2017 Guest Speakers - SURVIVORville
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2017 Keynotes and Special Guests


KEYNOTE: Emmy® Winning Producer 
Marcia Mule’

The Women Survivors Alliance is proud to announce Six-time Emmy® Award Winner and Executive Producer Marcia Mule’ will speak at SURVIVORville 2017.

Marcia was Head of Programming at Engel Entertainment where she was involved in the company’s programming and development slate. Marcia’s clients included VH-1, Discovery, Lifetime, Animal Planet, Cooking Channel and Bravo. Prior to joining Engel, she was Head of Programming for True Entertainment, where she oversaw Bravo’s Real Housewives of ATL for two seasons, Style Network’s Whose Wedding is it Anyway? and Logo’s The A-List New York. In 1997, Mule’ co-founded Picture This Television, the company behind such hits as Celebrity Poker Showdown Emmy® Award-winning Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, both for Bravo. Over the past decade, Marcia has garnered relationships and produced for networks such as Bravo, TLC, Lifetime, Vh1, Discovery, Animal Planet, Food Network, HGTV, Logo, Oxygen, WeTV and PBS.

Marcia and WSA’s Karen Shayne met this past spring and together with the production team of Artifact Creative, rebranded and prepared My 2nd Act: Survivor Stories from the Stage for television. Marcia now serves as Executive Producer with Karen and travels with the stage show around the country.

SURVIVORville will be held in Nashville, Tennessee in 2017 and is free to survivors.  This year’s theme is “What’s Your Story?”  Marcia will speak of her incredible experiences behind the camera and how her life has been changed by the dramatic stories she has produced. She will also speak on the importance of survivors sharing their stories and how YOUR story can encouraging others to make a difference in the lives they touch.  Marcia will also create an opportunity for one-on-one conversation and “coaching” opportunities within the breakout sessions offered at the 2017 event.




KEYNOTE: Celebrity Doc and Comedian Dr. Steven Eisenberg

Dr. Steven Eisenberg completed a medical oncology and hematology fellowship at Georgetown University Medical Center, Vincent T. Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. After training, he co-founded cCARE, California’s largest medical oncology practice. He’s dubbed the ‘CEO’ at cCARE, Chief Empathy Officer. His research publications include articles on novel therapies for cancer and his special interests are breast cancer, cancer prevention, patient engagement, and new healthcare technologies. He was one of the first graduates of FutureMed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Building upon his expertise in healthcare technology, he joined the faculty of Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine program and joined the ranks of the world’s top medical innovators.

Dr. Eisenberg is triple-board-certified (Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology, and Hematology) and sees private patients in San Diego. He’s had numerous hospital best bedside manner wins and he was the first recipient of the Dr. Emanuel Fliegelman Humanitarian Award for the doctor exhibiting highly compassionate care during residency. After graduating from Singularity University, he co-founded Workup, Inc., a startup in the oral cancer treatment adherence space, for which he serves as Chief Medical Officer. Also known as the singing oncologist, Dr. Eisenberg co-writes songs with amazing individuals living with cancer through Lyrical Life, a passion project of his that was featured on NBC’s TODAY show and most recently, NBC Nightly News. Steven hosts the internet’s top outlet for health information, innovation, and inspiration — The Dr. Steven Show. His guests include A-list healthcare luminaries, thought leaders on the future of medicine, and celebrity health & wellness trainers.


KEYNOTE:  International Speaker, Peace Muse and Terrorist Survivor Linda Ragsdale

Author, illustrator and international speaker/teacher Linda Ragsdale shares how the powerful skills of View, Voice and Choice can lead people through the more challenging parts of their lives with a peaceful and productive outcome. As a survivor of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, her physically devastating wound validates her message of empathy and compassion over retaliation or resentment. Her work in peace education has led her around the world, empowering over 30,000 students to see and speak with a new voice, and an expanded capability of choice. These same tenets of peace offered her a safe journey through breast cancer, finding treasures within the moments of darkness. Whether the terrorist comes from outside or within, Ragsdale believes peace offers a balanced journey through every challenging event.

