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June 5, 2007

An inspiration: two relapses, five years of chemo, and a Ph.D.

Award-winning author, humorist, and cancer survivor to speak at U-Mís Cancer Survivorsí Day celebration June 10

ANN ARBOR, MI – As a psychology student, Dan Shapiro once counseled a young cancer patient who was not doing well after a bone marrow transplant, and eventually died. Six months later, Shapiro found himself a transplant patient in the same unit, with only a 40 percent chance of survival.

Survivor's Day imageUsing stories like this from his incredible experience, Shapiro will speak at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s annual Cancer Survivors’ Day celebration on Sunday, June 10. Cancer Survivors’ Day is a national event which began in 1987 (ironically, the same year that Shapiro’s cancer journey began) as a way of inspiring current cancer patients and showing the world that life after a cancer diagnosis is possible.

Shapiro was first diagnosed at age 20 with Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, the network of lymph glands and channels throughout the body. Shapiro credits his sense of humor and life-affirming attitude with helping him cope with five years of treatment, relapses, nine surgeries, 12 different chemotherapy agents and countless side effects.

”Despite things getting really grim, you can also have a sense of humor and perspective on life,” he says. He also enjoyed the support of his family and friends, including his conservative mother, who eventually began growing marijuana in her backyard to help combat some of the chemo’s side effects.

This year’s Survivors’ Day event will focus on finding strength through the human connection. Shapiro will present “A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Chemotherapy,” a one-man show detailing his experience with cancer. Interactive informational booths will also be available, providing resources on making a human connection, assertiveness and developing and maintaining perspective in the face of serious illness.

“Life doesn’t stop when something horrible happens,” Shapiro writes in his memoir, Mom’s Marijuana: Life, Love, and Beating the Odds. These days, Shapiro’s doctor tells him he has a better chance of being hit by a bus than dying of Hodgkin’s.

“It’s comforting to see how much folks can get through and have an enjoyable and productive life,” he says.

The Survivors' Day event is open to any cancer survivors, including family and friends. Survivors do not need to have been treated at U-M to attend. The event is from 1-3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 10, at the Morris Laurence Building at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor.

The event is free but registration is encouraged. To register, please call 800-742-2300, ext. 6275, or visit For more information on Dan Shapiro, visit

Cancer Survivors’ Day
Sunday, June 10
1-3:30 p.m.
Morris Laurence Building, Washtenaw Community College
4800 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor

Written by: Nicole Fawcett


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