Sahar Paz of Own Your Voice Strategy Firm On The 5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
14 min readNov 9, 2022


Mindset is everything. Managing your stress is a priority, as cancer thrives when you are stressed because it weakens your immune system. It’s important you manage exerting stress hormones during your battle with cancer. Visualizations and guided meditations have proven to have profound effects during your health journey. Spending time with your mind is just as important as getting out of it — moving your body is so important for your emotions and your lymphatic system, so I advocate for taking brisk walks, gentle yoga, pilates, and other low impact workouts.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. There is so much great information out there, but sometimes it is very difficult to filter out the noise. What causes cancer? Can it be prevented? How do you detect it? What are the odds of survival today? What are the different forms of cancer? What are the best treatments? And what is the best way to support someone impacted by cancer?

In this interview series called, “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer” we are talking to experts about cancer such as oncologists, researchers, and medical directors to address these questions. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patient Advocate, Sahar Paz.

Sahar Paz is a Harvard certified emotional intelligence expert with a mission to transform the patient-provider experience. As the CEO of Own Your Voice Strategy Firm based in Houston, TX, Sahar has over a decade of experience as a healthcare innovation marketing specialist, providing consulting services for clients ranging from globally-recognized healthcare innovators to scientists and providers.

Sahar gives a voice to the values of patients dealing with autoimmune diseases and healthcare professionals who want them to thrive through the power of emotional intelligence. She is hired by healthcare organizations as a keynote speaker, to host workshops, conduct listening tours, facilitate meetings among c-suite leaders, and advise on internal culture and external communications. As a woman of color in business, she seeks to integrate emotional intelligence and Diversity Equity & Inclusion best practices in all of her work to ensure that her clients have all the tools to cultivate an equitable work culture.

During her patient journey with stage 3 cancer, Sahar observed firsthand the opportunities for providers to infuse emotional intelligence into their communications that would not only improve long-term patient outcomes but also alleviate burnout for themselves. For cancer patients specifically, she is a beacon of light who offers sage advice on living and thriving with your diagnosis. As part of her mission, Sahar makes appearances on TV, writes op-eds, and is quoted as a thought leader who spreads awareness for the importance of emotional intelligence in healthcare for both patients and providers. Follow Sahar Paz on LinkedIn, Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter, and YouTube.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am a refugee of war from Iran, living the American dream. My fearless entrepreneurial spirit is how I have coped with a great deal of tragedy in my life. From losing friends to violence in the war to dealing with racism in America to surviving cancer, it has been my businesses that have fueled me: in my teens, it was a baby and pet-sitting company; in my twenties, it was an accessories line; in my 30s, I kicked off my speaking business; and in my 40s, it’s cultivating emotionally intelligent leaders and personal brands with Own Your Voice Strategy Firm.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

At a young age, I watched the women and men around me lose their voices, and all of my businesses have had this one thing in common — your voice is my mission. Between the launch of each of my businesses, I would go back to Corporate America. And, every time, my moral compass was all over the place, draining me, and ultimately leading me back to starting another business. Entrepreneurs and artists are a lot alike — we have a vision, and we bring it to life by talking about it, sharing it, and creating something that moves people, in the hopes that they will see what we envision.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

Emotional freedom — it’s one thing to be free, it’s another thing to FEEL free. Living with PTSD from childhood trauma is balancing two worlds at once, the logical that knows you’re fine, and the emotional one that is in a very different space. Cognitive behavior and emotional intelligence are a part of who I am because I’ve had to learn to fight for my own potential to get past all the noise on the inside. I put work into the world that uplifts others, so that my life, and my legacy may be the opposite of what I have experienced.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The Japanese philosophy of Ikigai best describes the space I am in. My passion and my purpose have collided, and I am using my skills as an emotionally intelligent communications expert to advocate for cancer patients. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions and although some have it naturally, it can be learned and strengthened. EI is quite often the missing link in patient care that has been underutilized for too long. EI also helps reduce stress, which cancer thrives on, and it reduces burnout. I’ve been in a two-year battle with stage 3 breast cancer–it happens that I also create brands for healthcare innovators, giving me an inside lens into the research, the science, and the compliance that happens before we are cared for as patients. Improving communication between patients and providers is my passion, and everything in my life has led me to this moment.

It is common knowledge that our healthcare providers have suffered from major burnout because of COVID-19. The rules and regulations centered around patient-provider interactions are often complex to navigate, which can cause emotional exhaustion and depersonalization with patients among providers for “survival’s sake.” Now, it’s more than a policy, it’s a top priority with staff shortages growing in healthcare. A February 2022 survey conducted by USA Today and Ipsos of more than 1,100 healthcare workers found nearly a quarter of respondents said they were likely to leave the field in the near future.