Currently, The Peace Dragon is her vehicle to bring peace to the world, though it isn’t her first entrepreneurial adventure. As a designer, her first design company won her three awards for her novelty in design and manufacturing from the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute. With a kick of her foot, Ragsdale turned a moment of anger into a patented pop-up display design. Expanding her view from design and production, her second venture, a marketing and manufacturing firm, created the first video retail sweepstakes kits with scratch and win cards and awardable prizes. Her third company took triple-layer cardboard out of the food industry and into home décor products. Her fun and funky designs caught the eye of publishers, giving her vision a voice.

She penned how-to articles in a variety of craft and home décor magazines and her first book, Creative Cardboard: Making Fabulous Furniture, Amazing Accessories and Other Spectacular Stuff (Lark Books, 2002). This led to demonstrating art techniques on cable craft television shows. Her decorating techniques challenge people to look beyond standards to break the barriers of thought and design to create. Ragsdale proves office supplies; kitchen utensils and toys are viable options as brushes and tools. She encourages people of all ages to own the artistry of their lives, redefining mistakes as explorations of the path to learning. In her five book drawing series, The Amazing Step-by-Step Art Card Studio (Lark Books, 2007-8) she uses the familiar strokes of letters, punctuation and numbers allowing everyone to feel the power of their art and creation through their own signature style.

Every path of her career supports her current work, which has bloomed in her first picture books, Words and Not Opposites (Both Flowerpot Press, 2016) for her Peace Dragon Series. The books present the first two powers of teaching peace, View and Voice. Words expands the idea of teaching basic words to include understanding the power of their intention, and their ability to encourage, inspire and comfort not only the people around them, but themselves. Not Opposites breaks the polar mindset of teaching opposites by presenting a view and understanding that supports and promotes diversity, allowing a child to find their place and accept others. Each story is part of a living curriculum where conflict management skills can be applied whenever an issue arises.




SPECIAL HONORARY GUEST: 14-Year Old Jessica Meyer

Look out SURVIVORville!  Jessica has entered the building!  Nope, she’s not your average 14-year old. In fact, she’s an extraordinary kid who beat the odds and is now dedicating her life to giving back.

It all started on a Sunday afternoon in September 2013 when Jessica Meyer, then 11 years old, visited her local Walmart in Nashville, TN.  Playing around with a new blood pressure/vision machine in the pharmacy, Jessica noticed she couldn’t see out of her right eye. That prompted a visit to her doctor and so began a barrage of tests. Since that fateful day in the Walmart, her life would never be the same. It was brain cancer and she needed immediate surgery. The tumor was also resting on her pituitary gland affecting her growth. She spent almost a year going through treatments and fighting this life-threatening disease. And in her own words, she “kicked cancer’s butté.” And through all of this, she finished the 5th and 6th grade on schedule and didn’t skip a beat.

Now, she’s an ambassador for childhood cancer and with over 100 events, fundraisers, and media opportunities, this energetic, pint-sized powerhouse uses her vibrant personality and wisdom to travel the country to inspire others.  While at home, she’s just a normal, ordinary gal with two dogs, schoolwork, dance, classmate parties and yes, monthly brain scans. If it isn’t enough that she had her own fight, now her goal is to start her own non-profit organization to help other families going through the same thing.  Now completing her debut on New Focus Networks “Positively Jessica” watch those cameras as this young girl takes SURVIVORville to the next level as an ambassador of survivorship. You won’t be able to keep up as Jess will prove this weekend she can turn anything she touches, even cancer, into a party of one – or in this case – a party of hundreds!




Michele Pillar, Author, Speaker, Singer and 3-Time GRAMMY and DOVE Nominee

Michele Pillar has a testimony that everyone who has ever needed help to overcome anything should hear!GrammyOne of the most cherished voices in Christian Contemporary Music, Michele Pillar is joining the speaker stage at SURVIVORville.

