The Herd

Here are our authors – we love them, you should too!

Mallory Casperson

Mallory is the CEO and Founder of Lacuna Loft. She has an MS and half a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her Master’s and PhD, Mallory worked with the Air Force Research Lab as well as NASA on high temperature metal fatigue experiments and simulations. She left graduate school in August 2013 and launched a nonprofit, Lacuna Loft, in April 2015. Applying her love for engineering and technology to her nonprofit endeavor, Mallory manages operations, programs, and development at Lacuna Loft where online support programs and resources are provided to young adult cancer survivors and caregivers in the comfort of their own homes. Mallory is an avid lover of animals, running, swimming, hiking, being outside, reading, making things, and TV or movie marathons.View Posts by Mallory Casperson

Jennifer Anand

Meet Jen Anand. Every week Jen will be providing a new tip or two on approaching life during and after cancer to help inspire others. Jen was diagnosis with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January 2012, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments for 8 months. Jen is now a survivor and just celebrated her 5 year anniversary this year as cancer free! "Never in my life did I think I’d be writing this, for a magazine for young adults affected by cancer. But then again, never did I think I’d get the exclusive invite to this horrible cancer club. But here I am, and if you’re reading this, chances are you’re in the club too."View Posts by Jennifer Anand

Nick Giallourakis

Nick is the President and co-founder of Elephants & Tea. He is the brother of a two time cancer survivor, Steven, who is his inspiration for starting the new media magazine. Nick will be providing his point of view as a brother of a cancer patient and survivor. You'll hear from him from time to time. When not working on the magazine he is out playing sports or kayaking with his wife. Let's be honest, he is probably with their french bulldog Aubrey who essentially owns Nick and his wife Camilla.View Posts by Nick Giallourakis

Marloe Esch

Marloe Esch, RN, BSN, Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN), and young adult cancer survivor, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing (Go Badgers!) in 2008. An enthusiastic supporter of sexual health and wellness, she has had the opportunity to spend time in her community educating both survivors and healthcare professionals on the topic of cancer and sexuality, including presenting for the Young Survival Coalition, the Oncology Nursing Society Wisconsin Capitol Chapter, and Planned Parenthood of WI. She holds a certificate from the Sexual Health Certificate Program through the University of Michigan, training in both Sexuality Education and Sexuality Counseling, and has made it her mission to bring sex into the survivorship spotlight. Currently, Marloe is a Breast Care Nurse Navigator in Milwaukee, WI. She lives in the Bay View neighborhood her husband and their cat, Princess Leia, in a fixer-upper that has “a lot of potential.” When she’s not at work or supervising her husband’s house projects, you’re likely to find her reading, writing, running, playing guitar, or enjoying a cold beverage and contemplating life. She’s also fairly competent at crochet, which comes in handy during the cold, dark Wisconsin winters. Feel free to give her a shout out at and let her know what questions you’ve got about sex, intimacy, and cancer!View Posts by Marloe Esch

Angie Giallourakis

Angelike (Angie) Giallourakis has a Ph.D. in Special Education and a M.ED. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Kent State University. Prior to her son Steven's first cancer diagnoses in 2006 she was a college professor at Cleveland State University where she taught future special educators about the importance of being a family centered educator when meeting the needs of children with disabilities. Steven's second diagnosis in 2009, a BMT (bone marrow transplant) and and the impact of treatment on his survivorship generated Angie's desire to learn as much as possible about cancer in young people. She founded and serves as President of The Steven G AYA Cancer Research Fund - a non profit charity whose mission is to support AYA Cancer Research, Wellness, Patient Education and Social Support She serves as a Board of Director for the three non-profit charities: The Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2); Clinical Research Pathways; and the ASBMT (American Society of Bone Marrow Transplantation) Pediatric Quality Outcomes Committee. Angie also volunteers as a Parent Mentor for Pediatric, AYA Cancer Patients and Families) at Rainbow, Babies & Childrens' Hospital and Seidman Cancer Center, University Hospitals of Cleveland. Most recently she joined the Herd and is the CEO of Elephants and Tea - the voice of AYA Cancer Patients. She strongly believes that only through a collaborative and caring spirit will this horrible disease finally be eradicated.View Posts by Angie Giallourakis

