ROCHESTER, N.Y., May 16, 2019 – GRYT Health (“GRYT”), an award-winning, mobile app-based social community for people affected by cancer, today announced the formation of its advisory board to provide strategic counsel as the Company continues to execute its business strategy.
“Together, we are moving healthcare forward with GRYT. I am honored to assemble this advisory board of outstanding individuals with exceptional track records as changemakers in each of their respective fields,” said Dave Fuehrer, CEO of GRYT Health. “Their extensive experience working with the cancer community will serve as a great resource to the GRYT team as we grow our business. These healthcare disruptors have made a significant impact on our industry and their guidance and contributions will be invaluable to furthering GRYT’s mission of connecting people affected by cancer with each other and to information that empowers them to live on their own terms.”
GRYT’s new strategic advisors include:
Catherine Benedict, Ph.D.: Research Advisor. Catherine is a licensed clinical psychologist and behavioral science researcher, specializing in adolescent and young adult cancer survivorship. She is an assistant professor within the Stanford University School of Medicine and works within the Stanford Cancer Institute to build clinical programs addressing cancer survivorship needs. Broadly, the goal of her work is to improve cancer survivorship through a better understanding of survivors’ long-term difficulties, unmet needs, and preferences for support, and through the development of evidence-based patient resources and interventions. This research has been funded by the National Cancer Institute. Another aspect of Catherine’s work aims to improve clinicians’ and researchers’ engagement with patients to guide clinical and research initiatives that respect and reflect the preferences and priorities of the young adult cancer community. Catherine is also a board member to Stupid Cancer, volunteer and grant reviewer for The Samfund, and advisory council member for the Alliance for Fertility Preservation.
Terry Cross: Veteran Angel investor and entrepreneur. While Terry has served on many boards over the years, his current board memberships include: RealKidz; PureEntropy as Chairman; MIST Innovations as Chairman; and Monarch Antenna, a Delphi Corp. spinout. Terry serves as the first Executive in Residence for Entrepreneurship at The School of Business Administration at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, where he administers the prestigious Adams Entrepreneurial Fellowship and received the 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award. Terry was a co-founder of Sonoma Photonics, which was eventually sold to Lockheed-Martin. He was a founding investor in three startups from MIT’s tech transfer department and served on MIT’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity. In September of 2007, he was named to the Task Force for A World Financial Center by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Since 2002, he has mentored over 50 company founders in Southeast Michigan and has been instrumental in helping entrepreneurs raise in excess of $100 million of capital funding.
Ty Curran: Chairman of Harrison & Star and Biolumina. In his current role, Ty leads and motivates a growing team that always gives 110 percent to its clients. And, like a chief of surgery who’d rather be in the OR than behind a desk, Ty enjoys nothing better than immersing himself in a strategic challenge – and helping a client score a victory for the brand. Prior to Harrison & Star, Ty was Managing Director at NCI Communications. In his career, Ty has helped build brands and portfolios for Genentech, Roche, Novartis, Merck, Aventis, and Gilead. Ty has extensive oncology experience working on brands such as Avastin, Taxotere, Erivedge, Zelboraf, Zometa, Herceptin, and Femara. He is also on the National Advisory Board for the Family Reach Foundation.
Ellis Emerson: Ellis is a mother, runner, and cancer survivor who was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in October 2017, right after her 32nd birthday. After her diagnosis, Ellis did not want to let one second of her life get away from her. In a little over a year, Ellis had thrown the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, went cliff jumping in Puerto Rico, took a flying lesson in Iceland, and learned white water kayaking in New Zealand. In July of 2018, she ran 135 miles across Death Valley California as part of the Badwater Ultramarathon, often considered one of the world’s most challenging races. Ellis believes that “our experiences, while unique, are not different.” Sharing our stories is what brings people together and a community makes all the difference. Ellis shares her personal story to help others on her website, www.cancerpurgatory.com.
Shwen Gwee: Co-Founder and General Manager/Head of Open Innovation, Novartis Biome. Shwen is a recognized pioneer in digital strategy and innovation within the biopharma industry who was named a Top 40 “Healthcare Transformer” by MM&M in 2015 and a PR Week and MM&M "Health Influencer 50" in 2017 & 2018. He sits on various advisory boards, including Google (Healthcare), SXSW (Health), MM&M Healthcare Transformers, conversationHEALTH and the Digital Health Coalition. Shwen is regularly featured in industry publications and speaking events and chairs the Social Innovation Day for the Digital Pharma Series. In 2017, he spoke on Innovation in Healthcare at the prestigious Cannes Lions Health festival. Shwen is very involved in the health tech startup community; he organizes and participates in several startup boot camps and pitch contests, and plays an active role running healthcare hackathons as part of the MIT Hacking Medicine team.
