Author Melanie Young: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
11 min readSep 20, 2021


Assemble a trusted medical team to guide you through your diagnosis and treatment. This may mean listening to your inner self and not the advice of others. I do recommend leaning on and talking to other survivors with a similar diagnosis. I found this very helpful to navigate me through my journey. I kept detailed checklists about my experience to be a trusted mentor for others.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Young.

Melanie Young is author of “Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer.” She is a certified health coach, food and wine writer, host/producer of Fearless Fabulous You!, a podcast and radio show on women’s health, wellness and entrepreneurship, and The Connected Table, a radio show and podcast on food, wine and travel. Diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer in 2009, Young is a 12-year survivor who has used her experience to mentor others diagnosed with cancer and promote self-care to reduce one’s risk for cancer.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the only child of a dynamic mother and adoring father. My mother, Sonia Young, age 87, is known as “Chattanooga’s Purple Lady.” Everything she owns and wears is purple, even the interior of her house and her two cars. She has been featured in movies, on television shows and in magazines for her eccentric, yet giving, larger-than life purple personality filled with her signature

“Lavender Love” sign-off. My mother encouraged me to be creative, individualistic and purposeful in everything I do and achieve in life.

My father, Melvin A Young, was a certified public accountant, who was also respected as Chattanooga’s Wine Professor. He created a wine education program out of his passion for wine in the 1970s and taught it for more than 30 years. My father inspired me to go into business for myself in 1989 and also to learn about wine, which became part of my professional work. He was my business mentor and sounding board throughout my life and career. Losing him to metastatic prostate cancer on November 2, 2009 , just as I was facing my own breast cancer journey, was very hard for me.

I graduated Tulane University in New Orleans (Sophie Newcomb College back then) which sparked my lifelong love affair with New Orleans. My intention was to travel the world as a journalist. I ended up traveling the world as a public relations professional and opened by my agency in New York City in 1989. I closed is in 2011 after my cancer treatment ended and I decided to try a new path in life.

Both my parents encouraged me to believe in myself and my ability to do whatever I put my mind to. I believe to this day in the “I’m possible and not “impossible.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.” (Vivian Greene)

I have had many “storms” in my life, including my cancer diagnosis and loss of my beloved father. I have learned to make the best of the worst and find ways to use the experience as a life lesson to build upon and help inspired others to face their own “storms” with courage and grace.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?

Yes, I am very open about my cancer experience because I want to help people feel they are not alone, and they have someone like me to help guide them through their cancer journey. When you are diagnosed with cancer you become part of new community of survivors, most of whom are caring and sharing and willing to lend advice and offer support. At least that has been my personal experience.

What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?

The scariest part about my cancer experience wasn’t worrying that I would die. That I could deal with because I had lived such a full life at the time of my diagnosis, I knew I could die with no regrets. My big “fear” was that I would be disabled for life and unable to take care of myself physically, mentally or financially. I have always been a strong and independent woman and do not want feel helpless. For the first time in my life after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt I was no longer in control of my life. I had to listen to my doctors and follow their instructions. I was used to being the boss of my own life. Now I had new bosses, like my oncologist, Dr. Maria Theodoulou, who initially called me “a handful.” We became very close, and she wrote the introduction to my book. Regardless, I sought ways to stay in control best I could to stay focused and sane.

How did you react in the short term?

Being a public relations professional and a business owner, I went into crisis control and created a five part cancer management plan.

  1. I assembled my team of doctors with care to make sure each understood my breast cancer diagnosis and how best to protect my self-health. This extended beyond my breast surgeon, reconstructive surgeon and oncologist and included my primary care physician, OB/GYN, dentist, dermatologist and ophthalmologist. I knew cancer treatment can impact all parts of the body and wanted to know how to be prepared for any side effects.
  2. I researched my health insurance thoroughly in order to understand my coverage.
  3. I contacted my credit card companies, my bank and assessed my finances to make sure I knew how I would be able to pay for my out- of- pocket expenses.
  4. I created a communications plan to decide who I would tell and not tell, including peers and clients. I assigned my husband, David Ransom, to be my health care proxy and my gatekeeper.
  5. I sought out trusted peers to bolster and guide me, such as my dear friend, Melanie Grisanti, a breast cancer survivor, and SHARE, a cancer support nonprofit that provides free peer-to-peer guidance by survivors.

After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?

