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Cancer Survivor to Course Creator (Meg Cadoux) Transcript

Course Lab – Episode 86

Cancer Survivor to Course Creator (Meg Cadoux)

Abe Crystal: Maybe actually there should be more course creators looking to set up or work with non-profits and fund the delivery of their courses through grants and through fundraising.

Ari Iny: Hello and welcome to Course Lab, the show that teaches creators like you how to make better online courses. I’m Ari Iny, the Director of Growth at Mirasee, and I’m here with my co-host Abe Crystal, the co-founder of Ruzuku. Hey, Abe.

Abe: Hey there, Ari.

Ari: In each episode of Course Lab, we showcase a course and creator who is doing something really interesting, either with the architecture of their course or the business model behind it or both.

Today we welcome Meg Cadoux to the show. Meg is the president and founder of the Anticancer Lifestyle Foundation, as well as the creator of an array of anti-cancer lifestyle programs. Thanks for joining us today, Meg.

Meg Cadoux: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Ari: Awesome. So to kick us off, could you give us kind of the 30,000 foot view of yourself and how you came to develop the foundation and, of course, the programs within it?

Meg: Yeah, sure. So I was sort of going along my merry way, whistling down the road of life when I got a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2001. It was quite a serious case because I was misdiagnosed for a long time. And I went through the treatment and they gave me a very good chance of never seeing cancer again, so I kind of went on my merry way. Though the treatment itself is often very difficult for breast cancer, as it was in my case; surgery, chemo, and radiation. But at the end of all that, they said, yeah, you’re probably good to go.

So at that point, I actually became a writer. I worked for magazines, including Ink Magazine for a long time, and was kind of going about my life when I got cancer again, or it’s a metastatic recurrence this time, in 2008. And at that point, I thought, wow, it was a wakeup call in a way that the original diagnosis kind of hadn’t been. You think it would have been, but I just thought, well, I’ll do the treatment and all will be well. Well, all was not well.

So at that point, I started looking for how I could help myself in this process. Like there must be something I can do as the patient. My oncologist basically said, well, you know, keep your stress level down and just go back to your life as normal and I’ll see you in six months for your scan. I mean, obviously, he meant well, but it was about the most disempowering message I could have gotten.

So it’s like as a cancer patient, you’re sitting there saying, well, okay, so there’s nothing I can do. I’m just waiting, right? Is it going to come back tomorrow or five years? Never? And it’s always in the back of your mind, kind of preying on your mind and on your decisions, you know, like long term commitments to things. I don’t know what’s going to happen. So there’s this very disabling almost and disempowering process that happens when that’s what you’re told by your oncologist, and virtually, all cancer patients are.

So the long and short of it is I created a program that was inspired by a book written by a doctor about really the evidence that we had about lifestyle change and how it could affect the development of cancer and cancer recurrence. So I started making some of the changes and I thought, wow, this is amazing, and approached our local cancer center where I got some of my treatments and said, hey, what about if Gary and I fund the creation of a course that teaches about these lifestyle changes? So that’s how it all got started.

We launched the course in 2011. We had hundreds of cancer patients through it until COVID when we had to stop doing it. And then my colleague and I put it all online. That kind of brings us to the present where we have the online course. What we also have, and I know that’s the part that we’ll kind of focus on today, but we also have eBooks, and webinars, and blogs, and recipes, and newsletters, and diet kickstarts, and learning circles.

So we are trying to kind of meet people where they are. The course is really for those who want to deep dive into lifestyle changes, what are important changes to make, how to do it, what are the techniques, and so forth. So we wrap by saying we cover the areas of diet, fitness, mindset, and personal environment, which means basically reducing your toxin exposure on a daily basis.

Ari: So you said a number of things I want to dig in a bit deeper into. So you were mentioning that until COVID, this program, this course, it sounds like so it was in person that you were delivering it?

Meg: Yeah, just in person. Like I say, we had about 400 cancer patients through and maybe over the decade, weekly for 12 weeks.

Ari: Amazing. Okay, great.

Meg: Deep dive. And then they were taught, well, now it’s online, so now you can do your learning remotely.

Ari: Okay. And so it translated online. It’s still about the same 12 weeks, weekly, or it’s changed?

Meg: Yeah, it’s self-paced.

Ari: Okay.

Meg: So anybody can go on. Everything is free, by the way, that our nonprofit offers. Everything is free. So you can just go on and register for the course on our website, which is And then you can just self-pace. You have free kind of registration for 90 days, but then you can also re up for another 90 days if you want. You can do so indefinitely. There’s no limit to your registration.

