Clifford, Christine 1954-
CLIFFORD, Christine 1954-
PERSONAL: Born March 13, 1954, in St. Clair Shores, MI; daughter of Frank (a physician) and Mary C. (a homemaker) Meyer; married John Clifford (a stockbroker); children: Tim, Brooks. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Politics: Republican. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Hosting the "Christine Clifford Celebrity Golf Invitational," an event to raise money for breast cancer research.
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Cancer Club, 6533 Limerick Dr., Edina, MN 55439; fax: 952-941-1229. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: SPAR Marketing Services (information and merchandising services firm), Minneapolis, MN; served as senior vice president; Cancer Club (marketer of products to cancer-affected individuals), Edina, MN, president and chief executive officer. Producer and director of One Move at a Time (exercise videotape for cancer patients). National Speakers Association, certified speaking professional; humorist and inspirational speaker throughout the United States; guest on radio and television programs. Minnesota Oncology Hematology Foundation, member of board of directors, 2001—.
MEMBER: National Speakers Association, Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, National Association of Breast Cancer Organizations, Minnesota Speakers Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Citations for best health book of 1995-96 and best first book of 1996, both National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 1997, and Midwest Independent Publishers Association award, 1997, all for Not Now … I'm Having a No Hair Day; Benjamin Franklin Award, Publishers Marketing Association, 1998, for Our Family Has Cancer, Too!; Council of Excellence Award, American Cancer Society, 2000; Order of Delta Gamma Rose, 2002.
Not Now … I'm Having a No Hair Day, illustrated by Jack Lindstrom, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Our Family Has Cancer, Too! (juvenile), illustrated by Jack Lindstrom, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Inspiring Breakthrough Secrets to Live Your Dreams, Aviva Publishing (Lake Placid, NY), 2001.
Cancer Has Its Privileges: Stories of Hope and Laughter, Perigee (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author, with Anna Marie Ronning, of Ask a Woman (audiocassette) and Laughter: A New Twist to the Old Illness of Cancer! (one-hour audiocassette lecture). Contributor to books, including Chicken Soup for the Survivor's Soul; Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul; and Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul. Publisher and author of Cancer Club Newsletter.
SIDELIGHTS: When Christine Clifford was diagnosed with breast cancer at age forty in 1994, it came as a shock but not a complete surprise: her own mother had died of the same disease at age forty-two. Clifford was determined not to repeat her mother's experience, for her mother, as she told Reporter Interactive interviewer Cynthia B. Astle, "just gave up—stopped caring for her personal hygiene, got into bed and never got out." A dynamic individual, Clifford was at that time a highly successful salesperson for a Minneapolis information and merchandising services firm, with clients that included K-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Toys 'R' Us, and other high-profile corporations. The cancer experience changed her life, but not in a tragic way. After having surgery on December 31, 1994, and going through ten months of chemotherapy, Clifford became the founding president of a company, the Cancer Club, devoted to helping those affected by cancer—both patients and their loved ones—find healing humor in their situation. The firm markets books and tapes by Clifford, a quarterly newspaper with contributions from other cancer patients around the country, and such products as a coffee mug, "attitude" pins, "guardian angel" pins, and a T-shirt. The company has been successful enough to have donated 20,000 dollars to cancer-related charities in 1996 and 1997. As a public speaker, Clifford travels busily around the country giving inspirational, humorous talks.
The humorous approach to cancer came to Clifford in stages and does not exclude grief; she has been capable of crying at any point in the experience, she assured Joyce Terveen in the Detroit News. However, she first laughed eight days after her diagnosis, and it was a memorable experience for her. As time went on, following her surgery, she was disappointed at how uncomfortable many of her visitors seemed, how unwilling to say anything humorous. One night only six weeks after her surgery, she had what she calls a "Twilight Zone" experience: waking in the middle of the night, she drew approximately fifty humorous cartoons illustrating the comical side of her experience thus far. She sent cartoons to some of the people who had helped her during the ordeal of chemotherapy, and the response was favorable: her visitors seemed more comfortable after receiving the cartoons. Researching the market for books on cancer-related humor, she found that there was an opening for such a concept. She hired a professional illustrator, Jack Lindstrom, to redraw her cartoons, and wrote her first book, Not Now… I'm Having a No Hair Day, around them.
The book received a good reception, garnering awards and award nominations within the health-book and motivational fields, and was followed by Our Family Has Cancer, Too! This 1997 children's book, which includes eighteen illustrations by Lindstrom, is written by Clifford but narrated in the voice of her elder son, Tim, who tells the reader what it was like to help their mother get through her battle with cancer. The book contains a "Questions to Ask" section that encourages the young reader to write down questions for doctors, teachers, and others; it also includes a glossary of cancer-related terms that are likely to be new to children in cancer-affected families; and it is punctuated by "Stop and Discuss" points that urge parents and children to talk about what they have just read. The overall approach, as with all Clifford's Cancer Club creations, is life-affirming and humor-affirming.
While she admits that having cancer is a very serious trial, Clifford notes that the process of treatment and recovery is at least six months long: "If you don't find some humor during that time, you're going to dry up," she told Terveen. Meanwhile, Clifford's own battle with cancer seemed to be on its way to victory as of late 2002, and she continues gathering the support, not only of a loving family, but of an increasingly large audience of readers and listeners.
Clifford once told CA: "Don't forget to laugh."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Association for Therapeutic Humor, May, 1997.
American Health for Women, October, 1997.
Better Homes and Gardens, April, 1997.
Breast Cancer Survivor, September, 1997.
Chicago Tribune & Nursing News, January 24, 1996.
Coping, January, 1997; January, 1998.
Detroit News, July 11, 1996; July 30, 1996; November 21, 1996.
Golf Digest, November, 1998.
Healthline, June, 1999.
Journal for Women's Health Research, July, 1998.
Journal of Nursing Jocularity, November, 1997.
Kids Konnected, January, 1998.
Library Journal, October, 1997; January, 1998.
Minneapolis Star & Tribune, December 22, 1995.
Minnesota Monthly, June, 1996.
Minnesota Speaks, March, 1998.
Minnesota Women's Press, October, 1996.
Networking, October, 2002.
Northern Spirit, October, 1998.
Northwest Racquet, Swim & Health, September, 1996.
Professional Speaker, November, 1997; January, 1998.
Publishers Weekly, June 17, 1996.
St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 21, 1996; December 9, 1997.
Sharing Ideas, December, 1997; April, 1998; April, 1999; July, 1999; August, 2000.
Stressfree Living, April, 1999; May, 2002.
Today's Christian Woman, September, 1999.
United Methodist Reporter, October 4, 1996.
Wellness Network, June, 1998.
Cancer Club Online, http://www.cancerclub.com/ (February 28, 2004).
Christine Clifford Enterprises Online, http://www.christineclifford.com/ (February 28, 2004).
Reporter Interactive, http://www.umr.org/ (October 3, 1996), interview by Cynthia B. Astle.