Michele’s strong name recognition from her CCM accomplishments and many #1 radio hits in the 80’s and 90’s may be the bedrock of her fan-base but is not what she’s leaning on to carry her new book, Untangled (BroadStreet Publishing) to the world. With sold out speaking engagements and Women’s Conferences nationwide, women are resonating with the people on a deeper level than music can reach. Michele is talking people’s language and speaking into the real world they live in. Her honesty, humor and music on stage breaks through the fear of “getting real” with yourself and letting go.  And how she does it?  Well….with a CLOTHESLINE! You will NOT want to miss this mainstage presentation!

Sara S. Skillen, CPO®, Evernote Certified Consultant, and Organizer Coach

Sara is the owner of SkillSet Organizing based in Nashville, TN. A former educator, musician and paralegal, Sara has worked in just about every kind of setting you can imagine – from a converted janitor’s closet, to a cubicle in a huge corporation, to telecommuting from her home office.  She founded her company in 2012 when she realized that she could combine her love of teaching and organizing to help people from all walks of life manage their stuff, time, and technology.  Sara has earned Level I Certificates in Chronic Disorganization, Basic ADD, and Time Management & Productivity from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, and has completed the foundation coursework to become a Certified Organizer Coach. She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), and currently chairs the NAPO Awards & Recognition committee. She has led Empowerment Sessions at both the 2013 and 2014 SURVIVORville events, and is thrilled to be returning this year. An active blogger and speaker, her tips and ideas have been featured in Fast CompanyEnterpreneur, Angie’s List Experts, Living Inspired with Karen Shayne, and NOU Magazine, as well as her own blog “Sorting Through the Haystack”


Wendy Ann Payne, CSA, CEP®, Founding Partner, Centurion Wealth Management

Wendy Ann Payne is a Founding Partner of Centurion Wealth Management, an independent wealth management firm and also a cancer survivor. Her desire to create Centurion Wealth came from her passion for helping clients gain financial independence and personal empowerment through insight, experience and education. She long dreamt of building a wealth management firm that provides holistic financial planning and investment guidance while striving to empower clients through financial education. Today, that vision is full of life.
During her 17+ year tenure in the wealth management industry, family tragedies have personally touched Wendy’s life. What grew from this was a passion to educate and help others going through a life calamity and other stages of life. Through her desire to address women s financial planning needs, Wendy created Life Stage Transitions and Financial Independence for Women, comprehensive financial literacy programs and workshops. She also leads Centurion s Women, Wine and Wisdom initiative, educational seminars geared toward the financial planning needs of women. Through financial education, Wendy s goal is to empower women and revolutionize the way women navigate their ever-changing financial landscape.  Wendy specializes in working with women; newly-independent women, widows, divorcees and other women who suddenly find themselves solely responsible for making financial decisions for the first time. In 2011 she co-authored her first book, The Retirement Success Solution & Lessons I Learned from the Past Bear Market, where she wrote about the retirement planning challenges that are unique to women and the importance of financial planning.   Wendy is a Certified Senior Advisor, CSA, Wealth Management Advisor, and Life Stage Transition Specialist. Wendy currently holds her FINRA series 6, series 7, series 63, series 65, Life and Health insurance licenses.


Rhonda Smith Hicks, Entrepreneur and Founder, Project SHE

Rhonda is a wife, mother of two, corporate IT professional, entrepreneur and lymphoma cancer survivor.  She is originally from New Jersey, however, has called North Carolina home for the past 25 years.  Rhonda holds a degree in Business Administration Management from Meredith College.  Her corporate career has been in the fields of telecommunications and IT, primarily focusing on project, account, and personnel management.  In November, 2009, Rhonda launched her first entrepreneurial venture – Amazing Grace Event Management.  Over the past six years, she has had the opportunity to plan and manage events spanning from milestone celebrations and weddings to small business and large corporate tradeshows on both a national and international scale.

