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About the Founder


Just three days after her 17th birthday (in 1977) Judy Ryan was informed by the oncology team at UCLA that she had a malignant soft tissue tumor, embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. This not too common form of cancer generally affects children and teens in the head and neck area. Her tumor occupied the left side of her face, extending from temple to chin. And because this cancerous growth had spread behind her left eye and into her mouth, there was really no area on her face that could be shielded from the first phase of treatment...radiation.

Even though it was noted in Judy's medical records after the first month of treatment that the tumor had shrunk by 25%, her doctors were not encouraged and instead informed her parents that her condition was fatal and she had only six months to a year to live. Needless to say, their prognosis was wrong.

Now at 51, Judy is remarkably the healthy by-product of cancer, radiation, chemotherapy and 26 reconstructive surgeries. As a result of the radiation the tumor liquified and drained -- an unusual process that eliminated the tumor completely. Unfortunately, once the tumor was gone so was Judy's original face....forever.

The damage left behind included the loss of her zygomatic arch (cheek bone), loss of soft tissue, permanent partial baldness to the left third of her scalp, loss of vision & hearing in her left eye and ear, skin damage, and trismus (or lockjaw).

You can find out more about Judy's life experience and surgeries by reading excerpts from her memoir, A Face In Time.

Judy holds a BS degree in Fashion Merchandising and has enjoyed a career in retail for almost 30 years. From 1990-1996 she served as a CanSupport volunteer for the American Cancer Society (ACS). In this role, Judy provided one-on-one support to cancer patients and their family by listening to their concerns regarding the patient's physical and emotional condition. In April of 1997 she appeared in Heroes helping Heroes, a video created by ACS for fundraising functions across the country. As her desire to reach out and help others grew she created Beneath the Surface in 2001, and since that time has had the privledge of getting to know many remarkable women who are cancer survivors and/or live with facial difference. With the publication of her book in June of 2004 she continues to participate in a variety of local book events and signings -- an opportunity to share her message that difference need not stand in the way of a rich, confident life.

Judy is single and lives in Monrovia, California, where she loves home decorating, reading & writing on living healthy, hiking (almost daily) on her at-home treadmill, and spending time with her family.


PHOTOS:
top left: Judy's senior high school picture -- June 1976 (just 5 months prior to growth of tumor)
top right: First day of radiation treatment -- May 1977