Every cancer journey is unique. Yours is no exception. We believe that only you can know what is best for you. CancerChoices is here, as a balanced expert resource, to help you connect with integrative cancer care information and options that align with your journey and what matters most to you.Michael Lerner Co-founder of CancerChoices and author of Choices in Healing
CancerChoices is here to help you make the best choices possible as your guide to integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We offer balanced views of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy, selflifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress, and complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture cancer care. We curate the best available evidence on complementary cancer therapies. And you will find inspiring stories of healing from those who have walked this path before you. We are a unique resource for you at any point in your cancer journey.
CancerChoices is a program of Commonweal, a nonprofit institute in Bolinas, California. Commonweal’s long involvement in cancer wellness programs has included these, which are close partners to CancerChoices:
Our mission is to reduce suffering and support healing and resilience among people with cancer.
We help people make skillful choices in conventional care, complementary care, and self care. And we contribute to raising the legitimacy of whole person, integrative cancer care among medical professionals and people affected by cancer.
We create a healing space for people to come together to learn about hope, community, healing, and new priorities in life within the context of cancer.
We describe the landscape of cancer care and the wide variety of options that can be integrated to promote healing.
We evaluate and summarize evidence to help people assess their cancer care options to skillfully integrate self care and complementary care with conventional cancer care.
Grounded in a balanced approach, we do not recommend or endorse therapies or practitioners. At CancerChoices, we’re not promoting anything except informed choice—something we believe every person with cancer deserves to have.
Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers, retailers, practitioners, or other entities promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.
What is integrative cancer care?
Integrative cancer care combines conventional, complementary, and/or self care in treating your cancer and your health overall. Complementary therapies can include natural products, herbs, mind-body approaches, off-label drugs, body manipulation approaches, and more. Self care includes lifestyle changes, such as the 7 Healing Practices.
Complementary and self care may help you with side effects during conventional treatment, improve your quality of life, delay or prevent recurrence, and/or potentially extend your life. In an integrative approach, you and your cancer treatment team work together to find the best blend of conventional, complementary, and self-care therapies and approaches for your needs. Learn more in What is Integrative Cancer Care.Learn more
Commonweal and CancerChoices history
Michael Lerner, Co-founder of Commonweal and CancerChoices, travels in the US, Europe, Mexico, and Japan exploring integrative cancer therapies while on a MacArthur Prize Fellowship.
Michael joins Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, and Waz Thomas to found the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, a week-long residential retreat for people with cancer. Michael continues to lead these intimate retreats to this day.
With Toby Symington, Michael initiates a series of Symington Foundation Conferences on New Directions in Cancer Care. These conferences annually convened the pioneers in integrative cancer care for over a decade.
The Office of Technology of the US Congress publishes Unconventional Cancer Treatments; Michael Lerner serves as principal consultant.
The Commonweal Cancer Help Program is featured in the final episode of Bill Moyers’s Healing and the Mind, inspiring the creation of new retreats for people with cancer. Over the years, these have included Callanish in Vancouver, British Columbia, Harmony Hill in Washington State, Revadim in Jerusalem, and Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC.
Michael writes Choices In Healing: Integrating The Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer, published by MIT Press. This is the first book on integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care that was favorably reviewed by major medical journals as well as the public.
With Barbara Smith Coleman and Shanti Norris, Michael co-founds Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, a center for healing for people with cancer in Washington, DC.
Building on this foundation, Commonweal’s programming and contributions on cancer care topics have grown, reaching people around the world. A whole set of programs have developed at Commonweal, inspired by or aligned with the Cancer Help Program (below).
Commonweal’s Collaborative on Health and the Environment plays a major role by contributing scientific advice to the President’s Cancer Panel for its annual report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now in 2008 and 2009. A Symington Foundation Conference on New Directions in Cancer Care is held again at Commonweal.
Symington Conferences on New Directions in Cancer Care convene the leaders in integrative cancer care for both private and public gatherings.
Michael partners with Lucy Waletzky, MD, to launch Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies as a website with carefully curated information about complementary cancer therapies and integrative cancer care.
Commonweal launches Sanctuary, the online version of its Cancer Help Program, led by Arlene Allsman.
In partnership with Lucy Waletzky, MD, and the Scheidel Foundation, with visionary leadership from Miki Scheidel, Commonweal launches CancerChoices as a complete re-envisioning of Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies. Expanded in scope, more rigorous in research, and more accessible for people with cancer, this site brings information about integrative cancer care to more people.
Commonweal cancer-related programs
The Commonweal Cancer Help Program is an intensive week-long residential retreat for people with cancer and their significant others with a goal to help you discover how to live as well as possible for as long as possible.
Healing Circles Global, Langley, and Houston: free circles for people with cancer or other circumstances to explore life’s deepest questions in a safe, sacred space.
Bay Area Young Survivors and the Mets in the City retreats: 3-day retreats for women under 45 with non-metastatic and metastatic cancer.
The New School at Commonweal: Conversations with thought leaders of our time, including podcasts and videos related to cancer and healing.
The Natura Institute: Cultivating the medicine of connection, to ourselves, each other, and the Earth.
Get to know the dedicated and experienced team behind CancerChoices.
Meet our staff
Michael Lerner is president and co-founder of Commonweal, the parent organization of CancerChoices. He is co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, Healing Circles, The New School at Commonweal, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies. He led the Symington Foundation Conferences on New Directions in Cancer Care and served as principle consultant to the Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress on its report, Unconventional Cancer Treatments. His book Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer was the first book to be well received by the medical journals New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), New Scientist and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as well as by the patient and integrative cancer care community. He received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship for contributions to public health in 1983. Prior to founding Commonweal, he taught psychology and politics at Yale University after receiving a B.A. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University.
