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Sarah Rosner described her father Stanley as “a girl dad, for sure.”

As a kid, they would go to the movies together and play card games. When Sarah moved to Chicago as an adult, Stanley would drive in from their family home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit and go to the zoo or out to lunch for dedicated father-daughter time.

Sarah with her father, Stanley, and mother, Linda.

“It didn’t matter if I was doing a play, a musical, or a sport, he and my mom were right there in the front row,” she said. “He was a fun dad, a hard worker, and provided positive energy to everyone around him.”

Stanley’s time facing kidney cancer was swift – he died on March 3, 2016 at age 60, just two months after an unexpected stage IV kidney cancer diagnosis in January. Too short a time, Sarah said, for the possibility of enrolling in a clinical trial or doing anything to slow the cancer from metastasizing to the brain.

“I’m glad he didn’t have to suffer but it was an eye opener. We had no idea,” Sarah said. “To this day we wonder could we have done something differently? I wish there were more ability to detect [the cancer] earlier.”

Sarah had a strong interest in musical theater and performance but the values her father modeled during his life inspired her to pursue a path of greater service.

“He always brought fun into my life. I’ve taken that into my own practice, to help people find the joy and fun in life.”

Within a year after his death, Sarah was a certified health coach using an integrated approach to address stress through nutrition, fitness, and the practice of finding excitement and joy in both work and life.

“He always brought fun into my life. And even though the cancer was a negative connotation, he was very hopeful through the treatments. I’ve taken that into my own practice, to help people find the joy and fun in life,” she said.

Preventive care in the context of kidney cancer and as part of stress management is a particular passion since it’s something Sarah feels her father could have benefitted from. She discussed this in detail on the most recent episode of her podcast, Stress Free Solutions with Sarah Episode 13: Reduce your stress by finding your cause.

Stanley was a thoughtful, respected colleague at his company and loved his job. But he suffered chronic headaches and often seemed tired at home. Burnout hit Sarah, too, after her father was diagnosed.

“When dad was getting sick, I noticed he would say ‘I’m fine.’ I started doing the same thing,” she said. “I couldn’t [work out] and go home with an hour to eat – I didn’t know how to cook for myself. When he passed… I made it my mission to start teaching and coaching people about stressors. To help stressed people and help myself.”

Going through the experience alongside her mother helped Sarah realize that support for stress and anxiety among family is often missed.

“We became each other’s rocks,” she said. “Before, I felt my dad was the rock of the family. We both had to step up emotionally in our own ways for each other.”

Though she was living in Chicago at the time, Sarah traveled every weekend to Milwaukee. It didn’t always feel like enough and Sarah said being present was the most valuable thing she would tell others who have loved ones with cancer or who are caregivers.

“Continue to bring them light, fun activities to do and talk about fun memories. They need positive vibrations around them. And give a loved one a call, even if you can’t be there physically. The one who is in it 24 hours a day deserves the most of your time and needs a check in.”

To mark the 5-year anniversary of her father’s death, Sarah committed to raising awareness and funds for kidney cancer research. She also recently completed a gut health course, which helped her understand the nervous system and the brain-body connection more, especially in terms of preventive care.

“I don’t want others to be affected like my father. Kidneys are small but mighty and it’s important to take care of them when you’re young. The great thing about health coaching is asking deep, thoughtful questions to help people think about their own health.”

Sarah Alysse Rosner is a Stress Management Coach, Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, Certified STOTT Pilates Instructor, and National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer with her own practice at livewellenhanceyou.com. She’s been featured on WGN Morning News Around Town’s segment as a Stress Management Expert. Also, she has been promoted on Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, The Chicago Journal, LA Wire, and US Reporter. In March, she is raising funds to support kidney cancer research.

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