Kathleen Griffin: Executive Director, Customer & Digital Engagement at Syneos. At Syneos, Kate identifies opportunities to harness data and technology to improve clinical trial execution and commercial success. She monitors the digital health environment, support business development efforts and looks for ways to partner across the organization. Prior to her strategic business role, she served as an Executive Director at INC Research and was responsible for IT strategy, communication and business relationship management. Kate was a founder of AVOS Life Sciences, a management consulting firm in the biopharmaceutical industry. Her industry experience includes holding several strategic development roles at Quintiles Transnational and efforts supporting pharmaceutical practice initiatives at IBM’s Wilkerson Group.
Kamala Maddali, DVM Ph.D.: Dr. Maddali is a global precision medicine executive with deep healthcare experience at large global companies including Merck and Co, Quintiles, Quest Diagnostics, and Cancer Genetics. As an ongoing warrior with multiple sclerosis, Dr. Maddali’s vision is to “educate global communities with hope from science and innovation,” which she hopes will foster awareness towards precision treatments and early disease diagnosis and prevention. She is a board member for several U.S. patient advocacy organizations and serves as an executive advisor for healthcare technology companies focused on artificial intelligence, blockchain genomics, nutraceuticals, bioinformatics, and biomarker driven drug targets. Dr. Maddali was the recipient of the 2016 NJBiz Healthcare Heroes Finalist Award and in 2019, she was awarded “Women Empowerment in Healthcare” by North American Indian Association for her contributions to innovation in healthcare.
ABOUT GRYT HEALTH
GRYT Health is an award-winning, social community and research platform founded by cancer survivors and caregivers. Through GRYT’s technology, people affected by cancer are able to connect to others with similar experiences, access information that is tailored to their specific needs/diagnosis and collaborate with the world's largest pharmaceutical companies to provide insights that help these firms improve quality of care.
GRYT’s community of patients, survivors, medical professionals, researchers and advocates, extending across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 100 countries worldwide, have participated in almost one million interactions to date. The company's research initiative, The GRYT Project, bridges the communication gap that has traditionally prevented the cancer community and industry from optimizing care through an equal partnership. GRYT values and partners with socially-conscious brands and brand experiences that inspire people to live according to their own standards. The company is headquartered in Rochester, NY. For more information, please visit www.grythealth.com. To download the app, please visit www.grythealth.com/app.To join The GRYT Project, please visit www.grythealth.com/the-gryt-project.
Our users can now find a new chatroom on the GRYT App!
Introducing the LGBTQIA+ Chatroom.
A safe space to meet others, share experiences, and ask questions. With monthly meetups on the first Monday of every month, you can connect with others in a casual environment from your phone. Along with the new chatroom and programs, we’re introducing our new partner, The Transgender Cancer Patient Project.
Read below to hear from Charlie, patient, and co-founder of TCPP.
I made a blog in 2016 when I was newly diagnosed with an advanced stage of melanoma. Trying to find resources as a young trans person going through treatment was really difficult in that nothing of the sort really existed. I took it upon myself to make a transgender cancer support blog hoping I would find other people who were going through what I was. Roman, a fellow transgender cancer patient, was my only follower. I sent them a message and we met in person a couple of months later. We have been together ever since and created this project to support and uplift other trans cancer patients dealing with a gendered health system through zines (self-published books and or “magazines”), and a peer support group.
Through our own experiences and learning of others, we have also realized the tremendous need for change in the healthcare system. For this reason, on top of supporting and uplifting trans patients, we also seek to make things better by working with healthcare providers in providing more inclusive care. Thus far, we have presented at healthcare conferences where we have shared our work and presented workshops on advocacy and cultural competency. We also have and continue to equip healthcare establishments and providers with tools to make their care less gendered and more trans friendly, many of which you can find on our website for free. We look forward to the future of this project and the continued support from our communities.