Miki ScheidelCo-founder and creative director
Miki Scheidel is co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.
Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNSSenior clinical consultant
Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS
Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.
For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.
Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.
Nancy Hepp, MSLead researcher and program manager
Nancy Hepp, MS
Nancy Hepp researches, writes, and reviews CancerChoices site content while also serving as program manager. Her graduate training and work in research and cognitive psychology (Purdue University), master’s degree in instructional design (Purdue University), and certificate in web design (Clark State Community College) have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided insights into medical education, medical research, and medical care from the practitioners’ and researchers’ perspectives.
Nancy has observed the ravages of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer among extended family members, serving as a caregiver and support.
Andrew Jackson, NDResearch associate
Andrew Jackson, ND
Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literature at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye. At its essence, research using the scientific method is humanity’s most ardent expression of the naked truth to our peers. Dr. Jackson believes it is vital to distinguish honest attempts to explore the truth of potential treatments from biased presentations of hopeful remedies or even the occasional heavy-handed attempt at self-promotion. This is why an evidence-based practice is important to him, and this is why he teaches future naturopathic physicians the skills to read and evaluate biomedical literature for potential error or bias, assess whether results are meaningful, and apply the literature to their practices. This is also why he is excited to be a part of the CancerChoices team, to help decipher the complex world of scientific research in cancer treatment and present potential risks and benefits in a clear, manageable form to those affected by cancer.
Maria WilliamsResearch and communications consultant
Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health, leading education campaigns for organizations including Toxic-Free Future, The Institute for Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders, and Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), a program of Commonweal. She has written and edited science-based educational materials for various audiences and managed content development for a suite of websites on toxicology and public health. Most recently, Maria served as program manager for CHE, planning and executing webinars on pioneering environmental health research, including the popular series The Effects of Plastics on Health. Maria holds a professional editing certificate from UC Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies from Oberlin College. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan.
Lindsay McDonellVolunteer guide and staff
Lindsay McDonell is a speaker, sought-after cancer coach, and celebrated author. Lindsay shares the secrets of how to regain your power and use your curiosity to put fear to the side and maximize your chance of surviving when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Lindsay is Project LEAD certified with the National Breast Cancer Coalition; a certified integrative oncology navigator with the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts; a You Can Thrive coach; and a CancerChoices guide. She is also an eight-year thriver with metastatic breast cancer and chronic myeloid leukemia.
Emily Ryan, ND, MSOM, LAc
Community outreach specialist
Emily Ryan, ND, MSOM, LAc
is a community outreach specialist for CancerChoices. She is a licensed and board certified naturopathic physician and acupuncturist in Oregon. She is the founder of Gentle Natural Wellness, a clinic specializing in bridging classical Chinese medicine with naturopathic medicine to provide individualized, compassionate care for people in the community. A Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Oriental Medicine with honors from the National University of Natural Medicine, research in medical anthropology at the University of Hawai’i and George Mason University, language and culture programs at Obirin University (Tokyo) and Sogang University (Seoul), and studies of Chinese herbal medicine and qigong in China have provided a diverse background that has helped form a foundation for her community health and healing path.
Judi Hoffman is a copyeditor, Spanish translator, and fluency coach for English learners. She helps CancerChoices with writing assistance in gratitude for Commonweal’s crucial help when a family member had cancer 25 years ago, and as she herself strives to live well with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Judi is a former editor and writer for the Small Farmer’s Journal, as well as a longtime community activist—beginning 40 years ago with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and recently as co-founder of Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards in Michigan. Judi holds a bachelor of arts (BA) from Hampshire College and a master of science (MS) in wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin.
Whitney You, MD
Whitney You, MD
Whitney You, MD, is a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) with a specific interest in cancer in the context of pregnancy. She received her Medical Doctorate from Indiana University, then completed an obstetrics and gynecology residency at the National Capital Consortium. She went on to pursue an MFM fellowship at Northwestern University. As an MFM fellow, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in health services research with a focus in health literacy and received a Master of Public Health. After fellowship, she practiced as a physician with the United States Navy as a naval officer, then returned to Northwestern where she was an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and program director for the MFM Fellowship. She recently transitioned to NorthShore University Health Systems/University of Chicago. Whitney also holds a Master of Fine Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
BCCT senior staff
Ruth worked in the environmental field for over 30 years, including as the long-time executive director of The John Merck Fund until 2017. Since stepping down from the foundation’s staff, Ruth has joined its board. Ruth served as senior staff at BCCT in 2018 and 2019.
Ruth has a track record of involvement in creating organizations that bring new capacity to the public interest sector, especially in health and the environment. In addition to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, she has helped establish or has been a founding board member of SmartPower, New England Grassroots Environment Fund, Baraka Community Wellness and IssueOne. She also serves on the board of League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Ruth lives in Maine. Photography, politics, gardening and yoga are her special interests.
BCCT design specialist
Petra is a writer, editor, and user advocate who helped put a face to this website. Her primary goal was to empower visitors to access and act on its contents. Petra dedicates her BCCT work to the memory of her brother Tom Roush, whose 14-year battle with cancer ended during the creation of this site. She wishes it had been available for him but is so glad it’s available for you!
BCCT Research associate
Kozo Hattori served as a research associate for BCCT from 2019 to 2021. He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2015 and came to see cancer as one of the greatest gifts he ever received. After two years of exploring a plethora of alternative treatments, Kozo took a more integrative approach and allowed surgeons to remove the tumor. Seeing medicine as one healing institution rather than the binaries of alternative vs. allopathic medicine helped open his mind, heart and body to heal fully from cancer. Kozo published a book on his healing journey titled The Healing Grace of Cancer.
His cancer returned and metastasized in late 2019. See his story: Kozo Hattori, Grounding into Uncertainty. Kozo died on his own terms on March 1, 2021.