My goal through my thought leadership, keynotes, and workshops with healthcare providers is to reduce burnout, bridge the communications gap with patients and support their mental health through tools that will prevent burnout while enhancing their ability to connect with others. In addition, I help patients’ healing journey by giving them the tools for intentional communication with providers, peers, and loved ones to reduce their stress.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of Cancer?

I work in healthcare innovation and most of my consulting support entails partnering with a lot of researchers and doctors to help patients, cancer patients in particular. I have supported clients who are inventors of cancer diagnostic devices and cancer therapeutics, so my knowledge of the importance of effective treatment care for cancer patients was pretty well established. When a lump was discovered in my breast, it took two different treatment teams and two different hospitals to figure out my diagnosis after five months. During that time, I escalated from stage 1b to stage 3, with estrogen-positive breast cancer and a chek2 gene mutation (learned later via a test). I know I am lucky that I could ask my professional network to help me while I wasn’t getting diagnosed–I showed them my biopsy reports to decipher what they meant and learned what biomarkers I needed to ask for after my first failed biopsy. Not everyone has this type of access. My friends in healthcare, insurance, and research were on my side and they helped me navigate being a breast cancer patient. Because of the knowledge, they poured into me, I chose to go public to support others’ cancer journeys, so that they can own their voice in the doctor’s office. In addition, my expertise in emotional intelligence allows me to look at the patient-provider journey from a unique lens, coupled with my stage 3 breast cancer journey, I am able to effectively evaluate the communication gaps and how to fill them.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with some basic definitions so that we are all on the same page. What is exactly cancer?

What causes cancer?

You are made up of trillions of cells that over your lifetime normally grow and divide as needed. When cells are abnormal or get old, they usually die. Cancer starts when something goes wrong in this process and your cells keep making new cells and the old or abnormal ones don’t die when they should. As the cancer cells grow out of control, they can crowd out normal cells.* This makes it hard for your body to work the way it should. Prevention is so important in living a cancer-free life, from limiting your exposure to toxins to regular screenings like mammograms, endoscopies, and colonoscopies.

*American Cancer Society

What is the difference between the different forms of cancer?

Your cancer is unique to you, that’s the most important thing to remember. There are many types of cancer. Cancer can develop anywhere in the body and is named for the part of the body where it started. For instance, breast cancer that starts in the breast is still called breast cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body.

There are two main categories of cancer:

  • Hematologic (blood) cancers are cancers of the blood cells, including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
  • Solid tumor cancers are cancers of any of the other body organs or tissues. The most common solid tumors are breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers.*

*American Cancer Society

I know that the next few questions are huge topics, but we’d love to hear your thoughts regardless. How can cancer be prevented?

My perspective is this: If cancer is based on the health/quality of your cells, then it’s important to know what your cells are made of. For me, that meant learning more about my DNA, so I had a gene test done specific to cancer, and I found out that I have a CHEK2 gene mutation that puts me at 30% more risk for breast and colon cancer. Well, I wish I would have known that earlier, I would have caught my breast cancer earlier, or maybe avoided it if I had this knowledge. What’s done is done. My goal now is to reduce my toxic load and have preventative procedures like endoscopies and colonoscopies. I also focus on helping my cells be as healthy as possible. I do this by being very mindful of the products I use, limiting my use of plastics, eating organic, especially the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables, and I top it all off with vitamin c, chelation, and ozone infusions.

How can one detect the main forms of cancer?

Prioritize your health, and get to know your body. Building a greater awareness of your body, and never ignoring your instincts or little sharp pains is so important in early detection. I skipped a mammogram one year, and it turned out to be the worst decision, because the next time I went in, there was a lump. I did breast exams in between, but I always thought I had “lumpy boobs” — what I was later told wass that this is what breast tissue feels like. Have a relationship with your body, get to know how your body feels, so that when it starts to feel different, you notice. Don’t delay. Speak up on behalf of how you feel.

Cancer used to almost be a death sentence, but it seems that it has changed today. What are the odds of surviving cancer today?

I am proof that you can survive, even thrive with cancer. It’s challenging, but it’s not a death sentence. I’ve adopted an East meets West mentality, trusting traditional medicine like chemotherapy that I’ve researched while integrating holistic medicine into my treatment plan. I have traveled, continued to grow my business, and enjoy so many more facets of my life knowing I am more than my diagnosis.

Can you share some of the new cutting-edge treatments for cancer that have recently emerged? What new cancer treatment innovations are you most excited to see come to fruition in the near future?

