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On Fearlessness… and Being Stronger, Together by Marisa Thalberg

A beautiful and very heartfelt post on her mother, her dear friend, and defining “fearlessness”

by Marisa Thalberg

(originally published on The Huffington Post)

For all that can be said about cancer, perhaps we have to acknowledge it as a great equalizer; almost everyone is touched by it in some way. Many of us are touched in profound ways, either as the one whom cancer has personally engaged in battle… or as the one who loves someone whom cancer has so unkindly tapped.

After cancer was as cruel as it was terribly foolish to choose a dear friend of mine, she stared it right back in the eye and decided to build a personal platform around being “fearless” (which has become just one of her enduring legacies). The only other person I’ve ever known who may have surpassed her in positivity, determination and humor in the face of this same adversity was my mom, Marion. Her favorite motto which she fully lived was: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

In the role of “loved one,” the bystander on whom cancer wreaks the collateral damage of emotional pain and worry, I often found myself reflecting on the idea of “fearlessness,” wondering: Are we all equally inclined toward living fearlessly? Is it like an innate muscle we all possess, that perhaps can be strengthened (through exercise)? Or is it more of a state of mind that we simply need to choose to don, like a hat? Is ‘fear’ the same thing as ‘worry’? (I, of course, now added to my worries that I wasn’t fearless enough).

I so admired my fearless friend Jen. I’ve admired not one, but several, incredible colleagues who have battled breast cancer in just the past couple of years, with seemingly superhuman grace and resilience. I’ve watched in awe as two other very dear friends, just in their 40s, stood steadfastly by the sides of their cancer-stricken husbands and somehow managed to manage their careers and their kids, keeping their wits and even their wit.

And most of all, I’ve looked to my incomparable mom. After being thrown one sucker punch after another and never ceasing to find a way to make that “lemonade,” she learned two years ago that in addition to the non-Hodgkins Lymphoma she had been fighting back for years, she now had aggressive uterine cancer, and the immediate next step would be a hysterectomy. Upon hearing this news, she quickly responded, “So, I guess that means I won’t be able to have children anymore?” When the cancer recurred in her abdomen, in her completely unique and psychologically brilliant way, she chose to “rebrand” her protruding tumor her “egg,” thereby turning this thing of evil at her side into something she could see in a better light. If she had a lovely conversation with the nurse in her oncologist’s office, THAT was a good visit.

Through all this, I was, frankly, consumed with FEAR. I wanted to be strong, for her of course, and also for myself. I wanted to reassure her, yet I reflexively looked to her to reassure me. For really, how are we supposed to be fearless when we are faced with the “mother” of all fears: losing someone we so deeply love?

After wrestling with these questions, I have come to realize this: that perhaps “living fearlessly” as my friend so fiercely espoused does not mean aspiring to NO fear… But rather, remembering that the definition of courage is actually having fear… and still going forward. Perhaps the true measure of our mettle is that we find a way to put our fears in a sack, a sack we may wear as we go through the world, but that we manage to adjust and readjust so that it doesn’t pull so impossibly on our shoulders that we cannot carry ourselves forward. We feel the weight — but it does not stop us. Because there is no alternative, and because maybe we are braver than our inner voices sometimes whisper.

And here is the other thing: we do not have to shoulder that sack alone. The whole notion of “fearlessness” suggests independent achievement. Yet, we best stand face-to-face with adversity when we are flanked by others at our sides. We need support. Supporters. Because we are simply stronger… together. We are stronger together if the battle is our own, and we are stronger together in helping a loved one in that battle.

As a marketing executive at The Estée Lauder Companies, one of the most gratifying parts of my role is getting to work on our longstanding Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, and as it turns out, this is the very theme we chose for our effort this year — this fundamental truth about tackling cancer, tackling fear… and tackling life: “We’re Stronger Together.” (You can take a look and participate at; I’m really proud of it).

While the word “fearless” may never reach the top of my own self-definition, I realize much more clearly now that when we can find a way to stand back up (with a little help) after our knees have buckled, when we can find our smile in the darkness, when we put a first foot forward, when we persevere, and maybe even go on to further accomplish — it seems fair to say that we have done our battle with fear, and won.

It is one of the many lessons my mother is managing to continue to teach me.