Urska Kosir

I am a PhD student in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. My doctoral work focuses on the psychological adaptation of young cancer patients and survivors. I am exploring the mechanisms of psychopathology and resilience in young survivors to answer questions such as why some survivors do better than others in survivorship. I employ mixed methods, from longitudinal data set analyses to qualitative examination of young survivors’ experiences. I hope to develop a theoretical model of psychopathology and resilience in young cancer survivors and that my results will lead to novel screening approaches as well as preventative measures in Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) oncology settings. Prior to moving to Oxford, I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Yale University. Most of my work at Yale fell under the umbrella of mental health. Upon graduating, I worked as a research assistant in a psychosis lab at Yale Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry where I worked on a clinical trial that explored the use of Naltrexone as a weight gain prevention strategy for patients with psychotic disorders. I also love sports, spending time outdoors, and leisure reading. Can teach sailing and skiing, too!View Posts by Urska Kosir

Mette de Fine Licht

Teenage cancer survivor, author, blogger and speaker Mette de Fine Licht has written 10 books, including the memoir, Willpower Girl — A Teenager’s Trek Through Cancer. The book is a rare insight into a teenage cancer patient’s mind with all the fear, doubt and longing for a normal teenage life. Born in 1985, Mette de Fine Licht was diagnosed with a serious and rare type of bone cancer when she was just sixteen years old. After undergoing chemotherapy and extensive surgery, which included the placement of an internal prosthesis in her leg, she was cured. On the blog at she writes about life as a teenage cancer patient, about the challenges and victories every day of being a teenage cancer survivor and how willpower and friends is key — both during cancer treatment and in the life after cancer.View Posts by Mette de Fine Licht

Danielle A. Cloakey

When I was 15 and a half months old, I was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, and given only a 10-40% chance of living until my 6th birthday. After 2 major surgeries, chemo, and radiation, when I was two, I came down with viral encephalitis. My immune system could not fight it because it was wiped out by chemo, and the infection ended up damaging my brain stem. I had two horrible ear infections that nobody caught, so maybe that had something to do with it as well. After this, I lost my strength, my voice, most of my hearing, and my ability to swallow. I always thank God that I'm not an only child because I don't like to think about where I'd be without my two younger brothers and my sister, who helped show me the way back to myself. People always think I have cerebral palsy, but I wasn't born with it. It is very similar to it though. I struggle daily with my side effects from treatment, which include disabilities, hearing loss, a speech impairment, radiation-induced scoliosis, I graduated in June 2004 from Central Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in English (literature). I have always love writing because it gives me a clear voice. In late 2010, I learned the truth about childhood cancer and I have been an advocate ever since.View Posts by Danielle A. Cloakey

Hannah Starkey

In September of 2018, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 24. I quickly found myself unable to cope and accept my illness. I wanted to know more about what other young adults experienced. So I did what I always do when I don’t understand something: research. I started with some keywords: cancer / hodgkin’s lymphoma / young adult / female Kinda sounds like a dating profile, doesn’t it? I scrolled through about 15 pages before becoming frustrated. The only results I found were from, WebMD, or scholastic articles. All good sources for information- but not what I was looking for. I took a different approach and still came up short. Then I looked specifically for blogs. I found some, but not many. The point is, I want to be able to send my words into the inter-web so that its there for others and myself. I hope that the words written within this website reaches someone who needs it. I hope it reaches someone like me who has so many unanswered questions. All I can do is share what I’ve experienced and how I coped with it. If you have cancer, young or not, please know that you aren’t alone. And if you don’t have cancer but just want to read because you care, I encourage it and I love you and appreciate you. xoxo HannahView Posts by Hannah Starkey

Matthew S. Newman

Matt appreciates all the moments with his family, lives in the now, and is eternally thankful for his beautiful wife, Rebecca, and three healthy children. His doctors did such a good job that Matt has no scar. But Matt didn't want to forget that he had cancer and all that he's learned through that experience. Matt's lion tattoo reminds him of his journey, the power of perseverance, and the importance of staying positive. Cancer patients often symbolize the conclusion of treatment by ringing a bell on their last day of chemotherapy. Not everyone gets the opportunity to make it through and celebrate. On his last day of chemo, Matt rang the bell and hasn't taken a day for granted since. As a lifelong warrior and workout fanatic, Matt never stops. Not for cancer. Not for chemo. Not for anything. Everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another. One of Matt's favorite things is signing his books, often writing personal messages to others, and hearing inspiring stories about the battles that others are fighting. As he always says, "we are a family of Warriors."View Posts by Matthew S. Newman