I’ll see you on the GRYT App,
Transgender Cancer Patient Project Mission
We recognize that marginalized people have a lot of expectations put on them to present and speak about their experiences in a specific way. As transgender cancer patients ourselves, we think it is important to break that down, and show that there are more to these intersections than society may expect. The main hope for this project is to provide support and community for fellow transgender cancer patients. However, we would additionally like this to be a source of education, to provoke better care and inclusivity in medical spaces, and to help destigmatize patient experiences. Our current goal is to make our zines accessible for free here, as well as in physical formats to be sold at events. All funds will be used to offset the cost of running this website, production of the zines; and aid in travel costs to zine fests and healthcare events where we share our work and present workshops on advocacy and cultural competency. We have experienced the need for community, resources, and discussion around these topics, which is why this project and your support is so important to us.
“You don’t think it’s cancer, do you?”, I said to my parents as I rolled backward and extended my legs into an L shape on their bedroom floor.
“Of course not”, they replied almost in unison. The only people I knew who had cancer died. I was basically asking if they thought I was dying. They said no, but I found out later, that they weren’t sure.
It had been a few months of a lingering cough, that just keeps making its presence known, fatigue that hovered over my body like a dark cloud that increased over the year, matched with an innocent mindset that wondered why I couldn’t keep up with my high school teammates. Of course, it wasn’t cancer, I was only 14.
A day or two later, my dad came home early from work, (he never came home early), it was then I knew it was cancer. The sounds of the car in the driveway in the sunny afternoon told me all I needed to know.
I learned about a new kind of cancer that day, Hodgkins’ Disease, Stage 4 C, the answer to why I couldn’t keep up with my friends and why I was a teenager in bed, in the middle of the day.
Chemo started within a couple of days, I traded school for the hospital, teachers for nurses, and it was then my life changed forever. Over the next two years, my family and I were challenged and tested and we fought every day. We fought through chemo, transfusions, fever spikes, infections, long hospitals stays, the unknown, awaiting test results, a double stem cell transplant, radiation, we continued to fight until it was gone and I will continue to fight now that it is gone.
Although cancer might be gone, for now, my anxiety and worry have never left. Now I am faced with a new fight, this time, not physically but mentally to live to be my best, share positivity, and appreciate the days I have without cancer.
GRYT is running your first half marathon for my 20th anniversary off treatment, when many said I couldn’t and doctors always said, Beth, you should rest. GRYT is running my 4th half marathon, within a year, with a fractured foot, when most said I shouldn’t. GRYT is waking up every day and fighting thoughts about getting sick again with stating 3 things I’m grateful for. GRYT is sharing I am a survivor and ignoring the worry that it will come back and GRYT is knowing that if it does, I will fight and win again.
Join us on June 4th, from 8–9pm ET / 7–8pm CT / 5–6pm PT for our first Cancer and Exercise AppChat! Caregiver and Exercise Expert, Stephen Cerne from Fully Functional Fitness will be leading the discussion on the GRYT App. We’ll be chatting on everything from guidelines, to exercise programs, and different ways to alter and adjust exercise to accommodate different needs.
Get to know our moderator, Stephen by reading his bio below. We’ll see you on the app!
My journey into health and fitness started from a very young age. For as long as I can remember, I always aspired to become a physician. I was also, and still am, very physically active, participating in various team and individuals sports. My athletic career ultimately culminated in my participation in Division I cross-country and track and field. While I continued to play intramural basketball, softball, and racquet sports, college athletics allowed me to ease some of the financial woes of student loans. As I continued through my first year of college, I became much more interested in the role of strength training and nutrition as it applied to athletic performance. Not only was I on the pre-med track, I began to take electives directly focused on various health topics, including nutrition.
Eventually, I came to realize that becoming a physician would limit my ability to work with a variety of age groups throughout the lifelong journey of achieving a healthy lifestyle. My focus then shifted to preventative health and sport-specific training.
After graduating from Notre Dame College with a degree in Biology, I became a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in 2007. Soon after, I started to work for Bally’s Total Fitness. After 3 months, I was promoted to Fitness Director/Assistant Manager. In this role, it was my job to develop the skills of the personal trainers under me, as well as maintain the level of services members had become used to. After 6 months I had become bored, doing more damage control rather than having an impact on people’s fitness level. I stepped down from the position and began branching out while maintaining my clientele base. That fall, I became the strength and conditioning coach for the track and field team at Notre Dame College. During both indoor and outdoor track, multiple individuals and relays qualified for national on the boys and girls teams.
