Multiple Myeloma Survivor and Advocate Shares 12-Step Program: How Not to Die of Cancer

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Facing mortality can be a paralyzing experience for some people, but for others, it may ignite a passion to accelerate life. One such person is Kathy Giusti, cofounder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), where she served as Chief Executive Officer and President for nearly 20 years. In 1998, in the prime of her life as a rising star in the pharmaceutical industry, Ms. Giusti was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and given 3 years to live. Her saga, and the path she braved in cancer research, is rendered with honest clarity in her new book—Fatal to Fearless: 12 Steps to Beating Cancer in a Broken Medical System—which includes a beautifully crafted forward by Katie Couric.


Title: Fatal to Fearless: 12 Steps to Beating Cancer in a Broken Medical System

Author: Kathy Giusti

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: February 2024

Price: $30.00, hardcover, 288 pages

Out of the Blue: Cancer

Ms. Giusti became her own health-care advocate. She was a pharmaceutical executive and mother of a toddler when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. With no proven treatments at the time, Ms. Giusti decided to make the most of her professional expertise and create a foundation dedicated to funding drug discovery.

Her world as she knew it came crashing down in 1996, 4 days before Christmas. She took life-changing news while driving. The doctor seemed to suppress what he was going to say next in a long pause and then finally let it out: “I think you have multiple myeloma, but, Kathy, we have to confirm it.”

What follows is gripping, but even without knowing Ms. Giusti’s story, you sense the underlying determination and street smarts that ultimately saved her life and countless others. In her brief and personal description of having her life shattered by a totally unexpected cancer diagnosis, Ms. Giusti connects with readers, assuring them they are in good hands. Her skills of communicating complicated issues and boiling them down into lay-friendly language are on full display in this concise book.

Hard-Won Cancer Survivorship Skills

Organized into 12 steps, with a compelling epilogue, Fatal to Fearless is a step-by-step guide that takes readers from diagnosis to survivorship. For potential readers, there is, of course, one overriding question: Why should I read yet another handbook on cancer? Good question. For one, the author has a host of credentials that are hard to top.

In 2011, Ms. Giusti was named to the TIME 100 List of the world’s most influential people and has received numerous awards and honors for her work. For her efforts in multiple myeloma research and advocacy, she was honored as a White House Champions of Change, a program conceived by Barack Obama to highlight individuals, businesses, and organizations whose extraordinary stories and accomplishments positively impact communities.

But more than credentials and honors, Ms. Giusti combines her business get-the-job-done attitude with her hard-won cancer survivorship skills into a book that stands out in a crowded field. As noted in the title, our health-care system is often a disconnected and frustrating maze of confusion in which desperate patients with cancer feel lost. Ms. Giusti’s book—confident but never arrogant—serves as a sherpa for those on that difficult cancer journey.

When Patient Becomes Caregiver

Along with Ms. Giusti’s self-assured writing style, the book’s structure features a format that’s not only easy to read and annotate, but also set in self-contained chapters that could easily be used as individual patient guides. Moreover, the author has laced the chapters with terrific, well-edited Q&As with leaders from the cancer community.

Ms. Giusti wisely concludes her book with steps about caregiving, screening, and protecting one’s family. Each instructive step is textured with Ms. Giusti’s personal story, putting a human experience behind the highly instructive information. For instance, in Step 10, Recognize Your Caregivers, Ms. Giusti becomes a caregiver herself, for her sister, Karen, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The author’s energy and determination will serve as inspiration for patients with cancer and their caregivers.

A Second Diagnosis

In 2022, Ms. Giusti was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after she began writing this book. “My fears this time wouldn’t be about cancer; I had caught it plenty early,” writes Ms. Giusti, as she poignantly describes how she’s concerned this new diagnosis will affect her loved ones, who had been by her side during her epic battle with myeloma. All of this unfolds as she details her decision to have a double mastectomy, which “would be the fastest and most direct path to a cure…, and, finally, in my 60s, [I] begin believing that cancer was not going to continue dominating my life.”

If asked to summarize this book in a few words, I would say this: Life-saving information delivered with soul-restoring inspiration. Ms. Giusti has delivered a vital addition to the pantheon of cancer literature. And she does it with the confidence of a good friend, who’s battled and reshaped parts of a broken system—so you don’t have to—and for that, and a host of other reasons, Fatal to Fearless is highly recommended for readers of The ASCO Post and their patients with cancer.