It took 5 months for doctors to diagnose me properly, from a failed biopsy to a pathology lab that took weeks, I escalated from stage 1b to stage 3 breast cancer. There is a medical device, ARTIDIS, that diagnoses cancer tissue in hours, not weeks, which is changing the patient experience. I’ve signed up to be a part of their clinical trials, and I hope no one else goes through what I went through.

Healing usually takes place between doctor visits. What have you found to be most beneficial to assist a patient to heal?

REST — and real rest that allows you to reflect and reconnect with yourself, not eat late and sleep with your phone kind of rest. The kind of rest that allows your body to heal on a cellular level. My breast surgeon described it as your “sleep hygiene,” what he meant by that was giving your body the task to rest, not digest throughout the night, this means cutting back on what you eat after 7 pm. Also, complete darkness, so that your nervous system knows it’s time for REM, that’s why sleeping with your phone or the TV on prevents your body from restoring overnight.

RESET — You’re a new you during treatment, it’s important to reset your expectations about how you go about your day. In my 20s I experienced burnout while working in finance in NYC, during my recovery a therapist taught me the “spoon method” for energy exchanges: Every morning when you wake up, take a minute to identify your energy levels. Think about what you have the energy to do today. Eat breakfast is 1 spoon, get the kids off to school is another spoon, and a doctor’s appointment is another spoon. Evaluate how many spoons you have the energy capacity for that day and try to be gentle and understanding with yourself. This is also a great way to communicate with family and friends by explaining, “this is where my energy is today”. I changed my spoons to wands, have some fun with it!

From your experience, what are a few of the best ways to support a loved one, friend, or colleague who is impacted by cancer?

Eliminate “How are you?” from your vocabulary. Instead, adopt the phrase “You have every right to feel this way” and embrace active listening.

When you’re diagnosed, you enter into a stage of mourning — the loss of what was and what you had planned, even if the person diagnosed can still carry out their plans, now is not the time to say things like: “You’ll eventually get to that”,“You still have time”,“You’ll get better soon and get back to it, you’ll see…”

Once you’ve acknowledged their emotional state, then ask them “How can I support you?”

They may or may not have answers. If they do, great–you have a way forward. If not, think about that person’s responsibilities or the things they take responsibility for internally, and help them manage those aspects of their life. If none of this is possible, create a feel-good playlist of songs, do a meditation together, walk barefoot in the grass together, and spend 15 minutes in the sun for Vitamin D together. It’s not always about doing something FOR the person, as it is doing something with the person.

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

A cancer diagnosis makes everything feel urgent, like life or death — or what’s also known as dichotomous thinking. As a stage 3 cancer survivor with an aggressive cancer, what I learned is that I should have taken 72 hours to process everything before making decisions about my treatment plan. Your doctors don’t want to get sued, so they will err on the side of caution and urge you to make a decision sooner than later. Since being diagnosed, I’ve started asking, “How much time can I take to make this decision before it has an adverse effect on my health?”

Thank you so much for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what are your “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

Mindset is everything. Managing your stress is a priority, as cancer thrives when you are stressed because it weakens your immune system. It’s important you manage exerting stress hormones during your battle with cancer. Visualizations and guided meditations have proven to have profound effects during your health journey. Spending time with your mind is just as important as getting out of it — moving your body is so important for your emotions and your lymphatic system, so I advocate for taking brisk walks, gentle yoga, pilates, and other low impact workouts.

Separate yourself from your diagnosis. I named the two cancerous masses Thelma and Louise because I didn’t want to hear myself say “cancer” over and over again. Your body is listening, and it was important for me to inject humor into the situation and prevent myself from becoming my diagnosis.

It takes time to heal after treatment. After chemo, radiation, and surgery are done, you’ll need 12–18 months to detox and heal, and even that amount of time is just you adjusting to your new normal. Give yourself grace, keep your expectations in check, and don’t let anyone rush you.

Reduce your toxic load. Being intentional about the products I am putting in, on, or around my body has become a priority in my life. The EWG Database (Environmental Working Group) has become my go to resource to find cleaning and personal care products that have been evaluated for their safety as it relates to their potentially hazardous ingredients. I started reducing my toxic load with my food, then cosmetics, before swapping out my cleaning products.

Live your life. Don’t stop planning, you’ll need things to look forward to. From staycations at the spa in your local town to a themed party at your house, it’s important to celebrate LIFE!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

To make preventative medicine more accessible and covered by insurance.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Tips and fashion hacks on Instagram @SaharPaz & TikTok @Sahar.Paz

Talk topics and blog

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to 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 cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head, heart, and gut— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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