I grew up in a farmhouse in Connecticut and was educated at schools including Rosemary Hall in Connecticut; the Ecole Brillantmont in Lausanne, Switzerland; and Briarcliff College in Briarcliff Manor, New York. In the course of my diverse career in communications and the arts, I have worked for organizations including Sotheby’s Parke-Bernet and magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, British Vogue, and Town and Country both editorially and as a photographer. I have lived in both New York and London and have traveled around the world, visiting places including Baghdad, Tehran, Kyoto, Karachi, New Delhi, and more. In the midst of all these professional challenges, I was or became all of those things that women are: daughter, grand-daughter, mother, wife, sister, grand-mother, and friend.
In the late 1980s, I began to study acting and singing, first with the Herbert Berghof Studio and later with the legendary Robert Lewis, my teacher and mentor for many years. I have performed as a cabaret singer at venues including 88s, Doubles, The 21 Club, and The Colony Club in New York City; Odette’s in New Hope, Pennsylvania; and Maxim’s, Paris. Taken on at mid-life, my venture into performing helped me develop the confidence to say, yes, it is time for me to be noticed.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a form of the disease with an especially high mortality rate. Though I was terrified, I knew that passivity was not an option. Some inner wisdom told me that at this terrifying moment it was not the time to delegate decision-making to an expert, however distinguished. Instead, I realized that it was an invitation to fully exercise my rights and power, approaching my own health in partnership and collaboration with doctors rather than simply deferring to their choices. For three weeks after my diagnosis, I sought second opinions and researched options including holistic and alternative modalities. Ultimately I decided to begin with conventional “mainstream” surgery and chemotherapy, in part because of the trust I had gained in Dr. Peter Schwartz at the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Though friends and family rallied lovingly, this period of diagnosis and treatment was inevitably a time for deep and solitary reflection. As I thought back on my life, I came to two conclusions. First, I decided quite simply that dying was not an option. Second and more gradually, I determined that after chemotherapy, I would do everything in my power to be healthier than before. I committed myself to becoming a true partner in my own well-being, and to exploring everything I heard about that my instinct told me might be helpful, be it mind, body or spirit related.
As part of that journey, I discovered the form of medicine know as Biological or Swiss Biological medicine. From 2002 to 2007, I was treated by Dr. Thomas Rau, author of The Swiss Secret, at the Paracelsus Clinic in Lustmuhle, Switzerland. I attribute much of my new life to this amazing form of medicine and healing. Responding to the person rather than to just a collection of symptoms, it addresses patients as whole beings and as composites of mind, body, spirit and soul, taking in their emotional pasts as well as their physical body types and constitutions.
The transformation I underwent in the years following my cancer diagnosis and treatment inspired the writing of my memoir, A Little Touch of Cancer and How It Made Me Well. As it describes, I found that everything I have done in the past has been part of a path to wellness. This is true even of very difficult experiences, such as the fact that I was sexually abused by my father, who died two years after the traumatic event that I remember. Painful as it was, my illness was an opportunity to heal this trauma fully.
Together, the challenges of my journey and the insights gained along the way have led to the work I do today. I am a Mind Body Medicine coach, certified by Dr. James Gordon’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine; a speaker on issues including handling difficult diagnoses, interpreting the signals that bodily symptoms send, and preventing recurrence; and the publisher of The Whole-istic Health Advocates, a blog and The Whole-istic Health Advocates Concise Guides series of short guides for mature women who may be facing more age-related issues.
The mother of two daughters and now the grandmother of [three, a boys and two girls?], I reside in New York, Florida, and Scotland, where my husband and I live in an old castle which dates from the 13th century and has a beautiful garden and a resident ghost.
At seventy I am pleased to say that, at the moment, there is no detectable cancer in my body and I feel I’ve regained and built the best health of my life. It is my privilege to be able to help other women claim their own well-being, at whatever age and in whatever situation they may be.
Contact Betsy by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org