And then you can take the module. So the total running time of sort of the videos that do the teaching is about 10 hours for all that I just described. So the longest are diet and environment, which are two and a half to three hours each. The others are about one and a half hours each in terms of running video time. But you can stay up and start and you can take it at your own pace.

Ari: Right. And we were talking about this briefly before we started recording, but I think there’s something worth digging into. How have you found kind of the difference as far as participation and completion between the in person when you are doing it and the online course after you kind of made that transition because of COVID?

Meg: Yeah. Well, it’s a great question. And when we ran it in person, people had to come. They voted with their body. They showed up every week and most people were pretty good about attending. The online, the drop off we see is pretty steep. People will hang in there for most of it, but they won’t necessarily finish. And they certainly don’t take all the modules, which is fine. Some people will come in to do the diet or just to do the fitness, which is fine.

But that is why what you are mentioning right now is one reason why we are considering charging a modest amount on a per module basis and then probably a bundle because the skin in the game argument is a powerful one. Even if people don’t pay much, if they pay something, they feel they have a commitment to finishing.

And that’s our goal and that’s our mission as a nonprofit is to try to do this education and do what we can to facilitate and promote it. So we are considering that. Of course, we would have codes for people who couldn’t afford it. I should tell you right now we have people enrolled in the course from 95 countries, so there’s clearly a need out there in the world for this kind of education.

We’re doing a lot of translation into Spanish, not the course itself. We’re writing grants to try to get money to do that. I’ve translated a lot of our eBooks into Spanish. And our eBooks, I don’t know, we’ve probably been downloaded 60,000 times, like we have really a great audience for our eBooks. And the Spanish eBooks are flying. So the need for Spanish translation of good evidence-based material in medicine or lifestyle is absolutely critical. And I just wish we had more money to do outreach. We have Google Translate on the website. So the world is our audience.

Ari: Right. And so how has the foundation been funded so far? You mentioned grants. Is that part of the puzzle?

Meg: Yeah, we have started applying for grant– we have about five grant proposals out now. Principally, it’s been funded by my husband and myself. We had an organic yogurt company, which we sold. And so we give a pretty high percentage away every year of what we got. We give a large amount to various charities, including what I’m doing.

This is our fourth year now with a contract with Capital Blue Cross of Pennsylvania. So they license our course to put on their learning management system. So that’s something we hope to develop more of. If we can get more insurance companies to license our course, that’s what we perceive as the future for more financial independence. And then people give, you know, people donate. So it’s kind of a cobbled together budget.

Ari: Which I feel like it often is in the nonprofit world.

Meg: It is, indeed. It is, but we keep getting reinforcement that this is important to people. And it’s a big motivator for us to just keep going, keep growing, keep trying to raise more money.

Ari: And that process, actually, I find is really interesting. That partnership with an insurance company, that is an interesting path that wouldn’t have been immediately top of mind for me. So how did you come to that and how are you thinking about essentially finding funding sources for your nonprofit?

Meg: Well, because everything is free. And even if we charged for the course, it wouldn’t bring in much relative to our budget, so it would be more for other reasons. But another reason we’d want to charge for the course other than the skin in the game argument is that a couple of insurers have said to us in terms of licensing the LMS, well, it’s free, so why would I pay for a license?

And we do have arguments about that. We say, you know, obviously, there’s greater patient protection in terms of their information if they’re on your LMS. Though ours is, obviously, we meet all the standards. But if they’re on their system, they have their own kind of security around patient information. So that would be one reason.

Another reason is because you’re bringing it to them, it’s part of your sort of value add for what you bring. But I think that if we just charge even a little bit, like, oh yeah, well, this way, this is something we could offer for free to our employees and to all the participants in our program. It’s kind of a puzzle piece that we’re always sort of adjusting and trying new things.

But I think the insurer route is a good one because if you think about it, the more we teach about healthy diet and fitness and how to achieve these things, stress reduction, that kind of thing, theoretically that should translate into healthier people. So from an insurer’s point of view, it could make a lot of sense.

Ari: And my last question on this, and then Abe, I’ll pass it on to you; do you find that from the point of view of different organizations that could potentially provide funding, is there higher interest in courses versus in other kinds of materials? Or that’s just one modality, but they’re interested in multiple different modalities?

Meg: Well, we have a lot of cancer centers and oncologists who recommend us. And basically, what they do is they just refer the patient to our website. So the patients come on and then just take advantage of whatever. We have webinars too, fabulous webinars. And also, everything is archived so people can watch previous webinars if it’s on a topic that interests them.

