Selma Schimmel died earlier today from cancer, the disease that defined her life and career for more than 30 years since founding Vital Options at age 28 after being diagnosed with breast cancer several years after her mother’s death from ovarian cancer.
She was 59 and suffered several recurrences related to both breast and ovarian cancers.
As a then-young woman who hadn’t been taken seriously about symptoms she feared might be breast cancer, she went on to start what she believed to be the first organization dedicated to young adults with cancer, as well as The Group Room, a nationally syndicated radio talk show about cancer.
Selma dedicated her life to reaching out to everyone touched by cancer, and in 1998 during the opening press briefing at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Annual Meeting, held that year in Los Angeles, her hometown, she asked me if I’d like to join her organization as senior correspondent and news director.
For the next six years we traveled the country and the world as she broadcast information and hope, and provided psychosocial support to countless radio listeners who’d tune in each Sunday for two hours to hear her speak with experts and survivors about various aspects of cancer.
Working with Selma could often be taxing, but her total dedication to helping others made it understandable, and we remained close friends over these many years.
I had hoped to see Selma again next week at ASCO. Now, instead, I look forward to sharing memories of her with our many mutual friends in the cancer community.
May she rest in peace and her legacy live on.