Rhonda is an active member of her community.  She is the president of the Raleigh-Durham Chapter for the National Association for Professional Women (NAPW), which is the largest women’s networking organization in the country, with over 600,000 members nationwide. The NAPW, whose president is Star Jones, also includes a nonprofit organization that supports four organizations – Dress for Success, The American Heart Association, Girls Inc. and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation – all of which are important for today’s women.  She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, whose main thrusts are Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service.  Rhonda is also a Sunday school teacher and member of the Youth Ministry Leadership Team at her church.  When Rhonda is not busy taking her daughter to Girl Scouts or cheering on her son at his basketball games, she loves to travel and spend time with her family.  She enjoys hosting gatherings at her home to bring family and friends together for food, fun and fellowship!

Her latest venture, Project She™, is her personal passion.  Because she lives the life of a busy wife, mommy and business woman, Rhonda understands the challenges and stressors that can be overwhelming on a daily basis.  This project was born out of those experiences and it is her hope this forum will serve as a place for women to support one another in the name of encouragement and positivity through the powerful bond of womanhood.


WSA Celebrity Chef, Mary Stodola

Chef Mary, a breast cancer survivor, attributes her love of cooking to the many happy hours she spent as a young girl in the kitchen with her mother. Of Czechoslovakian background, Stodola grew up creating everything from, homemade soups, potato dumplings and fresh raspberry kolachky.

Although she spent years working in the corporate world, she always dreamed of a profession in the culinary field. Following her heart, she left her successful career to receive formal culinary training. Interning in Chicago, Paris and Scottsdale, Arizona, Chef Mary is prepared to help you indulge in one of life’s most basic pleasures: enjoying fresh, healthy food without spending hours in the kitchen!

She looks forward to delighting your palette with a wonderful array of mouth-watering treats. She believes food should be fun, fresh and nutritious. Whether your taste entertains a meat and potatoes diet or a menu of salmon ‘en croute, she will provide you with a culinary celebration of “really good food,” and teach you how to bring that celebration into your own kitchen. Chef Mary believes there are no bad foods, only bad diets. As she leads you through the culinary journey; she’ll teach you how to find joy in cooking and improving your food choices.

Providing delicious food and cooking excitement is a labor of love. Summing up that love, she quotes her favorite chef, Julia Child: “Food is so delicious ― it should taste absolutely beautiful, and there’s no reason you can’t eat a healthy, fine diet that’s absolutely delicious. A lot of people don’t know what really good food is supposed to taste like.” Today Chef Mary is a personal chef, culinary teacher, consultant and a freelance writer.  She is also a cancer survivor. She moved to Tennessee from Scottsdale, AZ in 1999, to be Culinary Director for Viking Culinary Arts Center in Franklin, TN; in 2004 Culinary Consultant to Shop At Home Network (a division of The Food Network) and has served celebrities Emeril Lagasse, Bill Cosby, The Judd Family, Dave Ramsey, Governor of Tennessee, Brown-Forman, West Tennessee Women’s Health Conference, St Thomas Women’s Health Services, Nashville Chamber Orchestra and Tennessee Performing Arts.


Laura Mac,  Survivor Designer


Laura Mac Jeffers, a.k.a. Laura Mac is bringing a new and interactive twist to SURVIVORville in 2017 with a little survivor design!

YouTube’s “Survivor Designer” Laura Mac is 4-year breast cancer survivor and like most women with breast cancer, she’s got something to get off her chest! Cancer.  Yep, CANCER.

On Valentine’s Day of 2013, Laura got engaged to the man of her dreams. The day after that, she had her first mammogram to get peace of mind about a lump found while showering. A week later, she got the diagnosis. Breast Cancer.

Treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta, after 4 surgeries in 2013, she was more than happy to get a free upgrade to 2.ohhhhhh just in time for the wedding!  After making a promise to God to share her success story in hopes of encouraging others to take charge of their health to avoid this situation, Laura has made it known she has found the key to getting through cancer has been to get ahead of it. She has come to learn that everything happens for a reason. Everything.