From the insurer’s point of view, yeah, we want to let them know about all that we have. But in those conversations, we’re zeroed in on the license, the idea, which kind of makes sense for them to, again, you have that kind of protection. For instance with Blue Cross, we have no insight into who’s taking the course or completion rates. Once it leaves us, it’s all them. They often like to have that kind of control and understandably so.

Abe: That’s interesting because you have this different approach. Like a lot of the people that we interview, they’re building courses as a business, right? And so attention they often face is I want to teach people an approach that I think is going to work for them that I found to be effective, but that’s not what people want to buy, right? So it leads to saying things like, Oh, you have to sell people what they want, and then you can teach them what they need. And so I’m wondering how that plays out in the nonprofit context, where you don’t necessarily have to sell people what they want, but you do have to get people to take the course.

Meg: Right. It’s really a great kind of insight. I can tell that you run an LMS. And our goal is to, as I say, meet people where they are. A lot of people are going to want to take the course and that’s fine. They might just want to read one of our blogs or make one of our recipes or listen to a webinar. We have these fantastic eBooks, like I mentioned, about 25 of them now, including the Spanish ones in Spanish, and they’re growing all the time. We’re adding new titles all the time.

A lot of people want to interface with us that way. That’s fine. We’re hoping. that these little kind of teasers will get them interested in taking the course because the course to us is the gold standard. I mean, that’s the deep dive. That’s how over time you can really start to institute lifestyle change, which is what this is all about.

But since we created all these other assets, we’ve changed our measures of success. It used to be how many course enrollments do we have? You know, full stop. But now that we have all these other assets, that’s one thing that we look at, for sure, that’s important. And then we look at overall engagement with all the things we have to offer as being equally important.

So I would say that, yeah, the course enrollment is something that we always try to push. And you have to remember, too, unlike with a lot of the populations that take online courses, right, we’re dealing mostly with people who have had a cancer diagnosis. Now I say mostly because about 25 percent of our participants have not, they’re just interested in prevention, which is great. We encourage more and more of that because the best health dollars spent is the one that’s never spent, right? It’s better not get sick in the first place. So we love seeing people who take it for prevention.

But when you get a cancer diagnosis, as I have personally experienced, it is such a wake up call that suddenly, you’re really open, like you’re really care, like you want to live to see your son’s graduation or your daughter get married.

Like you have goals that you want to be alive for. And therefore, it’s really a way, it’s in effect capturing an audience when they are most ready to learn.

Bear in mind that 40 percent of Americans are going to get a cancer diagnosis at some point. 40 percent of Americans, and it’s the same for Canadians, are going to hear that word, you have cancer, those words, that sentence, that dreaded sentence at some point during their lifetimes. And so this kind of information is just, yes, not everyone’s going to want it. Not everyone’s ready for it or cares to receive it, but a significant minority are. And those are the people we want to be there for.

Abe: Yeah, it makes sense. I mean, I guess the other sort of challenge a lot of course readers face is people get excited about information, right? They want the concept, the secret that’s going to change everything for you. But the hard part is often, as you mentioned, like lifestyle change or implementation or application of the ideas. So I’m just curious, what have you seen in working with people on that side and what strategies have you tried or are you trying to help with implementation and behavior change?

Meg: Yeah, this is like the golden fleece that people are chasing after. This is what everybody tries to achieve who’s in this area that I’m in is how do you actually make this happen? As I mentioned, we’re starting with fertile ground here, right? We’re starting with people who’ve woken up and are afraid for their future and they’re concerned and want to do something about it. So that already helps, right? That already kind of gets us a foot in the door.

Beyond that, there’s really not much that we can do except to offer these many, many, many ways of, like, for example, let’s say you’re just interested. We have this seven day diet kickstart where, right, it’s 15 minutes a day. So it’s the opposite of the course.

You got the course over here that’s 10 running hours. And then you have this 15- minute a day diet kickstart. And we’ll create the kickstarts in the other areas as well. So you get an email a day, it’s 15 minutes of commitment of things to read or a little quiz to take or a video to watch, and it’s just meant to get you to think, right?

And often this is like a lifetime thing. It doesn’t happen overnight. People, they learn a little bit. They want to know a little bit more, right? This is kind of how it works. It’s not like they’re going to take the 10 hours and completely change their lives overnight. That’s not a realistic goal, but hoping that over the course of someone’s life, we can interest them with these various offerings and kind of get our hooks in and they start coming back for more and watching a webinar here. So we see it as a process, I guess is my best answer.

