestive enzymes, low in calories and sodium, and are fat and cholesterol free as well as gluten free. You can read up on the nutritional benefits of mushrooms at this Mushroom Council link  Continue reading

The Theory of Relevancy

A chef whom I knew and respected died this past week at the age of 50 after a long battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a devastating and progressive neurodegenerative disease.  His name was Gerry Hayden, and his restaurant was the critically acclaimed North Fork Table & Inn on Long Island. I had just discussed booking a dinner at his  restaurant with my friend Kathy, and then she sent me his obituary.

Chef Gerry Hayden

Chef Gerry Hayden

Gerry Hayden stood heads above many star chefs in the kitchen even though he was confined to a wheelchair. Though his arms and hands were useless for cooking, his mind was still sharp and filled with ideas. Despite his severe physical limitations, from mobility to breathing, he ran the restaurant with a dedicated staff and attracted a loyal following. Gerry fought his disease by making his mind work harder. He knew he wanted to stay relevant as both a chef and advocate for ALS awareness.

Gerry with wife, Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming and his team at North Fork Table & Inn this summer (reposted from his Facebook timeline)

Gerry with wife, Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming and his team at North Fork Table & Inn this summer (reposted from his Facebook timeline)

We all have the ability to be relevant in some way, large or small. Yet some of us falter and lose our confidence and connectivity to feeling relevant. “Relevancy” by definition means “pertinence,” “having a connection.”  We become irrelevant when we no longer feel needed,  worthy or connected. But, makes you irrelevant? It does not happen unless you allow it.

Relevancy is a state of being, mindfulness and purposefulness. It’s about being connected to your Self and not being touched or swayed by the opinions of others, changing times or stumbling blocks that fall in your path.  No one or thing can make you feel irrelevant unless you let it or allow cracks in your psyche to let something prick your confidence. And then you realize these people and situations are no longer relevant in your life. You let them go to open space for new people, experience and chapters.

To stay “relevant” means to embrace yourself “as you are” but also to evolve. This may mean making changes through education, meeting new people, moving to or away from a location or career. It also means taking bad things and reshaping them to give you a renewed sense of self.

I know Stage IV cancer fighters who, despite endless bouts of treatment and uncertainty, have stayed more relevant through their attitude and purposefulness than some individuals brimming with health, talent, looks and money.  The mind is a terrible thing to waste feeling irrelevant.

Chef Gerry Hayden may have been robbed of  a long and healthy life and, as a three-time James Beard Award nominee, a well-deserved medallion. But he was given the gift of a brilliant mind and spirit that teaches us how to be relevant.

Please view and share this video of Gerry with anyone you feel could use a lesson on relevancy. Or cut and paste this link:

If you want to learn more about ALS or make a contribution click here.

Tweet this: Relevancy is state of mind and purposefulness. It’s the belief that YOU always matter @mightymelanie #fearlessfabulousyou





SHARE Provides Peer Support for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer

Most people are aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but how many of you are also aware that September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month?  At the end of this article I have provided a graph to give you a brief understanding of the impact both breast and ovarian cancer have on women in the United States of all ages and backgrounds,

What’s important to also understand is that if you or a loved one is diagnosed with either disease, you don’t have to feel alone. There is an amazing support network available through organizations like SHARE, a non-profit whose mission is to produce peer support to women with breast or ovarian cancer.


SHARE is comprised of women who have lived through one or both of these cancers and who are trained to offer a helpful and sensitive ear and insights through one-on-one peer support, educational programs and a national helpline 844-ASK-SHARE. SHARE provides services in many languages and runs two programs dedicated to both the Hispanic and Japanese communities. SHARE also has special programs for young women with breast or ovarian cancer as well as for caregivers who often bear the emotional burden of helping their loved ones through their cancer journey. All services are free.

Jacqueline Reinhard

Jacqueline Reinhard

On the September 7th edition of Fearless Fabulous You! on W4WN: The Women 4 Women Network on (Live 4p.m. EST)  my guests are: Jacqueline Reinhard, SHARE’s Executive Director and a breast cancer survivor; Ivis Sampayo, Senior Director of Programs who spearheaded LatinaSHARE, and a two-time breast cancer survivor; and Andrea Herzberg, a former veteran New York City police officer and 19 year ovarian cancer survivor, who oversees SHARE’s Ovarian Cancer Helpline: 844-ASK-SHARE. Hear their stories and learn how SHARE can help ease yours or your loved one’s cancer journey. Connect:

Andrea Herzberg

Andrea Herzberg

2013 Ivis's photo for LGFB

Ivis Sampayo







Here are a few facts on both Ovarian Cancer and Breast Cancer: Continue reading