Pat Taylor

Pat Taylor became an AYA cancer awareness advocate when her daughter, Sara, age 23, was diagnosed with cancer back in 1997. Addressing the lack of support resources for young adults and their caregivers, Pat and Sara produced and distributed two films, “Sara’s Story” and “Chasing Rainbows Young Adults Living With Cancer”, and, was born. Since then, along with other advocates and their support resources, Pat has watched the Voice of AYA cancer awareness grow from a tiny whisper to an empowered roar! Parent Caregivers helped make this happen. Like their young adult children living with cancer, parents need to share and explore with their peers the immediate needs and on-going challenges they face daily while navigating the crazy, unpredictable, and often, confusing storyline of cancer. Pat is grateful to ELEPHANTS AND TEA for providing this opportunity to share some her personal cancer story experiences. Pat Taylor is the Founder of CHASING RAINBOWS YOUNG ADULT CANCER ADVOCACY: with the mission of discovering and distributing multi-media support resources for young adults living with cancer and their caregivers. When not on speaking tours, Pat lives in the Canadian wilderness, off-grid, with her husband, Lee and her wild friend, FOX. You can find Pat on Facebook: Twitter: @PatTaylorCR Email: pat@chaisngrainbows.caView Posts by Pat Taylor

JoAnna Barker

JoAnna Barker is a 20- something who defeated cancer and wrote a book about it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll find multiple references to books and movies that she some how related to cancer. Don’t be fooled, if you don’t have cancer you’ll still love this book. It’s a great read for people with cancer, people who love people with cancer, and people who just want to know how to relate. We hope you enjoy this reading journey. Trust us, it’s not what you’ll expect!View Posts by JoAnna Barker

Sarah Bartosz

Sarah Bartosz is the President of the Gold In September (G9). G9 is dedicated to growing awareness, inspiring action, and funding research for childhood cancer. Pediatric cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease of children in the U.S. Despite the need for progress, childhood cancer awareness and financial support have not reached the same national level as other cancer awareness campaigns. Gold (G) is the recognized color for childhood cancer and September (9) is designated as National Childhood Cancer Awareness month; together, they make G9. G9 directly benefits the entire childhood cancer community with gold alliance. Through global research, strategic partners, and an altruistic, innovative approach, G9 is planting seeds of hope to grow gold.View Posts by Sarah Bartosz

Amelia Baffa

Amelia Baffa is the Angie Fowler Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Nurse Navigator at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Ms. Baffa is responsible for care coordination, onco-fertility preservation, program and service line development, patient and staff education, AYA research, and program funding. She has been a nurse for 34 years, and has worked in various capacities such as: hematology-oncology inpatient, surgical intensive care and trauma, medical-surgical, staff development, pediatric care coordination, patient blood management, she has held several management positions, served as Director of Nursing Practice for a healthcare consulting company. She has presented both nationally and internationally, as well as chaired multiple conference committees. She was awarded the University Hospital Trustee Award for Nursing Excellence and the Red Cross Community Hero Award, in 2015. She was the grant recipient of the Community CureSearch Grant and is the Principal Investigator for a young adult cancer distress study. In 2016 she was awarded a scholarship from Teen Cancer America to become one of the first nurses in the US to attend Coventry University (UK), Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Management, Post-Graduate Certification program (Amelia has a MSN specializing in health education). She completed the course in spring of 2018. Amelia is keenly interested in the AYA population and is an active and caring advocate. Her mission is to create programs and services to help them re-engage with life, as they discover who they are after cancer. In 2018 she became a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner- Board Certified. Her goal is to build a psychiatric service line to help pediatric and young adults patients with mental health/addiction issues through mental health screening, diagnostic assessment, psychotropic management, and psychotherapy. In August of 2018 Amelia was accepted into one of only 5 APRN psychiatric fellowships in the US. She participates in the fellowship part-time at Portage Path Behavioral Health Center, in Akron Ohio. Where there she treats patients with mental health issues and addiction, she also works on community oriented key performance issued mental health initiatives to improve care and quality of life.View Posts by Amelia Baffa

Shannon Fitzgerald

Shannon Fitzgerald MS RDN LD, is a school based dietitian in suburban Cleveland. She is the founder of FIT KID TEXT. She teaches yoga and is passionate about healthy living; aiming high and true. Friends, family and especially her four young adult children are her heart and soul.View Posts by Shannon Fitzgerald

