Remembering a Friend and Cancer Advocate - Ellen Stovall

Today’s guest blog comes from Brian Garofalo, managing partner of Patient Alliances. Mr. Garofalo established Patient Alliances, LLC in 2008, which aims to provide strategic healthcare alliances and solutions to a diversified client base in the healthcare sector.   

Mr. Garofalo is a cancer survivor himself and is proud to serve on key professional and advocacy boards including the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Foundation Board, LiveSTRONG Corporate Council, Patient Resource LLC Advisory Board, The National Patient Advocate Foundation and The Patient Advocate Foundation.

Happy New Year – not so much. 

Our year in the oncology world, and I do mean world, started off with the sad news that Ellen Stovall passed away in Washington, D.C. on January 5.  

As a pioneering cancer advocate, Ellen’s death was attributed to heart complications related to her cancer treatments.    Anyone who knew Ellen will tell you that it was her heart that made her all the more special - giving it so freely to others.

She was a wife to her husband John, a mother to her son Jonathan, a friend and mentor to so many, and one heck of a Cancer Advocate.  Having been a survivor since 1971, Ellen’s legacy will stand as an example for us to strive toward.

I first met Ellen back in the late 1990’s at an oncology conference for patient advocates.  I was lucky to be in the audience that day, because that day was the day that I would make not only a good friend, but also an important mentor. 

 As a mentor, she taught me to always rely on honesty, trust and integrity.  She would say, “You can’t get in trouble using those attributes – stand by them and they will stand by you.” 

As a friend, she helped me navigate my girlfriend’s breast cancer, my brother’s brain cancer and ultimately, my own cancer diagnosis. 

When I was diagnosed with early stage malignant melanoma, Ellen and I were chatting and she asked me: “How do you feel about having cancer?”  I responded with, “Honestly, not that much different than I did yesterday.”  She shook her head and smiled and then looked at me more seriously and said, “You can be any kind of survivor you want to be, just remember to be a survivor.”  I took that to mean – do the work and I did, I know my diagnosis.

I will miss her for so many reasons but more importantly, we were all so lucky to have her in our lives.  You may not have known Ellen Stovall, but many can attest to this fact – Ellen helped us all in the role she played as a Cancer Advocate.  Just as her life was about survivorship, so too is her legacy.  Thank you, Ellen.

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