Feature: What Happens When One of the World’s Leading Breast Cancer Doctors Gets Breast Cancer?

After treating and advocating for breast cancer patients for more than a decade, Dr. Marisa Weiss received a diagnosis of her own.

This month, Harry Connick Jr. comes to town to showcase the 10th anniversary of Breastcancer.org at an Academy of Music fund-raiser. The website now has an office in Ardmore and 15 employees, and operates on $3.5 million a year; the event feels like a pinnacle to Marisa Weiss’s career. To her, it’s just a step along the way. She’s now hooked up with a Harvard cell biologist studying cancer prevention. Her next book will be Think Pink, Live Green, a planet-healthy guide to healthy breasts. Beyond that, she wants to somehow use film as a medium to get out the siren call of beating breast cancer.

There’s a school of thought that suggests getting cancer can be a gift—an opportunity to see what’s really valuable, to reorient. Marisa doesn’t buy that. She was already “pretty keen” in the value-of-life department. But she took what she got, her own cancer, and ran with it. Her strength and energy and wackiness could become our rock in that direction. In recovery. In beating this awful disease into submission.

That’s the new gift she’s giving. A patient wrote a note to Marisa after hearing of her diagnosis: “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart, but sing anyway.”
This is Marisa’s song:

“I’m taking a bus of women down to go nipple shopping in Baltimore—there’s a tattoo artist down there who’s very good, who does the tattoos for Johns Hopkins, and one of my patients has a father who owns a limo service, his name is Topper, and he’s giving us a ride down there and back. Nipple shopping. We’re going down there.”