Sea to Sea for MBC: Getting to Know the REAL CJ

By Beth Fairchild

The METAvivor non-profit was established in 2009 by a small group pro-active metastatic breast cancer patients who felt that the lack of research and support dedicated to their disease and to those suffering from it was just plain wrong. This year, the group planned Sea to Sea for MBC, a trip across the U.S. (from kick-off party in Annapolis, MD on April 12th to the upcoming closing celebration in Santa Monica, CA on May 26th) to meet with sponsors, supporters, volunteers, and researchers they have funded to date. As they traveled across the country to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer, blogger and metastatic breast cancer patient Beth Fairchild joined METAvivor founder CJ “Dian” Corneliussen-James for the first leg of the trip. Beth talks about getting to know CJ.

May 8th. Sitting at dinner tonight chatting about the day, the work METAvivor is doing, and ideas for the future, I looked across the table at my travel companion. It was the first time I saw CJ “Dian” Corneliussen-James as a “real” woman instead of a fearless breast cancer advocate and super-hero (though she is all of those things). We sat in the lounge on the 15th floor of a hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. The storm clouds were still rollin’ in as the western setting sun shined, reflected off the building across from us, illuminating her face. I asked if I could take her picture. I wanted to capture how very lovely she was in that moment.

“CJ” Dian Cornelussen-James, Founding President of

“CJ” Dian Cornelussen-James, Founding President of

CJ is a force to be reckoned with. She gives new meaning to the old saying, “dynamite comes in small packages.” She truly is “on” 24/7, in the trenches, fighting for Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) research and advocacy work. But take that away, take METAvivor out of the picture, her MBC diagnosis out of the equation, and she’s still an extraordinary woman. Everyone has a story, and CJ is no different. Actually, she probably has more of a story than most.

For instance, I can see she has a deep love for family. It’s apparent on her face while telling the stories of her father and brother, who she lost. I hear the love and compassion in her voice when she calls in daily to say “Hi” to her 98 year old mother. I learned about her life abroad and listened to the tales of her many adventures. Before METAvivor, CJ had a job that paid. She is a retired lieutenant from the Air Force. I was drawn in by the stories of her work at the Pentagon. I can just imagine her tiny frame and large personality, there among Admirals and Generals, even back then making waves.

… and let me add, she can do some damage in a ladies boutique!

Learning about a woman always makes this disease more real. More difficult. We are not statistics or percentages, we are women, real women, and CJ certainly doesn’t fall short of that. Each day we’re on the road, I learn more about her life, and she continues to surprise and amaze me. I am grateful to be here with her and happy to call her my friend.

Read more about Beth and CJ’s trip, and their pass through Dallas, TX, where they met with other metavivors and Breast Cancer Consortium founder, Gayle Sulik.

There’s still time to register for the METAvivor’s closing celebration on May 26th in Santa Monica, California!

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