Olivia Clarke

I’m Olivia Clarke and I’m a cancer survivor. ​I almost knock on wood every time I say those words because I'm always afraid my cancer will visit my doorstep again. I experience moments where I feel like a rock star and moments where I wonder if every new ache or bump is a sign of cancer coming back. There have been moments during this entire cancer business when I couldn't help at laugh at the crazy questions I'm answering and how in-depth I get about my breasts (I had breast cancer). I have chuckled when some medical staff folks forget that I'm not their great aunt or their grandma with cancer. I am working and now dating. And, I'm trying to be a good aunt, sister, daughter and friend to those around me. Life keeps on going regardless of what disease I'm battling. Cancer story in a nutshell: In 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiation and several reconstruction surgeries I have been cancer-free. When going through treatment, I learned the importance of finding little ways to experience joy and laughter. I also realized that being a cancer patient under age 40 brought unique perspective and challenges, but there weren't a lot of avenues for this group to bond and share stories. That's why this online community was created. ​ My back story: My day job is as a public relations senior specialist for a global law firm where I handle media relations and communications for the lawyers I work with and for. I worked as a reporter and editor for 13 years and the best part of that profession was learning and sharing people's stories. I learned nothing is black and white. We really operate in the gray and the best thing we can do is empathize with our neighbors. ​ After dealing with cancer I realized I had not left a positive enough impact on people's lives. I took my volunteering up to a new level and raised money and awareness through social media and communications for a school and food pantry on the South Side of Chicago. It fed my soul and I hopefully made a positive impact on this community. But I needed to create this site to give back and help bring all the different parts of me together -- the journalist, the communicator, the volunteer and the cancer survivor. I hope you enjoy Humor Beats Cancer.View Posts by Olivia Clarke

Dan Dean

Dan is a 15-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Recognizing that few resources exist geared specifically toward men affected by cancer, Dan founded M Powerment to bring men of all ages together to lead amazing, impactful lives after a cancer diagnosis. Dan also plays basketball, hikes, runs, and performs improv comedy.View Posts by Dan Dean

Kim Buff

Kim is the Founder & Executive Director of Momcology, a community-building nonprofit organization committed to supporting caregivers of children diagnosed with cancer through innovative peer-based programming. Kim is asked to advise, consult and contribute to many endeavors within the professional childhood cancer care community, she is currently a parent stakeholder on the implementation of the evidence-based Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT) in pediatric cancer, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2) and was appointed to the Children's Oncology Group Patient Advocacy Committee (COG PAC). Kim recently co-authored an abstract on Momcology's hospital-based support group program that will be presented at the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP) in 2019. Kim's survivor son, Matthew (ALL Leukemia), will be a Sophmore at Emory University this year where he is studying biology with a pre-med track. Kim is happy to report that both she and Matthew made it through Freshman year with flying colors. To learn more about Momcology, or to refer a caregiver of a child diagnosed with cancer, please visit www.momcology.orgView Posts by Kim Buff

Vickie Buenger

Vickie Buenger grew up in various small towns in Texas, including College Station and Alvin. She serves as Clinical Professor at the Mays Business School with a joint appointment to the Professional Program for Biotechnology at Texas A&M University. She teaches competitive and cooperative business strategy and project management. Vickie’s daughter, Erin, fought neuroblastoma for seven years. Since Erin’s death in 2009, Vickie has devoted time and energy to launching the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2) on behalf of the many dedicated organizations and individuals striving to make a difference for children with cancer. She currently serves as President of CAC2. Vickie combines her academic background with her interest in the science and policy of childhood cancer and has spoken before gatherings of scientists, clinicians, regulators, industry representatives, and advocates in the United States and Europe. She also serves as the Board Chair of the Hospice Brazos Valley Living Endowment and on the Executive Committee of the Brazos County Democratic Party. She volunteers as an ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church-USA. She and her amazing husband, Walter, enjoy co-teaching the Loose Leaf Bible Study Adult Education class. They have one son, Davis, who is a theoretical mathematician and senior data scientist at Chase in Columbus, Ohio. Vickie and her mother, Madge Luquette, are the founding and only members of the Cypress Road Mother/Daughter Book Club. For fun, Vickie crafts beaded jewelry and lanyards, plays trombone, does counted cross-stitch, hits the hiking trails and kayak waterways whenever possible, and hangs out with her friends and her disobedient dogs, Willie and Teddy.View Posts by Vickie Buenger

Lindsay Crawford

Lindsay Crawford, MD is an assistant professor, Dept. of Orthopedic Surgery at University of Texas Houston McGovern Medical School.View Posts by Lindsay Crawford