My business Fully Functional Fitness, Inc., was started in 2008 and was based on a specific program that I had developed. The goal of this program and its ancillary business is to define functionality in regard to health-related fitness components. It was at this time that I began contracting with The Gathering Place, a cancer support center that provides various services free of charge to individuals who have or have had cancer, their family members, and caregivers. With the financial help of my mother (a two-time breast cancer survivor) and another donor, an in-house program was developed following a research program, Moving Forward, which studied the effects of strength training on cancer-related fatigue. Over two years, the general and research programming grew exponentially to the point where The Gathering Place brought me on staff. I have since attained the highly regarded American College of Sports Medicine/American Cancer Society Cancer Exercise Trainer Certification (6 in Ohio, only individual in Cleveland).
In early 2011, The Gathering Place opened The Richman Family Wellness Center to accommodate our exercise programming. I worked directly with the architects and operations director to design the space, layout, and purchase equipment. In addition to the various general exercise classes we offer, we also are currently studying the effects of exercise on African-American breast cancer survivors in collaboration with University Hospitals and Case Medical Center. I have since moved my personal business to the Wellness Center in an effort to offset operations costs for the organization.
During this same time frame, I began coaching distance events for the Solon Boys Track Team (2008 to 2013). Since then, two individuals and one relay team have qualified for the state meet. During the fall of 2008, I assumed the position of head coach for the Solon Boys Cross Country Team. The team was the regional runner-up for the first time in school history. In addition to qualifying as a team, three individuals qualified for the state meet and placing 2nd, 7th, 15th, and 24th respectively. In the past five years, four teams have qualified for the state championship meet and finished 11th, 13th, and 5th, and 13th. These have been the four fastest teams in the school’s history. Five individuals have qualified in those five years, the highest finisher being Conner Paez, a state runner-up.
I have applied the same principles with these young men that I do with my private clients and the participants at The Gathering Place. I strive to provide a structure for self-improvement and progress; a safe, comfortable environment; and a knowledge base that leads to personal accomplishments.
It is really the work that these individuals do that make me a success!
My name is Sandra Zori and I am a wife, mother of two girls, pharmacist and a Crossfitter. I discovered Crossfit a few years ago and absolutely love it and love lifting heavy weights, but hated running.
However, in Feb 2018 I decided to do sprints on the treadmill and felt that my right breast was heavy. The next day I had sharp shooting pains and discovered a lump. Within two days I had a mammogram and ultrasound and was scheduled for a biopsy.
On February 28th my doctor called me with the dreadful words, “I’m sorry, but it’s cancer.”.
My whole life changed. I couldn’t understand how I got this terrible disease. I was 34 years old, with no risk factors. I never smoked, never worked anywhere with radiation or exposed chemicals, I had no family history, and when I got genetic testing done, I tested negative for 34 oncogenes.
Yet here I was, a young woman with stage 2b triple negative breast cancer. In the following months, I had a total of seven surgeries, months of IV chemotherapy, weeks of radiation, and am currently on a maintenance oral chemo. I have returned to work as a pharmacist, and have continued to stay active doing mostly at home workouts. Life throws its challenges at me, but I do my best to maintain a positive attitude and a mindset of gratitude. Every day I find something to be grateful for.
GRYT is facing each day, no matter how difficult, and telling yourself, “I can do this.”. GRYT is doing whatever it takes to find something to be grateful for. “Gratitude is an attitude.” GRYT is keeping on keeping on and taking it one day at a time. GRYT is keeping up with Crossfit and modifying when needed.
Neurofibromatosis. Harder to say, harder to live with. But what is it? NF (for short) is a genetic condition that affects 1 in every 3000 births. It is more common than cystic fibrosis, hereditary muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease and Tay Sachs combined, and her it’s still a complete mystery to the medical field. Nf is the mutation of the 17th chromosome, and causes (mostly) benign tumors to grow along the nerves.
By the time I was 10, I’d already had 6 surgeries, one of which was to remove a tumor from my spinal cord, leaving me with two fancy rods in my back. NF has two types, type 1 and type 2. Both can cause things, such as physical disabilities, tumors along the nerves, scoliosis, vision and hearing problems, and learning disabilities, just to name a few. Although most tumors are benign, people with NF have a higher risk of developing cancer in their lifetime. I recently found out that I have an even more rare type of NF1, which hasn’t had much research done on it yet. This subtype basically makes it more easy for me to develop cancer.
Growing up with NF, lumps, and bumps on the skin were pretty normal. When I was 27, I noticed a lump on my breast, that was different than my NF lumps. This one was quite large and causing my breast to concave slightly. I knew that this was not normal for NF, so I decided to get it checked out. After calling probably 15 breast doctors and getting turned away by each one because I was “too young”, I was finally able to get into Planned Parenthood.
