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Author Susan Conley Shares Her Experience of Living with Cancer in China to Inaugurate Fox Chase's 2011 Author Series

Conley's memoir was recently selected as a top 10 read by O, The Oprah Magazine

The Foremost Good Fortune, by Susan Conley


PHILADELPHIA (March 14, 2011) – Fox Chase Cancer Center will open its 2011 Author Series with a reading of The Foremost Good Fortune by breast cancer survivor Susan Conley on March 30, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. in the Center’s auditorium (Center Building, 333 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia). The event is FREE and open to the public with pre-registration

In her debut memoir, Conley chronicles her family’s move to Beijing, China, for her husband’s job and the next chapter of her life. While in Beijing, she explores not only a new country but her own identity as a wife and mother of two young boys when she is diagnosed with breast cancer.   

“What unfolds in China is the bounty we hoped for: the universe is much bigger once you leave New England. We are meant to grow as a family in that way you hear Americans do when they head east, to become bigger risk takers and deepen our connections to one another,” Conley writes.  “But what happens while we’re there is that one of us gets cancer. It turns out to be me.”

As Conley recounts with insight, when she learns she has breast cancer, her sense of being a stranger in a new country expands beyond being a foreigner in China.

“I’m struck…by how cancer is itself a kind of cultural dislocation. I feel more removed from myself — more distanced now from the people I love than I ever did in China.  … During the next week, friends come. I sit on my mother’s couch and try to take in the faces of these women I love. I’ve missed them these last nine months in China. But now sometimes my connection to them feels fleeting…I’m someone different.”

A writer by trade, Conley always intended to pen a memoir about China before learning of her diagnosis.  She describes the book as “detouring into the land of cancer,” as she attempts to feel comfortable in her own skin again after a mastectomy.  In the book, she grapples with issues from contemplating her own mortality to mustering enough energy to keep up with her two small children. Despite these challenges, Conley maintained a positive outlook and used writing as a therapeutic outlet.

 “It’s so important to put a human face to cancer, because there is often a perception that that story is just a story of sadness and pain,” says Conley. “Instead, there are great moments of humor, and there are all kinds of opportunities to learn. I feel lucky because I got to tell my story and, in doing so, I got to make sense of my cancer.” 

Mary B Daly, MD, PhD, FACP, Chair of the Department of Clinical Genetics and Timothy R. Talbot Jr. Chair for Cancer Research at Fox Chase, will introduce Conley during the event.

“We are thrilled to welcome Susan Conley as our first speaker in the Fox Chase 2011 Author Series,” says Dr. Daly. “Her story is an inspiration to survivors and their families in so many ways, from working through her disease far from home to finding the courage to talk to her children about cancer.” 

The Foremost Good Fortune was named one of Oprah Magazine’s Top 10 Reads for February 2011, and received praise from National Public Radio, Slate magazine, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and many other publications, as well as from fellow authors. Following her free reading, Conley will hold a book signing with books available for purchase courtesy of Joseph Fox Bookshop

For more information about the event or to register, visit

For more information on Susan Conley, visit .

About Susan Conley

Susan Conley is the author of the memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune, and the New York Times Magazine “Lives” column about living in China, contending with the H1N1 epidemic and being diagnosed with breast cancer in Beijing. Ms. Conley was previously the editor of Ploughshares Magazine in Boston, and her work has been published in magazines such as The Paris Review, the Harvard Review and The North American Review. She has also taught creative writing and literature at several colleges.  Five years ago, Ms. Conley and two writer friends launched a creative writing lab in Portland, Maine, called The Telling Room, which has since become a literary hub for southern Maine.  Ms. Conley graduated from Middlebury College and earned an M.F.A. in poetry from San Diego State University. She and her husband, Tony, are the parents of two sons.  For more information, visit

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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