-Marisa Thalberg

As always, please send your stories on being fearless to me at

A message from Jen’s parents and a poem from Jen

Two years after…

we remember the bright shining light that was Jennifer Goodman Linn with a message from her parents and a poem. 

This Saturday July 20th will be a day to reflect on Jen's bountiful gifts to us all and to the world. Some of us will cycle, some of us will give in to our sadness and deep sense of loss, some of us will smile at all the beautiful memories and inspiration Jen still gifts to us today, but unquestionably, in whatever way, we will all remember.

Jen truly transformed people's perspectives on life – she made them feel more powerful, less fearful, more ambitious, more meaningful…

And so I share with you a message from Jen's parents and a very special poem from Jen.  As always, please reach out if you want to share your You Fearless stories at  And Jen, I miss you…

-Janet Balis Allen

A message from Jen's parents:

Hard to believe, but it has been 2 years since we lost Jen. The ache in our hearts, the pain, is indescribable. Our words will not nearly capture our constant sadness. We miss her! We miss that big smile, her hugs, and all the excitement in her life. More than anything, our grief is because she is missing so much of all the events she cared so much about.

Our daughter loved life! She smothered herself with diverse friends and adventures. She urged us to live our lives to the fullest, and we are trying to honor her by doing that….following her spirited example. The love of family: Emily, Brett, Dave, Ben, and Shaun, keeps us balanced, and we are sustained by Jen’s numerous friends who have kept us in their lives. Thank you!

Kudos to Katie Kotkins, director of Cycle for Survival, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and her DEDICATED team. Their passion and hard work continue to build Jen and Dave’s dream, providing more treatment options and hope, to thousands of cancer patients. Jennifer wanted no family to have to live our family’s ordeal. We are proud of our daughter’s meaningful and important legacy, Cycle for Survival; we will always fully embrace it.

From the time she was a tyke, Jen played around with poetry. This creative expression was often biographic and zany, but this activity was always a part of her fiber. We giggled over most of her attempts, but we encouraged her. As she matured, she became more introspective, more serious, with her poems. Her heart spoke. Going through her papers recently, we discovered a piece that we thought you would all enjoy. We love you, Jen.

-Mom & Dad July 20, 2013

A poem from Jen

On the 20th of April, a stormy afternoon
I stood amongst a wealth of friends, I would be married soon
It was then it came to pass, amidst the gloomy thunder
That I looked from face to face and I began to wonder
Not simply how it was I’d come to be so elegantly dressed
But what it was I’d done on earth to be so truly blessed
That friends would come from all the world, travelling at great length
To share our special moment and offer extra strength
I knew then that we were witnessing an event extremely rare
That those we love had done so much to show us that they care
And if I have one hope in life it’s that the few I touch
May know for just one moment, what it is to be loved so much
Great champions of spirit – you went beyond the call
And for your generous gestures, we will always love you all
And when we glance out at the sky, and see the stars and moon
I’ll smile of treasured memories, and dream of seeing you soon
Excuse me now as I must take, the next step on the way
So I guess a simple THANK YOU is all that’s left to say
Go well my friends I’ll see you soon a little further down the line
And when we meet, we’ll dance again, and share another special time.

-Jennifer Goodman Linn 

Thank you to Jennifer Lee Photography for the beautiful photographs of a truly beautiful person.

Fearless in Many Forms

I am honored to be able to share a blog post for You Fearless from Marc Lavine. Marc has been one of the most successful and passionate fundraisers for Cycle for Survival that I have ever witnessed. But he doesn't just lead his team to deliver results…he does so with extraordinary heart and deep authenticity. Here's Marc's latest take on what it means to be fearless:

Being fearless takes many forms. I recently had reason to reflect on that as I was doing some work to get my team ready for this year's Cycle For Survival event in New York City. One of my teammates approached me and told me he was nervous about riding and he did not know if he could do it. His apprehension grew when at a team meeting a few people asked if they could ride multiple hours. Intimated at the very least, he assured me that he would try it. This is the same person who had taken 6 months off of work to be treated via surgery and chemotherapy for Thyroid cancer. Every time I see him, his head is high. He does not live in the fear of what happened. He lives in the present, feeling strong about being cancer free. He does not cower, he lives on and so he recently assured me, he's proudly riding.