I exercised regularly and took long meditative walks outside in the country where I was living in the Hudson Valley. I also wrote in my diary as therapy and started a blog. Writing has always been therapeutic. I also started a gratitude practice, giving thanks every day for five things in my life, and a kindness practice, reaching to someone every day to say “I am thinking of you.”

Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?

My husband, David Ransom, was my “rock.” He was by my side 100% of the time and knew when to hold me close and when to give me space. People told me that he wrote eloquent updates to my circle of friends about my diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I actually never saw them, but friends told me they were surprised at what a beautiful writer David was. After I recovered, David embraced his writing as a career and now is editor of a wine magazine.

In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?

It’s about making choices in your life. You did not choose to have cancer; in a strange way, cancer chose you. Consider cancer your wake-up call to make healthier choices in your life moving forward, from how you live to what you eat to your relationships with yourself and with other people. Cancer teaches you that your life is a gift and time is an asset you never want to waste.

What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?

I learned to be fearless…and to embrace every day with gratitude. I also wiped away any lingering regrets I have in my life — and there have been many. Instead, I focus on The Now and The Tomorrow.

How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?

I was inspired to write a book to help others diagnosed with cancer to make the journey less startling and frightful. Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous In the Face of Breast Cancer (Cedar Fort/Plain Sight) is a navigational guide to help women diagnosed with breast cancer make informed, confident choices about their health management during and after treatment. I provide helpful questions to ask your doctors, handy “survivor tips” and valuable nutrition and self-care information. You could consider my book the “Lonely Planet” guide to the cancer journey you never planned to take and need all the best tips possible to make through safely.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

Here are a few misconceptions about a cancer diagnosis:

A cancer diagnosis should not be looked at as a death sentence. You need to consider it a life sentence to start living your life with better care and intent and be kinder to yourself. The same goes for a stage 4 diagnosis (“metastatic cancer”); it is not “the end.” I know many amazing people living full lives with metastatic cancer and for many years.

You should feel no shame or blame about being diagnosed with cancer. Don’t waste your time second guessing what you did wrong. Instead, focus on what you can do better to get well and stay healthy.

Please do not call anyone diagnosed with cancer a “victim” and be aware many do not want to be called a “warrior.” Cancer is a fight, but many are sensitive about being lumped into commonly used terms and phrases.

Only 5–10% of cancers are genetically related. 90% of cancers are lifestyle related. If you want to reduce your risk of cancer do these things now:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight for your body size
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not smoke, or stop
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption* or do not drink
  • Do not skip annual medical exams and, for women, mammograms starting at age 40
  • Manage your stress

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Assemble a trusted medical team to guide you through your diagnosis and treatment. This may mean listening to your inner self and not the advice of others. I do recommend leaning on and talking to other survivors with a similar diagnosis. I found this very helpful to navigate me through my journey. I kept detailed checklists about my experience to be a trusted mentor for others.
  2. Embrace healthy living as a way of life and not as a side gig. This may mean cutting back work hours, reducing obligations, and changing how you manage your time.
  3. Proper diet and nutrition is essential to beating cancer. Food is your fuel. Work with a registered dietitian or contact and organization like Savor Health or Cook For Your Life for nutritional guidance. Being a food writer, I made eating healthy a top priority.
  4. Daily exercise, no matter how tired you feel, is important to mitigating side effects from treatment. I took long walks in the country with my dog and husband and worked with a Pilates instructor to regain mobility and strength in my upper body after my bilateral mastectomy,
  5. Reframe your idea about treatment. I dreaded chemotherapy and losing my hair. A trusted friend who had undergone chemotherapy told me this, “Think of chemotherapy, not as ‘poisoning your system’ but instead as cleaning your system from toxic cancer.” That was a huge mental reframe for me. I dressed up every day, did a little work to stay focused, and stayed in touch with friends — whatever I could to feel “normal.” I refused to let cancer turn my life into a pity party.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

I want to inspire women to be fearless and confident and always believe in their self-worth and put their self-health first. Too often women put the well-being of others, especially family, over their own health. Your mental and physical health are your biggest assets. It can be challenging to do this every day, but you must!

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

I’d like to meet with Arianna Huffington. I admire what she has created after experiencing her own health challenge to help others thrive.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you! Remember: Put your self-health first!

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente helps cancer survivors overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.

Savio pens a weekly newsletter at where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.

He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.

Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor