Comprehensive medical care. Seek the expertise of a qualified medical team. This includes oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and other specialists who can tailor a treatment plan based on your specific type and stage of cancer.

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 Angela Dunbar.

Angela Dunbar, a breast cancer survivor, is the campaign director for the CDC Foundation’s Empowered Health program, a cancer-related communications campaign, that receives technical support from CDC and its Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. She is responsible for leading the research, development, implementation, and marketing for the program and the digital tools and activities associated with it. Since joining the CDC Foundation in 2009, she has worked closely as the project manager and liaison for two CDC oncology campaigns. Before her work at the CDC Foundation, she worked in the marketing department for Egleston Children’s Hospital (now Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta), served as the marketing director for the country’s largest non-profit association for the home building industry, and was a freelance writer for several trade publications. She also started her own stationery design company, The Paper Cottage, which she still manages today.

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 an Air Force brat who lived in South Dakota, North Carolina, Illinois, Guam, and Florida…all by the ripe old age of seven. However, once we moved to Eglin, a United States Air Force Base in the western Florida panhandle, my dad’s assignments slowed drastically, mainly because he chose to do short temporary duty stints so my older sister and I wouldn’t have to move and change schools every 1–2 years. Once my parents realized that we were not going to have to relocate so often, they decided to move off the Air Force base to the next town over, Niceville, Florida. I loved growing up in Niceville and had a very happy childhood roaming the neighborhood, attending Friday night football games, devouring popcorn shrimp, and spending our weekends at the beach.

My parents are a big source of inspiration. While my dad served in the military, my mom did everything she could to make each one of our new houses a real home for our family. Once we settled in Niceville, she got a part-time job at TG&Y, a five and dime chain, before she began her 36-year career at our town’s beloved bookstore. When my dad retired from the military, I was in junior high school and my sister was getting married. His goal was to secure a civil service job on Eglin Air Force base, but this took longer than expected. Over the next several years, he worked on the grounds crew of a local golf course, at a paint store, on a construction crew, and at a carpet cleaning company. I was so used to him coming home in his crisp military “blues” and stiff flight hat, that seeing him walk in the house physically exhausted and wearing “work clothes” was jarring. While I knew my dad worked hard on the base, it was not a physically demanding job. This time was tough for us financially. I remember my mom pumping $5 worth of gas into her car at a time; walking to work after she would drop my sister off at her job at Hardees and leaving the car for her since she would get off work before my mom. My parents worked hard to provide for my sister and me, and I will forever be grateful. I don’t know if I understood what work ethic or the value of a hard-earned dollar meant back then, but their sacrifices and hard work shaped me into who I am today. And now and then when I’m filling up my car with gas and it gets close to the $5 mark, I think about stopping.

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

This is easy! Joel Osteen’s quote on happiness is my daily mantra: “Happiness does not depend on your circumstances; it depends on your will. It’s a choice that you make.” During my cancer experience, this quote helped me remember that my happiness is a conscious choice — one that involves actively shaping your outlook and responses to life’s uncertainties. By embracing this mindset, it helped me navigate the complexities of having cancer while desperately wanting to remain a dedicated mom and daughter, loving wife, and a successful professional with resilience and a positive spirit. Whether you’re five or 50, this applies to all of us. When my little girl wakes up grumpy, all I have to say is four words: “be happy on purpose.”

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?

My doctor found a lump in my left breast, which resulted in an ultrasound and needle biopsy. While I was waiting for the biopsy results, life was still marching on. I remember being on a work call when my doctor’s office beeped in. I asked my colleague to hold for one minute as I clicked over to answer. When I heard my doctor’s voice on the other end instead of his nurse, I knew. He told me very matter of fact that I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and that I needed to find an oncologist to help determine the stage and basically how serious this was. When we hung up, I clicked back over to my colleague, and carried on with my call like nothing had happened. Once the call was over, I set my phone down, pushed my chair back from my desk, and walked down to my husband’s office. He looked up from his desk, and I can still see myself standing there like a little girl shaking my head ‘no’ and crying. The next stop on the “I have cancer” tour, was to tell my parents, sister, and best friend. Each call was hard and different. I called my sister next and told her. She is a little dramatic on a good day, so her initial reaction was strong, but I told her “No, I need you to be strong for me. We’re not crying about this now.” Even though we were 300 miles away, I could almost see her shake it off and commit to being strong for me, her baby sister. I also told her that I needed her to go over to our parent’s house when she got off work and be there when I called them. She did just that, and her strength, although faked, was such a blessing to my parents and me. The next stop was my best friend. She was on vacation but had made me swear that I would call her with any results. I Face Timed her and as soon as we both looked at each other, she knew without me saying a word. Those early days were tough. We were also trying to keep everything away from our kids until we knew the full picture. It was kind of like living a double life, but without all of the excitement and intrigue.