At last year's CFS event, I met a man who stopped to talk to me before the afternoon session. I had raised a large amount of money as an individual and he wanted to thank me for my work. I thanked him for the kind gesture and was about to move on when he quickly added "You know, this stuff really works." Admittedly, I assumed he was speaking in a broad brush stroke way on how Cycle For Survival raises cancer awareness. I acknowledged how great it was that we had raised awareness on rare cancer research. He quickly said again "I don't think you understood me. This event really works." He went on to explain that he had been in a Cycle For Survival clinical trial and that it was the reason he is still here today. He then quickly moved onto the floor and rode for the entire afternoon session. Despite what was going on in his life, his head was high and he was not afraid of a fight. I am not often lost for words but it was the very display of strength we all talk about on the Youfearless site. Not just our ability our to go on but to live life on our terms and not the terms of a disease. I am very proud to call that guy my friend today.

Having always ridden by myself, I was nervous about asking others to ride with me. I was concerned about whether people would feel pressured about raising money or having to give. In short, I was afraid of people saying no to me on making the bigger commitment of time. Thinking of the stories above made me realize a my bigger fear: doing nothing. 30 people and $85,000 later, our team is prepared to do one thing on March 3rd, beat cancer. Some team members were nervous about making the ask for money, but they did. A few were nervous about having never been to a spin class, but they are riding.

When I look back through the incredible Youfearless posts of stories of Perry Zimmerman, Sydney Becker and of course Jennifer Linn, I am humbled. Humbled to be part of the 13,000 riders this year who will ride without fear. We stand bravely in the name of our loved ones. We are ready because we are fearless in our own form.

-Marc Lavine

If you'd like to support Marc's team, you can do so at:  

And always, if you have a You Fearless story to share, please send it to me at

All the best,


Fearless Lisa (aka Team FabuLisa) – posted by Dave Linn

Hi everyone, it’s Dave here. I know I haven’t posted in a while, but something happened this week that compelled me to write.

From the first minute I met Lisa Gallup and her brother Barry, I knew she was a superstar.  I don’t say this about very many people, but Lisa had many of the same qualities that drew people to Jen – an incredibly positive outlook, beautiful smile, and the rare ability to live life to the fullest no matter the challenges thrown at her.  In short, Lisa was Fearless.

That makes it all the more difficult for me to come to grips with the fact that Lisa died this week at the far too young age of 26.  She will be missed greatly by me and by so many others who called her a friend.

For those who unfortunately didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Lisa, I’ll paint you a quick picture from the past year.  Lisa was working full-time as an overnight nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at NY Presbyterian Hospital.  In her spare time, she completed the NYC Half Marathon and the Boston Triathlon, and she was a key contributor on both the NY and Boston organizing committees for Cycle for Survival.  Oh, and did I forget to mention that she did all this while undergoing toxic chemo and radiation treatments for a rare type of cancer?  As Jen used to say, Lisa had cancer, but cancer definitely did not have her.

My heart goes out to Lisa’s entire family, particularly her incredible brother Barry.  He was Lisa’s biggest cheerleader and her biggest protector, sometimes even in the same sentence.  It was a beautiful thing to see.

Barry was with Lisa every step of the way for all the ups and downs of her battle with cancer.  For that, he has my lifelong admiration and respect as I personally know how difficult that can be.  And I wonder, how many of all of us would be there in that same way for our own brother or sister?

As some of you know, I’ve been traveling around the country the last couple months to spread the word about Cycle for Survival.  In the time I spend with patients and their friends and families, we often find ourselves talking about a topic that I feel particularly passionate about — we might not have control over the challenges thrown at us, but we do have a choice in how we react to those challenges. 

Please take a deep breath, let that sink in, and think about it for a moment.  Whether it’s a health issue or something else in our personal or professional lives, we all face difficult challenges that present us with a choice in how we react.  Lisa’s choice was to live life to the fullest and make the most of every day.  Her death has hit me hard, but my choice is to work tirelessly to make sure others don’t suffer like Jen and Lisa.  And how about all of you out there….what will your choice be?

– Dave Linn

Please free to comment directly on the youfearless blog, on Facebook, or to call/email me anytime.  I included the funeral details below for those who are interested. 


Lisa Ann Gallup (26) from New York City, formerly of Wellesley, MA

A Funeral Service will be held on Sat Dec 22 at 1:00PM at the Wellesley Congregational (Village) Church, 2 Central Street, Wellesley MA 02482. Relatives and friends kindly invited. Visiting hours omitted. Following the Service a private burial will be held at Woodlawn Cemetery, Wellesley. Donations can be made to "Cycle for Survival – Team FabuLisa" at or MSKCC, 633 Third Avenue, Floor 28, New York, NY 10017. 


