Playing for Time: Giving those with metastatic breast cancer a chance to live longer

By Sue Baldani

Metastatic breast cancer, which is cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, does not have a cure. However, there have been incredible strides in helping people affected with this disease live longer. While six months or six years may not seem like a lot of time to most people, every extra moment to make lasting memories with family and friends is precious to people diagnosed with this devastating disease.

“When you know that something like this will eventually take your life, every amount of time you can gain is incredibly valuable,” says Rick Dunetz, co-founder and executive director of the Side-Out Foundation located in Fairfax, VA. “More time means more birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and weddings.”

Side-Out was founded in 2005 by Rick and his father, Bryant Dunetz, after Gloria Dunetz, Rick’s mother and Bryant’s wife, was diagnosed in 2004 with metastatic breast cancer. The foundation focuses on using precision medicine to help people with metastatic breast cancer live longer with progression-free survival, which gave Gloria an extra six years of life.

“That meant something to her,” says Rick. “My mother wanted to see me get married and to see the birth of her grandchildren. She was able to witness those things because of precision medicine.”

With precision medicine, researchers determine the biological makeup of someone’s cancer and test different drugs and drug combinations on the tumors to find what works on them. “We share that with a tumor board consisting of oncologists and scientists. My mother was actually patient number one in our first clinical trial.”

Standard level of care, says Rick, works at some level for a good percentage of patients. Precision medicine should precede standard level of care to ensure that the oncologist is making an informed decision.

“We try every FDA approve cancer treatment on cancer tissue we collect from each patient and this will show which treatment solutions will have a significant effect on a person’s disease.”

Side-Out has a one-of-a-kind metastatic breast cancer biomarker database and it shares its data with the oncology and scientific communities.

The name, Side-Out, is a volleyball term which means regaining control of the ball. It’s extremely appropriate since volleyball has been the vehicle through which it’s raised funding.

In addition to his full-time role at Side-Out, Rick has been a part-time volleyball coach in the local community for many years. “In 2004, when I took over the West Springfield High School volleyball team, it was struggling; the head coach had resigned. And the day that the head coach resigned, I learned of my mother’s diagnosis.”

After a while, the stress started to take its toll and he decided to let his volleyball team know what was happening in his life. This conversation was a catalyst for all that came after and the spark that started the foundation.

“After that, the team made a decision that they were going to play in honor of my mother. They started to win.”

During the district playoffs, his mother, who was in a state of depression, showed up to watch and the team ended up beating an incredible volleyball team to win the district championship. After that his mom continued to attend games, and that team went all the way to the regional semifinals.

 “I believe my mother wouldn’t have made it two years had she not been moved to take on the disease. That team inspired her.”

In total, the Side-Out Foundation has raised $16 million so far, and Rick wants to see that number go way up. “Up to this point, volleyball has funded it all, which is pretty incredible. But now we want to open the floodgates.”

What many people don’t know, says Rick, is very little (about 7%) of the funding that is raised in the breast cancer arena goes to metastatic disease. That’s why the Side-Out Foundation specifically focuses on this aspect.

Of course, it’s important to raise money year round, but since October 13th is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, Rick would love to see a Northern-Virginian-wide effort of businesses and individuals to raise funds for Side-Out.

For every $2000 raised, the foundation can serve one patient. “The more patients we serve, the more data we’re going to collect, and the more we’re going to learn about the disease and be able to give folks living with metastatic breast cancer more time.

“My dad was the architect of our research,” says Rick. “He was the one who got it all started, and now at 86, he’s passing the torch to me. Our new research endeavor has my fingerprints on it. Having an impact on people’s lives is something that drives me every day.”

To find out more or get involved, go to

Written for The Business Voice Magazine in Virginia.

Strike a Pose!


Beauty doesn’t have an age limit

By Sue Baldani

In 2014, at the age of 66, Ellen Jamison was in a salon when her whole life took a turn for the dramatic. “I was discovered!” says Ellen. “A woman walked up to me while I was getting my nails done here in Westlake. She said she had a friend who was a commercial agent, and she thought he would be very interested in me.”

That friend was Jon Strotheide, the founder of JS Represents, a boutique talent agency in Hollywood. Right after she emailed him some pictures, he asked her to come to his office. “And the rest is history!” she says.

Today, at age 74, Ellen is in hot demand. Jon is still her agent, and Jami Wrenn, from Wrenn Management, is her print agent. Over the years, she has done print ads, billboards and commercials for many well-known brands such as Apple, Samsung, Lyft, Prada, and Lexus.