Now, she’s taking back her first, ahem..second love – design.  After a run on TLC’s Flip That House, Laura Mac took to YouTube with Survivor Designer, taking over DIY projects like she did cancer – head on and one step at a time.   Her philosophy?  “Inspiration plus motivation equals gratification.”  Now, Laura Mac is headed to New Focus Network in 2017 with extended episodes of Survivor Designer.  Yep, she’s on the right path and painting her way with her own personal paintbrush and slamming a few nails with her pink hammer along the way. Lookout cancer, if you throw Laura to the wolves, she’ll return leading the pack!  Get your tool belt on, gals! Laura Mac is painting SURVIVORville survivorship purple in 2017.


Ali Schaffer, LCSW
Manager, Patient and Family-Centered Care; Assistant in Medicine and Psychiatry

Ali Schaffer, LCSW, is the manager of Patient and Family-Centered Care at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer (VICC) Center.  In this role, she oversees the management of the Patient and Family Resource Center, clinic volunteers, pet, and the Vanderbilt Oncology Expressive Arts Committee.  She also collaborates with medical professionals and local and national organizations to plan and implement educational programs for people impacted by cancer.  Ali is a clinician with the new VICC psycho-oncology team and provides psychotherapy to people impacted by cancer.

Ali graduated with a BA in Psychology from Emory University and a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Georgia. She is a national speaker and contributes content for articles, online blogs and webinars on a variety of cancer-related topics.


Runsi Sen, Founder, President & CEO
Ovarcome Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Survivors

Runsi Sen, Founder of Ovarcome, serves as the President and CEO of the organization. Runsi lost her mother to ovarian cancer in 2009, and in her memory and with her inspiration founded Ovarcome. Under Runsi�s leadership, Ovarcome has experienced significant growth both nationally and internationally.

Runsi graduated from Rice University in 2004 with an MBA in Strategy & Marketing. Runsi also holds a master�s degree in Economics. She serves as an Advisory Board member of the Blanton-Davis ovarian cancer research program at MD Anderson. Runsi received her early education and career experience internationally, in India. She lives with her husband and two children in Houston.


Debra Sheridan, Founder/President
Faces of HNC

Debra serves as Founder/President of Faces of HNC is a Tennessee based 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising public awareness about head and neck cancer and resources to provide solutions that improve quality of life for HNC treatment survivors, one voice at a time.

Debra recently signed with Black Card Books, an international publisher, to produce and promote her upcoming book “My Voice – Lost and Found”. The book will discuss obstacles in life, some random and unasked for, some self-created, that may have impeded our ability to realize our goals and dreams and suggestions for turning those obstacles into opportunities.  Debra will be the first to highlight a specific head and neck cancer empowerment session group at SURVIVORville.  Thank you, Debra!


Emi Canahuati, MA, ASSECT Certified Sexuality Educator 
Talk and Thrive Education, LLC 

Emi is the owner and founder of Talk and Thrive Education LLC in which she helps parents helps raise sexually healthy children through workshops and coaching. She has been a sexuality educator for 19 years and her passion is to help create a world in which talking about sex is not taboo and for people to have access to information and pleasure that they want, without fear or shame. She is the co-coordinator for the Nashville Alliance for Sexual Health and Sex Positive Nashville, both efforts to open up conversations about sex and sexuality in professional communities and the community at large. She believes that people who are sexually healthy, make for a better and happier world.



Urology Associates

Vikki Pedigo, MSN, WHNP-BC is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at the Women’s Institute for Sexual Health (WISH), a division of Urology Associates in Nashville, TN. Vikki specializes in the medical treatment of female sexual and pelvic health with a holistic approach. She completed her Bachelor of Science at the University of California, San Diego and her Master of Science in Nursing Degree from Vanderbilt University. She enjoys caring for women and helping them attain an improved quality of life through her work.