Considering “Fearlessness” (for the Rest of Us)

I realize it’s been a while since the last You Fearless post, but sometimes it’s not the easiest to get people to tell their fearless stories.  It takes: being fearless.   And I have to tell you how wonderful it feels to be able to share a new story – a new perspective.

This is a very special blog post from Marisa Thalberg.  I know Marisa through Jen – first, as a fabulous friend; second, as a fearless supporter of both Cycle for Survival and Breast Cancer Awareness which she champions in her leadership role at Estee Lauder; and third, as a very special “executive mom”.  It is a phrase Marisa coined to describe herself and others like her.  She brings them together on a powerful platform which connects professional women in a meaningful community at  But Marisa’s accomplishments across the many dimensions of her life, of course, comes as no surprise because – as we all know – Jen was an absolute magnet for extraordinary people.  “Like attracts like” as they say.

Jen and Marisa first became friends in 1993 in advertising at Saatchi and Saatchi, where she was actually Jen’s first boss! Jen and Marisa stayed very close friends over the years.  In the photos here, you can see them at a party during those early years of their friendship and then at Cycle with Marisa’s older daughter Hannah (the same year Hannah asked her birthday gifts be donated to Cycle for Survival).  

It’s no surprise to me that Marisa took the time to share this very special blog post with all of us:

From the moment my friend Jen Goodman Linn began to build a platform around the idea of being fearless, I thought: "fearless, yes!  You are fearless Jen!" (Of that there was no doubt).  And what a great rallying cry for the rest of us.

Yet the more I found myself reflecting on that word as both a lens to others and a mirror to myself, the more complex the question of "fearlessness" became in my mind.  Are we all equally inclined toward living fearlessly?

Is it like an innate muscle we all possess (that perhaps can be strengthened, through exercise?  I believe Jen would spark to that analogy).  

Or is it more of a state of mind that we simply need to choose to don like a hat?  

Is 'fear' the same thing as 'worry'?  (I, of course, now added to my worries that I wasn't fearless enough).

I think the people we tend to admire most in life are those who seem to possess an excess of the qualities we wished we saw more of in ourselves.  I know I have many friends and colleagues who perceive me as (at least a variation of) fearless (confident, strong…) yet "fearless" was never high on the roster of words that comprised my own self-definition.  Meantime, I deeply admired Jen for her unwavering bravery, determination, and yes, fearlessness in the face of tremendous adversity.  I look now in awe at another amazing friend who just became a widow this month, for what seems almost unreasonable strength, dignity and grace that she is demonstrating to all of us and particularly to her daughters.  

And perhaps most of all, I look to my mom, who has been thrown one sucker punch after another, year after year, including just learning that after enduring surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for both uterine cancer AND non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in the past 12 months alone, some renegade uterine cancer cells escaped and have quickly formed into a new tumor in her abdomen.  Since we found out that this protruding "egg" (as she has so tactfully labeled it) near her belly button does not in fact have an innocuous explanation (that could be easily scrambled or fried), I have been, quite frankly, consumed with fear.  I want to be strong for her, and for myself.  I want to reassure her, yet I reflexively look to her to reassure me.  

For really, how are we supposed to be absent of fear, when we are faced with the "mother" of all fears: losing someone we love?  

After wrestling with these questions, I can only think that perhaps for many of us "living fearlessly" does not mean aspiring to NO fear… But rather, to paraphrase one of my favorite quotes, it is remembering that the definition of courage is not the absence of fear – but rather having fear… and still going forward.  Like moths to a flame, we can bask in and derive energy from those bright lights like Jen and my mom who simply radiate fearlessness and positivity by their very nature.  Yet for the rest of us who are less able to just throw our fears away, perhaps the equally important measure of our mettle is that we find a way to put our fears in a sack, a sack we may wear as we go through the world but that we manage to adjust and readjust so that it doesn't pull so impossibly hard on our shoulders that we cannot carry them.  FORWARD. We feel them – but they do not stop us.  Because there is no alternative, and because maybe we are stronger than our inner voices sometimes whisper.  If to be 'unwavering' is an ideal, it's worth reminding ourselves that to waver is not a sign of weakness – it is human.  When we stand back up after our knees have buckled, when we persevere (not to mention go on to accomplish in life, in ways large and small), it seems fair to say that we have done battle with fear, and won.    – Marisa Thalberg

I hope you will take a moment to consider sharing your fearless thoughts and ideas here (you can always email me at  But even if you are not able to share your storires here, I hope you have, even more importantly, signed up for Cycle at  This is a particularly important moment when there is $100K at stake if we sign up enough bikes by Thanksgiving during the current "Rally for $100K."  