Mariah Forster Olsen

Mariah Forster Olson was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 1980 at the age of one, and as a result, she has many different medical conditions and late effects. She received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science degree and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin with her husband, Troy, and their two cats, Holly and Isaac. Due to Mariah’s medical issues, however, she does not have a “conventional” job and needs to rest often. However, Mariah works from her laptop on the couch for nine different cancer nonprofits, where she fights childhood cancer by helping patient, survivors, and families. She serves on the Board of Directors and works closely with the Neuroblastoma Children’s Cancer Society and the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer. Mariah also serves on the State Leadership Board for the American Cancer Society, and she advocates for cancer-related legislation on both the state and federal levels for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). Mariah is also writing a book about her life, and plays the oboe professionally in a variety of ensembles in her community. Mariah’s work truly fulfills her, and she has learned that by sharing her story and experiences, as well as working with her nonprofits, she has the possibility to help others and provide hope, understanding, support, and encouragement to those touched by cancer.View Posts by Mariah Forster Olsen

Mitch Lortz

Mitch Lortz was diagnosed with terminal Stage IV Synovial Sarcoma at the age of 20. He is now 24 living in Boston, MA with his Fiance, Sydney and dog, Meatloaf. You can usually find him at Mass General Hospital but he also splits his time between his professional career in Marketing and managing his personal cancer blog. In an attempt to use humor and a positive attitude to promote wellness, Mitch has been writing for his blog Are You For Serious? - and covers topics ranging from the positive aspects of cancer to dealing with hemorrhoids and other chemo side effects.View Posts by Mitch Lortz

Mary Beth Collins

Mary Beth Collins, author of the blog Survivorship Matters posted on, is a parent advocate with a son who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 1999, and juggles a number of chronic side effects from treatment. For 20 year years she has advocated for childhood cancer issues, focused more recently on issues related to survivorship.View Posts by Mary Beth Collins

John Kirk

John Kirk is a popculture journalist, who immerses himself in the world of Star Trek, super-heroes, and everything a fan of nerdculture would love. John has interviewed many of the creators and personalities who live in this world and whose work can be found in publications like the Eisner Award-winning comics journal, BACK ISSUE, and websites like or If it's geekworthy, John probably knows it and has written about it.View Posts by John Kirk

Allison Breininger

Allison Breininger has been caregiver to her husband, Sean, since 2011, when he was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia. High school sweethearts, the two had been married for 9 years at the time of diagnosis, and had brought their toddler, Maya, home from Haiti, just one year earlier. Allison has been by Sean’s side through a bone marrow transplant, seven different types of cancer, a hip replacement, among other things. She writes honestly and openly about the challenges and realities of being a caregiver at her site Posts by Allison Breininger

Kirsten Efremov

On November 20th of 1998 at the age of 10 I began my cancer journey. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I did 3 years of intense chemo and finished treatment November 2001. One year later November 22 2002, I relapsed with ALL. I went through another 3 years of chemo this time treatment also included cranial radiation. I finally finished treatment in 2005 and thought I was done. I successfully completed high school with my original class despite all the setbacks. I also went on to complete my bachelor of science in medical science contrary to doctors had told my parents. In October of 2015 at the age of 27, I developed a canker on my tongue and it would not go away. I finally went to my oral surgeon (because doctors don’t treat issue of the mouth) and was told I had lichen planus. I went on 2 rounds of steroid treatment before a biopsy was done. In January of 2016, I was told I had oral cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. No one is really sure how I got it as I do not/did not fit any of the risk factors. March 1st of 2016 I had a partial glossectomy and a neck dissection. I was luck enough to not have to go through treatment again because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through that. It’s a young adults worst fear getting cancer but I don’t think the diagnosis is as hard as deciding treatment options. It took me until my 3rd battle with cancer to become confortable telling people my story but since then I have found nothing but amazing supportive people who are within the young adult cancer community.View Posts by Kirsten Efremov

Krysten Ford

Krysten is the CEO for Cancer Warriors Alliance. Krysten has been a caregiver since 2004 and has a background in justice studies, behavioral health, social work, and accounting. She has been very passionately advocating for the cancer community going on four years now. Krysten is also an author and has experience with business accounting.View Posts by Krysten Ford

Marquina Iliev-Piselli

Marquina Iliev-Piselli is a Digital Marketer and the Founder of, which aims to help authors feel empowered, not overwhelmed, by marketing. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, she has a Masters from Columbia University in Instructional Technology & Media. After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015, she created the Glam Chemo Project and the Women's Empowerment Project at Weill Cornell. She is also the editor of the forthcoming essay collection TOUGH: Women Who Survived Cancer, and the founder of the Share Triumph Virtual Conference, which brings survivors' stories to life and highlights the small steps that bring us back to joy.View Posts by Marquina Iliev-Piselli

Christa Wilkin and Kate Fraser

View Posts by Christa Wilkin and Kate Fraser