 “I’ve done about 35 commercials, and my very first one was for Las Vegas – ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned quickly. They flew me to Las Vegas, and my husband, Dick, was so proud. “He started calling me ‘Miss Hollywood.’”

With her luxurious mane of white hair, red lipstick and large-framed black glasses, Ellen makes quite a striking picture. She has always embraced her look, and never tried to change it artificially. “My hair started turning white when I was 17 and I never dyed it,” she says. “I was getting senior discounts in my early 20s and it didn’t bother me at all. I was saving money, so I thought it was great.”

Through the years, she’s continued to embrace her evolving appearance. “The reality is we all get older, and I have never had cosmetic surgery or anything; I think aging is beautiful. If you take a little time to put on makeup and do your hair, it’s fun. Every time I go out, I like to dress up. I dress up to go to Trader Joe’s. Don’t give into your age – enjoy it.”

To her, age is just a number and not a timeline of how you should live your life. “It used to be, when I was growing up, when someone turned 60 they threw in the towel and became a ‘senior’.”

In addition to her attitude, Ellen believes a healthy lifestyle also helps keeps her young. “I don’t eat any sugar. I was a real sugar-holic and it took me about two weeks to get it out of my system. That was 20 years ago. And up until COVID, I was dancing three or four times a week. Now I walk and do other things to stay fit, and I eat very healthy.”

Modeling, for her, is a whole lot of fun. She did a campaign for TKMaxx (the European counterpart of TJMaxx), and for one ad, they asked if she would mind getting on a float in a pool while wearing a designer dress. She was all for it, so they lifted her onto a big seashell float and took pictures. “They loved that I was willing to do it.”

For another commercial, she says they dressed her up like the fun-loving woman she is who’s going out on the town and getting into a Lyft car. “They even had me in shorts [she does have great legs from all that dancing] and it was so much fun, even though we shot all day and into the evening. Here I am, 74 years old, and I’m living my second childhood,” says Ellen.

“I feel so blessed that later in life I have a whole new career. There’s a group of us older models and we all kind of promote each other on Instagram. When I see their pictures and what they’re doing, I’m so happy for them. And they’re so happy for me. There’s a camaraderie there.” 

Today, she still gets a kick out of people recognizing her when she’s out and about. “I did a commercial for BEHR Paint and I was walking in L.A. and heard, ‘That’s the BEHR Paint lady!’ I was shocked!

“I’ve kind of been reinvented. And now there are so many women who have been energized in their 60s, 70s and 80s. It’s refreshing.”

To follow Ellen’s career, and to see pictures and videos, check out her Instagram page @ellenjamisonofficial. Like her, it’s fun, beautiful and uplifting.

Written for Conejo Valley Lifestyle magazine in California.

Tips from the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad

COVID Fatigue

People are tired. Tired of being afraid, of wearing masks, of hearing the word COVID. Many of us thought the pandemic would be over by now, but no, it’s still here, and it’s draining our physical and mental resources.

Pandemic fatigue is real. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as being “demotivated” and exhausted with the demands of life during the COVID crisis. This fatigue can lead to a deep sense of anxiety, depression, less productive work environments and other negative consequences. It may make some people less willing to comply with health regulations, which can prolong the pandemic for everyone. So, what can we do to cope?

First, accept that what you’re feeling is normal and many other people are experiencing the same thing. We haven’t lived through this type of crisis before, and everyone is doing their best to get through it. But, like with many other mentally challenging situations, it’s important to take steps to promote our physical and emotional well-being.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Maintain a regular routine whenever possible. For example, eat meals at the same times every day and stick to regular wake and sleep times.
  • Focus more on long-term relationships. Stay in close contact with those you feel close to and who can provide a sense of stability. Talk about happy memories or plan to make new ones. Doing this will give you a greater sense of connection with the outside world and help you look towards the future.
  • Be mindful about relying on alcohol and other short-term fixes. This can easily lead to addiction, which in turn will lead to even more isolation, stress and anxiety. Instead, practice meditation or yoga and do deep breathing exercises. Find an exercise you enjoy, such as walking or running, which will allow you to breathe fresh air while enjoying the calming sights and sounds of nature. Leave your phone at home, or turn it off.
  • Limit news coverage. Get the facts you need, but don’t let COVID chatter become a constant background in your life. And only pay attention to reputable sources.
  • Get professional help, if necessary. Let an expert guide you and give you the resources you need to get through these challenging times.

Written by Sue Baldani, a lifetime member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.