The Unlikely Gift

When Faced With the Challenge of a Lifetime, Highlands Ranch Author and Strategy Advisor Finds the Positive

In 2015, diagnosed with Stage 3c breast cancer, Highlands Ranch resident Diane M. Simard began the difficult journey of treatment, recovery and healing. While faced with many challenges and complications, Simard now uses her cancer experience as a platform for positivity.

“Autumn is such a wonderful time to express gratitude for all we have,” she says. “I have worked hard and faced many adversities, but I’m thankful for all of it. What a blessing to have been given a second chance to do a better job of living. I vow to honor that gift every day.”

One of the first examples of Simard making a difference was how she handled her frustration at the lack of emotional support she received during chemo treatments. Determined to bring more attention to the intersection of mental health and cancer, she seed-funded and founded a specialty at the University of Denver (DU) called the Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence. COPE trains future clinical psychologists about the unique aspects of emotional and mental health concerns created by cancer. To date, nearly 200 graduate students have received COPE training at DU.

Next, she turned to journaling as a healing therapy. After sending email updates to friends and family during her ten months of treatment, they recommended she publish her journal as a book, because they wanted to read more about all she had experienced.

Since she had been trained as a print journalist, Simard decided to hire a writing coach to help her learn how to tell, not report, a story. Sixteen revisions and three years later, she published The Unlikely Gift of Breast Cancer, a multi award-winning memoir-style book about how cancer helped her understand how to live and lead from her heart.

The book was named one of the best breast cancer books of all time by BookAuthority and placed third in the memoir category of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s annual EVVY awards.

Today, Diane is a strategy advisor to business executives and an advocate to bring more attention to the intersection of mental health and cancer, referred to as psycho-oncology. One of her clients, Kathi McCarty, is a subject matter expert who experienced the horrors and financial ruin of meth contamination and founded Meth Toxins Awareness Alliance, which focuses on prevention education.

In September, Diane released her second book, Heal Forward: Transform Emotional Scars Into Impact, which has received a five-star rating from Readers’ Favorite. The hard-cover book is based on her ten life principles and features inspirational stories of those who have overcome adversities by channeling their energies into impact projects. Both her books are available at

In addition to speaking and consulting about leadership and channeling adversity into impact, she writes a monthly blog and bi-monthly newsletter.

“I am so grateful to have learned how the body’s ability to heal itself depends on the state of one’s mental health,” she says. “Hopefully, psycho-oncology continues to evolve as a standard part of cancer treatment.”

About Diane M. Simard

Simard is a psycho-oncology influencer, a messaging strategist to senior business executives, an award-winning author, a national speaker on women in business and survivorship, and an advocate to bring more attention to the psychological trauma caused by cancer. She is a Patient Advisor for Blue Note Therapeutics and advises the Survivorship Committee for the National Consortium of Breast Centers. 

Visit for additional information. Read her latest blog posts at

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