Cancer Wellness Expo addresses issues women with cancer face

The latest breast cancer treatment options and dealing with chemo side effects are just some of the subjects that will be on the table at this Saturday’s inaugural Cancer Wellness Expo.

Founded by three breast cancer survivors and an oncology nurse, the daylong event will feature panels on medical, beauty, sexual health and wellness topics geared toward women dealing with cancer.

The event is leading up to Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, a campaign expo co-founder Caitlin Kiernan — who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 — said she never connected to.

“October was pink, pink, pink ribbons — what does this have to do with the patients?,” said Kiernan, 47, the beauty director at Star and OK! magazines and author of “Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer.” “At the end of the day, the money that’s generated is making huge strides in treatment. But I always felt very lost in that.”

Topics covered at the panels are rarely discussed when it comes to the realities of cancer, Kiernan said.

“The average woman doesn’t know — who do you go to for nipple tattoos? How do you preserve your hair? What are the new surgeries that are coming out that are in some cases almost scar-less,” she said. “It’s important for women to be informed of what their options are for the latest treatments. The more you know, the more you’re empowered to make decisions that ultimately affect what you look like afterward.”

The dozen-plus speakers at the expo include Dr. Elisa R. Port, chief of breast surgery and director of the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai; Dr. Leslie R. Schover, a clinical psychologist specializing in cancer-related problems with sexuality or fertility; Vinnie Myers, a tattoo artist who is known for doing nipple tattoos for breast reconstruction patients; and celebrity nail artist Tracylee Percival.

“I lost some of my nails during my treatments — it makes you feel so insecure,” said Kiernan, who lives in Riverdale. “Who else are you going to talk to about your nipple tattoos? I felt this was a space to have those conversations.”

There will also be reiki treatments, a yoga and aromatherapy class, meditation, beauty tutorials and vendors selling products geared toward cancer patients.

In addition to Kiernan, founders of the expo are Cynthia Besteman, of the Violets Are Blue Skincare Company, and Leah Robert and Sarah Kelly, of SaltyGirl Beauty.

They look to make the Cancer Wellness Expo an annual event, as well as bring to other cities, Kiernan said. All the proceeds raised from Saturday’s event will be donated to Foundation4Love.

And though the event is timed to Breast Cancer Awareness Month (breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women), the event is for women dealing with all types of cancer, Kiernan said.

“I wanted to have a day that’s not just for breast cancer,” she said. “I thought, let’s do this day and open it up to everybody and make it about empowering information and provocative conversations and pampering treatments and wellness activities.”


Cancer Wellness Expo is Sept. 29 from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. at the Urban Zen Center | 711 Greenwich St. | Tickets $49-$79 at cancerwellnessexpo.com