I was sitting with my doctor as we discussed my treatment options: Option 1 — lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation. Option 2 –mastectomy and reconstruction without radiation. I recall my doctor pulling out a pencil and showing my husband and me that my cancer was the size of the little pink eraser at the end of his pencil. His recommendation? Option 1 because the research showed that a lumpectomy with radiation was just as effective as a mastectomy without radiation for my type and stage of cancer.

What I didn’t know was that if I chose this option and my cancer returned, it would limit and complicate my future options. Fast forward to 2021 when breast cancer reared its ugly head again. Following a routine mammogram, they saw something in the same breast as my original cancer. After a horrible biopsy, we learned that I had Stage 0 breast cancer, which means I had new abnormal cells that could become invasive if left untreated.

At this point, I just wanted my breasts removed, and my doctor agreed. I had just had a mammogram six months prior that was completely clean, so when these new abnormal cells appeared we were shocked. However, since I had received radiation, my breast tissue couldn’t handle a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery at the same time. Ultimately, I had a total double mastectomy.

Having gone through my initial cancer experience while I was the director of the CDC Foundation’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients program, it made some things easier and some harder. I had so many amazing resources and experts at my fingertips from both the CDC and the CDC Foundation. However, working on a cancer program 40 hours a week while living with cancer 24/7 was overwhelming at times. When I went through the second bout in 2021, I also started managing Empowered Health. I was able to take what I was learning and apply it directly to my situation.

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

The scariest part was just not knowing. The “what ifs” and waiting on the results of all the different tests and scans. It felt like I was a human puzzle. Each day a new piece was being placed, but it took forever to see the full picture. Has it spread? Am I terminal? Would I have chemo? Am I going to lose my breasts? Will I have radiation? Is it genetic?

I thought dying was the worst thing that could happen to me. My son was a senior in high school, my middle son was a sophomore, and my daughter was starting Kindergarten. There were so many memories that needed to be made, and I was terrified I wouldn’t be there to make them.

How did you react in the short term?

The few weeks following my initial diagnosis were a blur of making appointments, Googling things I shouldn’t have been Googling, working, being a mom, and wife. I remember going to the grocery store the day after I was diagnosed. As I was walking down the bread aisle, I remember thinking, “Holy s#$t, I have cancer, now where is the sourdough bread.”

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

My faith in God and my family and friends got me through the rough days of uncertainty. Once I knew exactly what I was dealing with and we had a plan in place, I was able to breathe. Cancer has taught me that strength lies not just in the fight but in the aftermath — the courage to rebuild, to thrive, and to cherish each precious moment.

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

Many come to mind, but my husband was my rock — patient, calm, and reassuring. He was also like a referee, blowing his whistle to snap me out of going places I shouldn’t go. He continued working while taking care of me, our kids, our house, and the never-ending insurance bills and appointments. It had to be mentally and physically exhausting, but he never once complained.

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?

I think it would say “Man plans, and God laughs.” My cancer encouraged me to find meaning and purpose in the face of adversity, recognizing that the twists and turns of life can lead to unexpected growth and self-discovery. Ultimately, it prompted a shift in my perspective from rigid planning to embracing the unfolding journey, seeking resilience, and finding strength during uncertainty.

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 cancer reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people. It helped me realize that it’s OK to accept help from others; it doesn’t make me needy or weak. I have also learned how to not just ask what I can do to help, but to listen and watch, and then act. Following my double mastectomy, I was frustrated that I couldn’t lift my arms to shampoo, blow dry, and style my hair. My husband was trying but let’s just say, this was not working out. I mentioned this to several of my girlfriends when they stopped by for a visit, and the next thing I knew, they were whisking me off to my friend’s hair stylist who is famous for her shampoos and head massages. They drove me there, walked me in, one on each side of me, and helped me move from station to station. The stylist was also aware of my situation and was so kind in helping me lean back and rise again. This may not seem like a big deal, I mean it’s just hair, but it was HUGE to me, and I’ll never forget their kindness in helping me feel like me again…at least from the neck up!