I was excited to finally be seen but unfortunately, this doctor just dismissed it as my condition and did not want to do any further testing. But I know my body and I knew this was something else. She sent me home with a follow up to return in 6 months.
Well, 5 months later I ended up in the ER, not being able to breathe with a 135 heart rate. I was told that I had bronchitis and sent home with some antibiotics. Again, I know my body and I knew that this was not bronchitis. I’ve had bronchitis before, so I knew what I was feeling was something else. I was getting frustrated, constantly getting turned away by doctor after doctor.
After I left this ER, I decided to drive to another ER, where they ran one test and told me I had fluid in my chest. Before I knew it, I was being rushed away into emergency surgery to remove 3 liters of fluid from my chest. I was later told I had a pericardial window, where they had to biopsy a small piece of my heart.
Everything had happened so fast, I barely had time to call my family to let them know what was going on. I woke up from surgery later, in ICU with a pretty big tube in my chest to drain the remaining fluid my body was giving off. I couldn’t talk due to the breathing tube I had in my throat during surgery, which had caused some bruising. I had an oxygen mask on, pumping 13 liters of oxygen into my lungs because I was unable to breathe on my own. I honestly couldn’t tell you how long I was in surgery, or how long it took me to wake up. The day and weeks following it are honestly a blur. I was told that the fluid they took out during my surgery was being sent off for testing. I wasn’t sure what they were testing for and didn’t think much of it when they said cancer was one of the things being tested. I was 27, ran every morning, went to the gym, just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. I was applying to grad school, had no family history of cancer, and I was not worried about that.
February 23 is one of the dates that will always stick with me. That is the day I was rushed into emergency surgery. The day that everything changed. It was just a few days later when I thought everything was getting better. I was still in the hospital, I was being taken out of ICU and moved to a less emergent wing of the hospital. I no longer had a tube in my chest, and I was able to breathe on my own. I was now in MICU, and I still have not received my results from the fluid and heart biopsy. I wasn’t worried though. No news is good news, right?
After being in MICU for just a day, on March 1, my hospital doctor had come into my room and told me I was able to go home. I still wanted my test results, so I asked him if I could see them. What he said next, I’ll never forget…
“Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”
He forgot… He left the room and came back 20 minutes later. I’m sure you can guess what he said next.
“Well you can’t go home, you have cancer.”
He wasn’t sure where the cancer was when I had asked him. He said itwas probably colon cancer because “that’s a common cancer”. So I lifted up my gown and pointed to the lump on my breast. The lump I had spent the last 6 months trying to get looked at. The lump I knew wasn’t just a lump.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. It’s probably breast cancer.”
The next day I had a biopsy done, and I’m sure you can guess the rest. Three days later an oncologist entered my room and told me that I had breast cancer that had spread to the liver and spine. Before I knew it, I had about 10 doctor appointments and was being scheduled for chemo. My oncologist told me I would be cured of cancer after 6 rounds of chemo. After meeting with my oncology nurse, she had told me it was stage 4 and metastatic. I was not sure what stage 4 meant. I went home and did a lot of research on what that meant. After learning what metastatic and what a treatment plan meant for that, I knew I did not want to stay with this oncologist. I knew that 6 treatments would not cure me. There is not a cure for me.
It is important to be your own advocate. If you are not comfortable with your doctors, then you need to get a second opinion, even a third and fourth until you are happy with your decision. I decided that it would be best for me to take time off work, and move in with family. I chose to live with my sister who lived in Louisiana.
I’m currently still receiving treatment. After 20 rounds of IV chemo, I’m now on a pill form of treatment, along with two monthly shots. I know that I will be in treatment for the rest of my life, but I know that you also should not listen to the outdated statistics. Everybody is different and everybody responds to medicine differently.
I keep a positive attitude. I think that’s important, especially after a diagnosis of cancer. You’re going to have your scary moments, but just know that you will get through those scary moments. Having cancer sucks, but you can’t dwell on the negatives, because that’s all you’re going to think about.
I have cancer, cancer does not have me.
That’s something I always tell myself. Cancer is just something I have, along with NF. This is not my whole life, just a small part of it. I’m much more than my conditions. I’m the same person I was before I was diagnosed, I just take a lot more naps now.
GRYT is being diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic breast cancer, 2 months after receiving your college degree. GRYT is leaving your dream job to focus on your health. GRYT is accepting you can’t control everything. GRYT is appreciating each day and living your life to the fullest.