University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Spotlight: Laura Holmes Haddad, Patient, Advocate

Laura Holmes Haddad

Laura Holmes Haddad, patient, advocate, writer. Image courtesy UCSF Health.

Laura’s Journey: From Breast Cancer Diagnosis to Radiant Survival


The blond woman in the flowing red dress who graces UCSF’s “Redefining Possible” billboards and ads in and around San Francisco – you’ve probably seen her, but you likely don’t know her story.

Last week, Laura Holmes Haddad visited the UCSF Imaging facility at 1725 Montgomery Street, and shared her journey from terrifying breast cancer diagnosis to three years of radiant survival. She also talked about how she wants to help others. 


“I never had a health issue before my diagnosis,” said Holmes Haddad. “And I was totally unprepared. I want others to be aware of the type of mindset and teamwork that helped save my life.”

Holmes Haddad realizes that her outcome was the result of a remarkable convergence of opportunities, effort, and will. In overcoming her illness, she worked with the world’s leading medical teams, and had the active care of family and friends who supported her and championed her well-being. Holmes Haddad also credits her own self-advocacy, not to overemphasize her perseverance, but to encourage other patients. 

She hopes to provide tools and perspective to patients who may face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. To that end, she has written a book, This is Cancer: Everything You Need to Know, From the Waiting Room to the Bedroomwhich will be released on October 18. 

What’s critical: Take time for yourself – don’t delay!

Holmes Haddad was the mother of two young children, ages 14 months and 4 years old, when she was diagnosed with breast cancerand given three to five years to live. That was four years ago. 

When she first started noticing her body was changing, she chalked her breast discomfort up to lactation and the feeling of being unwell to the demands so many young mothers’ experiences. She had the lingering sense she should do something about not feeling well, but procrastinated, as she pointed out, “ so many others!” The message she wants to spread now? “Do not put off your health. Take time to be screened and to see your doctor.”

Assemble a great team - and work hard to get the care you need

Self-advocacy and the support of a willing community were critical to Holmes Haddad’s success. After she was diagnosed, she set her sights on treatment at UCSF. 



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