Sara Olsher of Mighty + Bright: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readSep 30, 2021


Follow your instincts — I knew something was wrong. If I hadn’t followed my instincts, I wouldn’t be here today — truly. My cancer was aggressive and already spreading, and I didn’t have a lump.

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 Sara Olsher.

Sara Olsher is a mom, children’s book author-illustrator, speaker, and the founder of Mighty + Bright. She is passionate about kids’ mental health and has dedicated her life to helping kids deal with life’s toughest stuff, whether it be cancer, divorce, or change in general.

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 was born and raised in Northern California and spent the vast majority of my childhood playing outside in the dirt. From a young age I was very into art and liked painting, drawing, and building things out of clay. Career-wise my degree is in Psychology, but I spent six years as an illustrator and ten years in marketing. I started my business, Mighty + Bright, after I went through a difficult divorce. I developed a visual co-parenting calendar for kids, which helps them cope with divorce-related anxiety by showing them when they’ll see each parent. At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I was working for a media company and running my business on the side.

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

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Ghandi

For me, service to others is what keeps me going through really difficult times. I’ve always spent time figuring out how I can turn the worst things that have happened to me into something that can help others.

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?

Oddly enough, my mom and I seem to have saved one another’s lives.

I have a family history of cancer — by my 33rd birthday, every woman in my family had breast cancer except for my mother. I wasn’t eligible to start getting early mammograms because I didn’t have a first-degree relative (a mother or a sister) who had been diagnosed, which terrified me, as my aunt died at 42.

Then, my mom was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2016.

Less than a year later, I started to have a strange sensation in my left breast that felt like milk being let down. I immediately went to the doctor, who said she didn’t feel a lump, and “pain is generally not a symptom of cancer.” I asked again, for probably the fourth time, if I could get into the early detection program. This time, I mentioned that my mom had been diagnosed the year before.

They finally let me into the program, and it was that first breast MRI that caught my cancer. The sensation I’d been feeling was cancer of the milk ducts. I had no lump.

Then, after my treatment and during my last round of chemo, my mom started to feel a similar sensation to what I’d described. Because of my experience, she insisted on a mammogram, even though the doctor was hesitant to give her one. It turned out that she had cancer again — this time a very aggressive type. Needless to say, we’re incredibly grateful she caught it early.

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

Without a doubt, the scariest part was being a single parent with breast cancer at a very young age. I was terrified that I wouldn’t survive, and I’d leave my very attached six year-old daughter motherless. Just six months earlier, a friend and coworker had died from breast cancer at 32. Needless to say, I was traumatized.

How did you react in the short term?

I went into total shock. I was diagnosed by a radiologist who did a diagnostic mammogram. I was alone at that appointment and had no idea the diagnosis was coming. Luckily, I asked him to talk to my parents on the phone. Over the course of that weekend, I called my parents about four times because I’d convinced myself that I had heard the radiologist wrong and I didn’t actually have cancer. Looking back on it, it’s really interesting that my brain reacted that way.

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

I tried to look at cancer treatment as healing rather than fighting. If you’re a warrior, you have to wake up every morning and fight. I tried to take a different angle and took very good care of myself, allowing for rest.

I took time off work. Some people like to work through chemo, but I was completely wiped out by it. I had disability benefits and took them, and was so glad I did. It was during the not-so-hard parts of chemo that I wrote and illustrated my first book to explain the science of cancer to kids. Having a creative project that no one was dependent on me for was wonderful.

The biggest thing for me was learning to accept help. As a single parent, I was very used to doing things on my own, and I had a really hard time allowing people to help. There’s a lot of beauty in letting people in, though. I had no idea people could be so kind.

I also had no idea that I’d ever be so grateful to be divorced, but I was. I relied on my ex-husband and his wife to switch weekends with me after my surgeries or chemo so that my daughter wasn’t there for the hardest parts of it. I’m really grateful to them for their flexibility.

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 parents and my boyfriend. My mom and boyfriend basically moved in with my daughter and I. They kept my house running and my spirits high, and I am immensely grateful to them. But there were so many kind people. My aunt, who made me a special quilt just for chemo. A friend from high school who sent me a shawl she crocheted. A friend I met once on a work trip who sent me a whole care package, and local girlfriends who brought me food and flowers and kindness. I am just incredibly grateful for my whole village.

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?

”Slow the heck down, girl.” I was running so fast through my life, and I was constantly trying to plan everything. Cancer taught me that everything can change in an instant, so getting too attached to plans can be a disappointment, and you never know if life has something even better in store for you.

Also, chemo was like six months of forced meditation: I was too tired to even think my thoughts. I think it permanently changed my brain chemistry so that I live more in the present instead of worrying too far in the future. Cancer definitely forced me to slow down.

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?

My entire life has completely changed. In some ways, not for the better. I will likely always live in fear that the cancer will come back, or that something I’m doing will cause it to come back. I’m on medications that make me feel awful. And of course, I had both of my breasts amputated, so I’m not exactly looking fabulous in my thirties.

But it has definitely made me feel braver and more honest. I am less likely to put up with something that I don’t like, because life is incredibly short and I now know that none of us is safe from terrible things.

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

I wrote my first books, Cancer Party! and What Happens When Someone I Love Has Cancer, during my treatment. After that, What Happens When Parents Get Divorced, and What Happens When a Kid Has Cancer. I formed a nonprofit called Resilience Campaign to donate the book for pediatric cancer (and a new book for siblings!) to kids with cancer. Understanding treatment — whether it’s their own cancer diagnosis or a parent or sibling’s — is incredibly important for kids’ mental health. I’ve made it my mission to help kids learn coping skills.

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

That when it’s over, it’s over. For many of us, the beginning parts of survivorship are the hardest part mental health-wise. We’ve just been through a major trauma, and recovery takes years.

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. Follow your instincts — I knew something was wrong. If I hadn’t followed my instincts, I wouldn’t be here today — truly. My cancer was aggressive and already spreading, and I didn’t have a lump.
  2. Advocate for yourself — I had to fight for early detection. I had to ask, over and over, to be eligible for the program. I had to ask, over and over, to be examined when no one could find anything wrong with me. I had to ask over and over for help when my cognitive issues post-treatment made it impossible for me to function. Advocate for yourself. Don’t rely on doctors to do what’s best for you if it doesn’t feel right. Only you know what’s best for you.
  3. Take care of yourself — Drink lots of water. Get some sun. Listen to your energy levels and don’t overdo it.
  4. Recognize what you can’t control — As much as our society likes to commend “warriors” and tell us that people “lost the fight” if they don’t make it through cancer, I can assure you that cancer does not care how hard you fight. It either takes you or it doesn’t. Try to avoid thinking that you can control this. It is not a personal failure to be diagnosed with advanced cancer.
  5. Accept help — Trust me, I know how hard this is. But we need a village to get us through this, and you’ll be better for it in the end.

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?

Without a doubt, mental health for kids. On a large scale, I’d like to teach kids coping skills so that they have some insulation from the world we’re living in.

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 am looking for funding for my nonprofit — I have a program ready to go and over sixty children’s hospitals waiting for books. I just need a major donor, and I feel a little like I’m looking for my financial soul mate! I don’t know who he or she is yet.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is, and I’m active on Instagram @mightyandbrightco.

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



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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