Ep. 40 Cancer Hope Coach

In This Episode

To say that Tara Ryan is a cancer survivor is an understatement.  She is a champion who has survived multiple diagnoses and surgeries – experiences that have brought her to counseling newly diagnosed cancer patients.

On today’s podcast, Tara speaks with Neal about her story, from her first diagnosis to losing own father to cancer.

She also talks about her second diagnosis, and her decision to change her lifestyle to make her body as strong as possible to fight alongside the treatments.

Tara also discusses her third diagnosis, her surgeries, the mental and physical tolls all this took… and some advice for anyone going through it themselves.

Topics Discussed

  • What brought her to coaching
  • Her first diagnosis
  • Her first surgery
  • The year of her dad dying and her second diagnosis
  • Developing PTSD and claustrophobia
  • Deciding to eat and live healthier along with the cancer treatments
  • Her third diagnosis and seizures
  • Advice for newly diagnosed patients 

All About Tara Ryan

Early in 2015, Tara was diagnosed with melanoma. Within a year of her diagnosis, the cancer progressed to stage 3, spreading to her neck, and shortly thereafter to stage 4 when it had also spread to her brain.

She was told she had a 25% chance of survival and five years to live. Through her journey she developed 13 tumors, 12 metastasized to her neck and brain.

She endured five surgeries, including one brain surgery, each requiring long periods of healing. At one point Tara had four consecutive seizures so severe, her family was told she may not make it.

Tara was put on life support because she stopped breathing, and was forced into an induced coma for 24 hours to stop the seizures.

At the onset of Tara’s brain tumors, the immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda ®) received FDA approval for advanced melanoma, and she was one of the early recipients of the newly approved drug.

Her tumors responded to treatment and began to shrink. For the first time, scans show no tumors in Tara’s neck or brain and no new occurrences in 2019.

Tara has also been seizure-free for over two years. In October she ended her cancer treatments after 3 years on Keytruda. Her case contributes to huge progress for Advanced Metastatic Melanoma patients.

Her only side effect from the immunotherapy was exhaustion during the treatment duration. Tara has come away from her experience with a tremendous desire to give HOPE and help other patients advocate for themselves, as well as a renewed passion for dancing, writing, and contributing to her community in Kingston, NY and beyond.

Tara believes passionately that her success is due equally to Keytruda and to her discipline to make healthy lifestyle changes and decisions.

Her mission is to give as many cancer patients HOPE as possible. She is working to create an online presence and is writing a book on coping skills.

Tara is becoming an ImmunoAdvocate through the Cancer Research Institute and recently spoke on their patient panel for their educational Immunotherapy Summit at NYU in September.

One year ago in October 2018, she founded The Integrative Complementary Cancer Support Group at the Reuner Oncology Cancer Support House in Kingston NY.

She and Ellen Marshall, the director of the center, co-facilitate the group together.


Dr. Neal Smoller, Holistic Pharmacist

About Neal Smoller

Dr. Neal Smoller, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist: and owner of Village Apothecary, an independent pharmacy in the most famous small town in America—Woodstock, NY. He’s also the host of the popular wellness podcast, The Big Mouth Pharmacist.”


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