Looking forward to the next fearless story that can inspire us all…and continue to carry forward Jen's powerful ideas from which we can all continue to derive strength and purpose.

-Janet Balis Allen

Perspective is an amazing thing

Perspective is a remarkable thing.  This morning, I might have had some fear around sending two of my children (the little ones) for their first week-long trip away.  This afternoon, I might have had some anxiety around my own trip to Europe for a business trip. I might have acknowledged fear in either situation.  But, instead I sat down to read two submissions to You Fearless that I had been intending to post to the site, and I realized I not only had nothing to fear, but also that those fears were so incredibly small relative to the courage of two people: Perry Zimmerman and Nikki Ferraro. 

And so I share with you a post directly from young Perry as she celebrates the end of her chemo treatment and a post from Robin Ferraro on behalf of her niece, Nikki who turned her challenge into a tremendous opportunity.  If you have even the slightest bit of fear today (or any day), I encourage you to read these and I am convinced you will be inspired to conquer whatever challenge you may have in front of you.

Post from Perry Zimmerman: "Finally I'm done!"

I'm so happy to finally be done with chemo. I mean it was nice making friends and all but it's a big scene to have out of the way. The inpatient was drab except for the Friday night candy cart. The stays are so boring especially when I'm feeling ok. There is a playroom but it's so small it's almost boring in there. One day in my last stay I went to the playroom at seven at night when technically it would be closed and made slime.   We made so many colors and then over the next few days it separated.

The MSKCC pediatric prom was amazing. It was on my second to last day of being there. They had music and food and everything you need for a great prom [see photo above of Perry with her mom]. The music was blasting loud. The best part was the doctors and nurses and everyone dancing and singing along. It was probably tied for the best day at Sloan with Halloween.

On my last day at the hospital for treatment, the candy cart people stopped us on our way out and told us they were setting up the cart. They invited us in to pick out a few pieces. Ok fine – more than just a few. How could we hold back?  Indulge! The last day was a huge relief. It came all at once. I was just thinking about it saying how is it possibly this close. And yet it is gone.  Finished. All this stuff out of the way.

Post from Robin Ferraro: Just Believe

“ I really do believe that anything is possible if you just believe,” says Nikki.

I am reminded of Jennifer Goodman Linn’s positive, can-do attitude and You Fearless spirit by my niece, Nikki Ferraro and her fight to conquer Medullary Thyroid Cancer, which is a rare form of thyroid cancer she was diagnosed with 2 years ago at the age of 17.  

Despite what would be devastating news for any teen, Nikki took charge of the situation from the start and fought back against her cancer diagnosis by forming a Relay for Life team called Bite Me Cancer a week before her first cancer surgery.  At the relay near her hometown of Chantilly, VA her team placed first for both team and individual fundraising for the American Cancer Society.  She also placed first as the individual online fundraiser for the 8-state South-Atlantic Region of the American Cancer Society.

Nikki was on to something! Determined to build on the momentum she had started in her efforts to raise money for cancer research, she convinced her parents to help her establish the Bite Me Cancer Foundation (“Attitude is Everything!”) in 2010. A small non-profit, their mission is to fight cancer through research, education and inspiration.   

Nikki and Bite Me Cancer are currently focused on 2 major initiatives. The first is a program that will support teens newly diagnosed with cancer by giving them a special teen support bag called “A Bit of Bite Me Cancer” filled with items to support them on their cancer journey.  The second is the $50k for 50k campaign.  It is predicted that more than 50,000 people will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2012 and the foundation’s fundraising goal is to raise one dollar for each new diagnosis. The money will fund one 2-year research grant aimed at fighting thyroid cancer, which is the fastest growing cancer in the United States today.