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

By becoming an Empowered Health Ambassador and candidly sharing my breast cancer experiences with a variety of people in a variety of ways, I hope it becomes a source of goodness in the world by fostering connection, understanding, empathy, and resilience in those who may be navigating their health challenges. By sharing the lows — the hard moments, the fears, and the vulnerabilities — I hope it helps others going through similar challenges feel less alone. By sharing the highs — moments of joy and personal growth — I hope people will pause and allow themselves to celebrate the moments of brightness. Like Dory says “just keep swimming.”

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

I think we’re past the days of “doctor knows best.” Don’t get me wrong, while doctors have expert medical knowledge of scientific evidence and treatment options, I just think we should also honor the patient’s expert knowledge in knowing what’s most important to them. I think there are some gaps between what patients’ value and what doctors think we value. In one study, doctors believe that 71 percent of their patients with breast cancer value keeping their breast as the top priority, but only seven percent of the patients queried expressed the same priority. This is why I think two-way communication is key when making important medical decisions TOGETHER with your healthcare team.

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. Comprehensive medical care. Seek the expertise of a qualified medical team. This includes oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and other specialists who can tailor a treatment plan based on your specific type and stage of cancer.
  2. Two-way communication with your healthcare team. Ask questions, seek clarification, and ensure you fully understand your specific type of cancer, treatment options, and the risks and benefits of each choice. Knowledge can empower you to make informed decisions and actively participate in your care It has been proven that when people with cancer feel AND act empowered in making healthcare decisions, it helps them better understand and carry out their treatment plans as well as improve their quality of life.
  3. A designated and committed caregiver. Have them come to your appointments, especially in the early days when so much information is being thrown at you. They can also take notes during your appointments and make sure that all your questions are being addressed. Before one of my appointments, my husband and I had made a list of our questions. I told my husband that he didn’t have to go with me to this appointment since he had just been to several the week before. Do you know that the list of questions never left my purse? I was so overwhelmed with some of the details, that I forgot to take my list out. And nowadays, even if your caregiver can’t physically be at your appointments, you can FaceTime or Zoom them in.
  4. Avoid feeling pressured. Just because your family or friends would make certain decisions if they were in your shoes, doesn’t mean it’s the right path for you. This one is tough because this pressure comes from love. For me, many of my closest friends didn’t understand why I didn’t have a double mastectomy when I was originally diagnosed: “If it were me, I would get them off and never look back.” I get it. That sounds so easy and logical, but every choice comes with different baggage that only the patient can decide which choice is right for them.
  5. Patience to heal. A few days after my double mastectomy, my oldest son came home from college to check on me, and I wanted so badly to look strong and invincible. My husband and sons were going to take our dog to the park to let our big black lab run around while also letting our little girl burn off some 8-year-old energy. I wanted to go with them so they could see their Mom was doing good. This was a mistake. I remember walking to a bench to sit down, with both my drains still in, and thinking, I should have stayed home and rested. My husband tried to tell me, my sons tried to reassure me, but the pressure I placed on myself made me do something I shouldn’t have.

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?

A movement that could bring the most amount of good to the greatest number of people has to be something about preventing cancer! I would love to see a movement that links the power of healthy choices to cancer prevention. Something that causes people to have an “Aha!” moment. This could be approached by collaborating with the usual suspects: healthcare, public health professionals, policymakers, non-profit organizations, and communities. But also bring on board some unlikely players: influencers and the entertainment and gaming industries. We could develop challenges, social media content, video games, mobile apps, and even virtual reality experiences to simulate the impact of lifestyle choices on health. If done correctly, this could engage a broad audience and foster a sense of community, and potentially influence positive behavior….while being fun. Cancer prevention needs to go viral!

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. 🙂

Lou Holtz….for my husband — the biggest Notre Dame fan I know. To him, Coach Lou will always be THE Notre Dame coach. Go Irish!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on LinkedIn and to check out the resources I mentioned earlier, visit, YouTube, and Instagram where you’ll find resources for patients, providers, and caregivers.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.