Musa Mayer

Musa Mayer is an author, advocate, and 14-year breast cancer survivor. She left a career as a mental health counselor to pursue an MFA from Columbia University in writing. While she was a student at Columbia, she published her first book, Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston, her own story of growing up in the New York art world of the 1950s. Less than a year later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has since published two books on breast cancer: her 1993 memoir, Examining Myself: One Woman's Story of Breast Cancer Treatment and Recovery, Advanced Breast Cancer: A Guide to Living with Metastatic Disease (O'Reilly & Associates, 1998), the only book of its kind; and her latest, After Breast Cancer: Answers to the Questions You're Afraid to Ask. In After Breast Cancer, Mayer explores the the feelings of uncertainty and fear that breast cancer patients commonly face after treatment. She offers survival statistics and the voices of 40 breast cancer survivors to help readers cope and thrive.

The New York Times called Night Studio, "a rich study in father-daughter relations ... a memoir of depth and clarity."Newsweek called it "frank and touching,"adding that "Artists' biographies tend to be reverential shrines or peeks through the keyhole. This compelling memoir of Philip Guston by his only child is both."

Linda Ellerbee called Examining Myself, "The very best book anybody has ever written about what it is like to have breast cancer."The director of the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations called the memoir "required reading for the woman who has taken the bold step of confronting her breast cancer head-on and permitting it to reach her heart and soul."

When they reviewed Advanced Breast Cancer, the Breast Cancer Action Newsletter wrote, "Musa Mayer has given us a gift that we have needed for a long, long time: an in-depth, truthful, personal and informative resource about metastatic breast cancer. I believe that this book will be as important to women with metastatic breast cancer as Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book is to newly diagnosed breast cancer warriors."

Advanced Breast Cancer was based on interviews with patients and family members from the Breast-Cancer Mailing List (, an email discussion group where Mayer has daily offered her expertise over the past eight years. For the past two-and-a-half years, she has also participated in BCMETS, a mailing list that deals exclusively with advanced breast cancer, at

In October, 2000, Mayer was honored for her advocacy work by the National Breast Cancer Coalition at their annual gala in New York City. She has taken the Project LEAD science training course for advocates,and the advanced Clinical Trails Project LEAD training course, offered during the summer of 2001. As a LEAD graduate, she participates in an ongoing advocacy discussion group at SHARE, in New York City, studying and discussing issues relevant to emerging research. She attends a number of annual breast cancer research conferences each year, including the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, where she presented a poster at the 2001 meeting. Each year, she writes a summary for patients of the most important research.

In 2001, Mayer was chosen to serve as a patient consultant to the FDA Cancer Drug Development Program, and has sat as a voting patient representative on several sessions of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee.

Mayer is a contributing editor for MAMM Magazine,, for which she writes regular features. She conducts poetry and writing workshops for survivors. She frequently speaks to support and advocacy groups, and consults with them on providing services to women with advanced breast cancer. During this past year, she has worked with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, NABCO's Recurrence Project, and the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery Program to develop training materials for their volunteers to work with women with advanced breast cancer.

Most recently, Mayer was invited to give a plenary address at the World Conference on Breast Cancer in Victoria, British Columbia in June, 2002. Her subject was: Breast Cancer Recurrence: Everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.

Her experiences as teacher, counselor, and writer have given her an abiding faith in the transformative and healing power of telling life stories.

She lives in New York City with her husband, Tom, a neuropsychologist who runs an inpatient program to treat traumatic brain injury. They have two grown sons, David, and Jonathan.

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