The foundation had begun to do some great work and I am happy to share that personally, Nikki is doing well too.  After surgery and radiation treatments, her cancer is stable and she successfully completed her first year of college at James Madison University.  Cancer survivor, foundation founder, college sophomore — we look forward to the future and Nikki’s continued efforts to educate and inspire people to get involved in the fight against cancer!

I'm off to the airport.  As always, I hope you will send me your stories and thoughts for You Fearless at

-Janet Balis Allen

It’s a good day when good things happen to good people

Today's business press carried the incredible news of Buddy Media's sale to

From The Washington Post (

to Forbes (

to The Wall Street Journal (,

everyone was talking about today's deal because it spoke to some of the most powerful trends driving the future of digital media – the power of social, the importance of cloud computing, and the vision and entrepreneurial spirit required to grow companies and create meaningful value. And, despite personally living and breathing the world of digital media every day as the recently appointed Publisher of the Huffington Post, I was not struck by what the news was today – rather, I was struck by who made it happen and the kind of people they are. And, I hope they will forgive me for taking the liberty of sharing their story here.

Buddy Media was founded by Michael Lazerow and his wife and business partner Kass. Michael is a serial entrepreneur with an incredible track record punctuated clearly by today's achievement, but that is not how I know him. I know him as an incredibly close friend of Jen and Dave Linn. I know him as the leader of the team at Cycle for Survival that always leads the pack with the Buddy Media's herculean efforts to fundraise for cancer research. I know him as a highly respected person many people turn to for advice. I know him as someone who pours his heart and soul and ideas and love for his family into his blog ( and Facebook posts.

And so today, when I saw Michael’s status update on Facebook, it was no surprise to me that he chose to share his big news with humility and heart, expressing the appreciation he has for the moment today represented, his gratitude for those that have graced his life, and his recognition that a fearless attitude will be required to take the next step. This was NOT a business story that he told in his video (which is why I am sharing it here on , but rather one of facing life without fear and being grateful for every precious second we all have on this earth. Jen would undoubtedly be cheering wildly for the Lazerow family at this special moment.

Michael’s video is absolutely worth watching, and I share it with you here: "A New Beginning – Is Fear Holding You Back?" 

As always, please do not hesitate to comment here or reach out to me with your fearless stories at I would love to share them so we can inspire more people to live a life without fear.

All the best,

Janet Balis 

A sparkle of fearless spirit we can all share

At Jen's service last July, I held on to every word, every recollection, and every beautiful story. And, I found that I was touched by the love that came through in every brave syllable.  Through my uncontrollable tears, I remember being particularly struck by the words that Alicia Sands, Jen's dear childhood friend, shared with everyone. As I heard her humor through her pain and felt her genuine love, I thought that all girls should only be so fortunate to experience the depth of true friendship that Alicia and Jen shared. To not only have a friendship that stood the test of time from childhood to adulthood but for it also to be so heartfelt is truly an extraordinary gift.

And so, it came as no surprise that Alicia found many very special ways to remember Jen – including the genius of developing a custom nail polish color with Opi to raise funds for Cycle for Survival. Here is a very special blog post from Alicia, whose friendship with Jen is a true inspiration to us all…

From Alicia Sands

I never thought I would know life without Jen. I can’t even remember not knowing her. My close friend since I was 14, Jen is a part of my history, a part of my family, a part of me.

The past 7 months have been difficult, indescribably difficult at times. Initially, after her death I cried every day. Not exactly the fearless person I wanted to be for Jen! But, while Jen was able to deal with her illness and all the physical and emotional challenges it wrought, she knew that not everyone could follow her lead. I know that Jen would only want me to try my best, to keep her in my heart yet go about my day-to-day life as I did when she was alive. Thankfully, four kids under age seven and all of their daily needs and activities haven’t allowed me too much time to indulge in self-pity. Slowly, I have been able to escape from the tears and appreciate the memories I have of my caring, brave, fun-loving, creative, thoughtful Jen. The constant ache for her has subsided…a little. By the fall of 2011, I started to feel like I needed to channel my sadness into something positive, something “Jen.”

Back on the day Jen died, I was with Dave at his apartment helping to tidy up and assist with her blog. We found Jen’s collection of nail polishes and there were a lot of them. I had no idea why someone who liked going to nail salons to get pedicures as much as Jen did would have so many nail polishes! Despite my puzzlement or maybe because of it, something about the collection resonated with me and I asked Dave if I could have the bottles.

