Josie van Londen: Musings to heal, comfort and guide

Gijsberta “Josie” van Londen, an MD (Res ’04, Fel ’07, ’09 and MS ’09), wanted an outlet to share stories with compatriots who’d also completed their cancer treatments—an outlet where she’d find support and compassion and be able to offer her own inspiration and guidance. So she took to blogging and built a community of survivors who heal, at least in part, by sharing with people who can empathize.

The website CancerSurvivorMD is where van Londen takes on questions like “Who or what do we get angry with?” and posts videos on topics like addressing weight gain and updates on her health. The site includes personal musings about books and the like, even images of impressive gnome villages. To broaden her reach, she launched a Facebook support network and uses other platforms, as well.

Van Londen has both survived and treated cancer. She is a geriatrician and medical oncologist; as an associate professor of medicine at Pitt Med, she’s studied challenges that older cancer survivors can face, from cardiovascular disease to post-mastectomy pain syndrome.

And she’s well aware of how cancer resources drop away after treatment ends. “I want to help more people, beyond what I do in the clinic,” van Londen says. “I want to have a voice, and I want other people to have a voice.”

Her frustration with a lack of post-treatment support reached its breaking point around Christmas several years ago. That’s when she sat down during the holiday break and built her website.

“If you ask me, ‘What’s the message?’ I think one is that the more knowledge you have, the less fearful you are,” she says. “Another is about empowering people to ask questions.”

Van Londen hasn’t posted much recently because of another health issue. She’s on long-term disability while being treated for primary mitochondrial disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2021 after failing health.

Despite her health struggles, she’d like to visit her ailing father in the Netherlands, where she’s from. Van Londen’s husband, Stasa Tadic (Res ’04, Fel ’06, MS ’06), MD associate professor of medicine, wrote on a GoFundMe page established for medical expenses that the couple remains “rebelliously hopeful” about better health and being able to make the trip.