Caron Blau Rothstein is a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alumna and the Outreach & Engagement Coordinator of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon.  She can be reached at

Over the years, I have had to learn how to balance my leadership in varied professional situations with my other life roles—wife, mother, adult daughter, friend, congregant, volunteer, etc.  I thought I was pretty adept at the work-life balance until I was handed the unwanted role of cancer patient to add to my “balance sheet.”  I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on August 14, 2008.  Suddenly and quite unexpectedly I was thrown off balance in a way wholly unlike being a bleary eyed new parent, a teary eyed grieving daughter and friend or a weary eyed Jewish communal professional. 

I thought I was ill equipped to battle cancer, but it turns out that my other roles and my leadership skills did in fact prepare me well for the fight of my life.  My career gave me the courage to “manage up” with my doctors and advocate for my needs, the management skills to supervise my health care team and the good sense to appreciate the staff on the front line of my treatment—the nurses.  My parenting experience taught me to be flexible and patient when my treatment did not go as scheduled.  The friend and volunteer in me reinforced the importance of accepting help in a time of need.  The Jewish communal professional and participant in me strengthened my faith in the power of God and people to nurture, support and heal.

 I now proudly add “cancer survivor” to the array of roles from which to draw upon in my life.