With plans for her burial underway, Jen left instructions for her loved ones to follow after her death. True to her nature, she wanted a “fun” funeral. Given how we felt, we knew that would be a tough request to honor. I tried my best to make my eulogy “Jen-like.” I wore a brightly colored dress she liked, brought in props—she LOVED props when making speeches—and painted my nails in the color she told me she loved two weeks before she died. People seemed to really respond to the part of my eulogy where I discussed Jen’s love of nail polish and revealed to the standing room only crowd that I was wearing her most recent favorite color from her nail polish collection (Essie’s Turquiose and Caicos).

After the funeral, my pedicure tribute generated many favorable responses from Jen’s huge following of loyal friends, family, supporters and cancer patients as well as inquiries into what her other favorite colors were. After I put a picture of my toes from the day of her funeral on her Facebook page, I got even more messages. And, many of those who loved Jen decided to paint their toenails in “Turquoise and Caicos” as well. I decided to start a “nail polish tribute”; every 2 weeks or so I would post on Facebook one of her favorite colors, show my toes painted in that color and encourage others to do the same to honor Jen. I had enough nail polish bottles to continue until around the first anniversary of her death.

Jen was a marketing guru so I felt as if I were channeling some of her skills when it occurred to me that maybe I could do more, something on a larger scale, something to benefit Cycle for Survival. It occurred to me that I could ask one of the major nail polish companies to create a nail polish in Jen’s honor and have the proceeds go to Cycle for Survival. The task seemed challenging but in Jen’s memory I would have tried anything that I thought would have made Jen smile and would also raise money for the fundraiser that is her incredibly successful legacy.  When I approached Dave with my idea, he told me that another Cycle supporter and friend of Jen, Julie Frank, had the same idea and suggested we join forces. Julie and I found that we had complementary skills that seemed to make us an effective team.

In our pitch to the major nail polish companies, Julie and I requested that they make a “fearless” polish (after Jen’s motto for living her life with cancer) that we would name after her. Julie and I told them how Jen loved nail polish and indulging herself with pedicures (personally, I can't remember ever seeing her without her toes being polished). After being diagnosed with cancer, in the midst of so many medical tests, chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, some pampering and polishing of her toes brought her a lot of satisfaction. No matter how much pain she was in or how dire her medical situation became, she always enjoyed keeping up her familiar routine of being well groomed.  And Jen, as a creative marketing executive, truly loved all the fun and kitschy nail polish names.

We were thrilled when OPI signed on immediately and provided us with 1,000 bottles of a polish color we selected and named. It's a bright blue–Jen had an affinity for blue polish–called "You Fearless.”

My ache for Jen will never fully go away but I felt relieved and grateful that Julie and I had created a tribute that I know Jen would have adored. In her last blog post, Jen said that she could feel her supporters’ love wherever she is. “You Fearless” nail polish was one small way I could let her know how much I love her and always will. I hope that she is feeling the love. In my heart, I know she is.

**** For anyone who is fearless enough to wear “You Fearless,” the nail polish named in Jen’s honor (or if you want to give it to someone in your life who lives their life by Jen’s credo of fearlessness, or aspires to do so), please make a $100 or more donation to Cycle for Survival between today and the day this year’s Cycle fundraising ends (April 1, 2012) and you will receive a bottle. Please go to and make your contribution. Jen would love to know that all her supporters were proudly and courageously wearing her color! And, if you do receive a bottle, please wear it to next year’s Cycle for Survival event!

Hoping this story inspires you to buy this very special "You Fearless" polish!  As always, please send your fearless stories to me at



Powerful, positive feelings from Cycle – the story of Sydney Becker

It's extraordinary to me how the impact of Jen and Dave's creation, Cycle for Survival, continues to grow.  And, when I say "impact", I am not solely referencing the incredible fundraising achievement of this year – the almost $8.2 mm that will now go straight to Memorial Sloan Kettering for cancer research.  Rather, I am talking about the human impact, the way the event makes people feel.

Over the days since Cycle this year, I have been struck by the number of people who told me how much the experience of participating meant to them.  For some, it was because they did not realize how big the event really is.  For others, it was that participating compelled them to want to do even more in coming years.  And, for others, it was simply of a feeling of hope and empowerment – that in a world that doesn't always feel influenced by the outcomes we want, we can take control and impact the future.

I wanted to share some of the reflections that were sent to me after the event, and one that was particularly poignant.   It was sent to me by Jeff Becker, the father of Sydney Becker.  Sydney is 13 years old and lives in Livingston, NJ (Jen's hometown).  She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last January and beat it by the end of last year, after having major surgery to remove most of her tibia and all of her knee (replaced with titanium parts).  Sydney's parents were very involved with Sandy and Len Goodman and two of Jen's high school friends, Jeanne Silberman and Greer Gelman, in planning this year's very successful Livingston Cycle satellite event, which raised over $350K this year.  Sydney is not only connected to Jen, but also to Perry (see the last post on at  They share a doctor, Dr. Meyers, and Sydney and Perry had the chance to meet at the 5th Avenue Cycle event this year, an hour of which Jeff Becker kicked off (see the video at

Here is an excerpt of Sydney's reflections on Cycle for Survival from her own blog (

"Overall, all of the events that I attended (Livingston, New York City, and Long Island) were truly amazing. I wish I had a larger vocabulary, because there are so many words to describe Cycle, and I don't think amazing is even close to strong enough. Although even if I did, I still don't think any of them would be able to describe it. There is no better feeling in the world than being in a room with all of those people, all the music going, and the crazy amount of energy in the room. And in that moment, you just feel that anything is possible. In those moments, I believe that there will be a cure for cancer, and it will be soon. I believe that there is hope for everyone fighting cancer. I believe that there is hope for all of those who have never had cancer, that they will never get it. It is so inspiring, you just feel as if you can change the world. Pretty soon I'm going to start off in a rant on trying to explain how amazing Cycle is, and it's going to make sense to absolutely no one, so I'm going to stop before I get there. I am so excited for next year!"

Fighting cancer is about research.  Research requires money and dedicated, exceptional doctors and scientists.  But beyond all of that, fighting cancer requires a fearless attitude and inspiration.  Sydney, thank you for sharing your unbelievably positive spirit and beautiful writing with all of us!



Perry Reflects on Cycle and Being Fearless

Dave introduced me to Larry and Anne Zimmerman at a kick-off event for this year's Cycle for Survival back in the Fall. Larry and Anne are the parents of Perry Zimmerman, whose book report was featured here a few posts back. Perry is currently undergoing treatment at MSKCC for osteosarcoma and is an amazing example of being fearless!  At this year's event, I felt very fortunate to get to meet Perry in person and tell her how special she was to me. I had emailed with her parents and thought of her often, but it was so meaningful to meet her.  When I talked to her at the Cycle event, I asked her if she would consider writing a post for You Fearless, never imagining it would work for her busy schedule. 

And then, just as I thought about how to reflect on the achievement of this year's Cycle for Survival on this site, the answer suddenly landed in my inbox. Perry not only had written a post – she had written a beautiful post.

And so I share with you here the reflections of a beautiful 11-year old girl on this year's Cycle for Survival: 

This year Cycle for Survival meant a lot more than it usually does to me. Last year and our first year I was just a survivor, not that being a survivor doesn't mean anything, it means a lot. This year I am actually going through treatment for an osteosarcoma in my leg. Jen is truly an inspiration as I go through all this. Whenever I start getting the teeniest bit discouraged I just think what would Jen do if she were in this situation? And snap right out of it. This year while I am on the treatment I feel stronger, more fearless than ever before. I feel that being a cancer survivor is a big part of my identity. Cycle this year was truly amazing. I felt like there was more energy in the room for some reason. 

We had a bunch of out of town friends come for the event so we had a big cocktail party the night before we rode. We had a few of my mom's college friends, and a few people my dad has known his whole life. The people my dad grew up with brought kids that I spend summers with in Maryland. Darryl the equinox spin instructor came to the party. Two of my parents friends, Andrea and Christine who visit me in the hospital a lot came also. 

I got to present the check to my own doctor on Saturday. When I got to the gym to do it I got to hear about 45 minutes of a Darryl class. It was so cool. On Sunday when both of my parents were riding I stuck around for most of it and I have to say it was one of the best weekends of my life.

-Perry Zimmerman, age 11

I am sure you, like me, are struck by the bravery of this very special and talented girl.  I will always cycle for Jen, but now I also am proud to ride for Perry and her bright future.

If you have a fearless story, please email me at

-Janet Balis Allen