And I do want to add one thing if I can. We just started something called Learning Circles, which we just completed our first pilot yesterday. And there are various hospitals now that are going to start doing this, also cancer centers. And what it is, it’s a nine-week engagement weekly for an hour and a half. It’s kind of like our in person course, but you meet on Zoom and you go through the course with a facilitator.

And I cannot tell you the difference in these. We enrolled nine women. And now these other cancer centers are going to be doing the same thing, which is fantastic and really getting into it with the group and they start supporting each other and giving each other ideas. And by the end of the nine weeks,, I mean, talk about change; lifestyle change. They felt empowered, informed, less isolated, less alone, connected.

It was just a beautiful thing to see. So that, to me, is really the gold standard. If we could replicate that in every cancer center in the United States or in Canada, I would be thrilled. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Abe: The learning circle is paid or free?

Meg: Free. We had people from all over the country and we’re running another one starting in March. And I wish we could have recorded it. We couldn’t for patient confidentiality, but I cannot tell you the difference. It was so exciting to see. They can’t wait to sort of launch into all these things. And a lot of it is the support that’s provided by others in the group.

So I really think that this is a key when it comes to making lifestyle change. It’s the support and the ideas and the resources that others bring to the table. And then they kind of keep each other accountable, and they often give each other ideas. The ideas that float, like, I tried this, I did this, were fabulous. So to me, that’s really the way this learning should happen is in a group format. I wish we could just replicate it endlessly.

Abe: Your current online course is self-paced, right?

Meg: Yeah, it is self-paced.

Abe: So, like, a variation of that would be turning that into a six-week program where a cohort of people would join, take it together on the same schedule, they would participate together.

Meg: Yeah, that’s what we are piloting now. We don’t have the resources to do a hundred of these. But we’re piloting it so that we can really, really firm it up. You’ve got to remember these cancer centers are overwhelmed as it is, right? We understand that. But we need to make it easy, turnkey. This is day one. This is what you need to do. This is how you organize it. This is the email you’ll need to send out at the end. This is the evaluation form.

Just easy peasy, like all you need to do is just get together, get people enrolled. That’s kind of the extent of all you really have to do. And we want to make it so easy for people to replicate. So that’s our goal.

Abe: That’s awesome. Anything else that you want to share or any other things that you would want to pass on to others?

Meg: No, I just hope that your listeners will check out, whether or not you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, and learn doable, achievable ways to make these lifestyle changes that can really make a difference in the risk of getting cancer or cancer recurrence or any chronic illness.

Ari: Awesome. Meg, thank you so, so much. This has been an awesome conversation.

Meg: Thank you for having me. It’s been delightful.

Danny Iny: Now stick around for my favorite part of the show, where Abe and Ari will pull out the best takeaways for you to apply to your course.

Abe: All right, Ari, we are here for our favorite section of the podcast, the debrief. So, yeah, what was it that was jumping out for you here?

Ari: There are a few things that I think were really interesting that are worth paying attention to. So a big piece that I think is very much worth keeping in mind for course creators is something that Meg was touching on towards the end there, which is around essentially the difficulty of the transformation.

So in her case, lifestyle transformation is a very difficult thing to help people with. People are generally set in their ways, and even with something big shaking up their life, it can be hard to change. And just to her seeing that the higher touch they were able to have, the more community, the more interaction they were able to create with the people going through it, the better the transformation. And so just keeping in mind, depending how difficult the transformation is that you’re trying to achieve with people, how can you make sure that you’re giving them the right amount of touch?

Abe: Yeah. I mean, it seems like it’d be valuable to see more nonprofits like orient themselves around education and transformation as opposed to just providing content information, which is what a lot of nonprofits are good at. They hold conferences, they put out tons of materials, they have big websites, and that is valuable. But it seems like this example is showing a role to play for mission driven organizations to really focus on education, helping people achieve results, not just get access to more information.

It gets back to that question of like a lot of course creators, I think they feel themselves pushed into this role as marketers that they don’t necessarily want. I feel like they really just want to be teachers, right? And so, to some extent, the answer to that is just becoming comfortable with marketing. It doesn’t have to be as sleazy. There are lots of good ways to do marketing and so on.

But the other piece of it is like maybe actually there should be more course creators looking to set up or work with nonprofits and fund the delivery of their courses through grants and through fundraising rather than trying to sell their courses directly.

Ari: Yeah. And I mean, I did find it interesting that Meg was saying that they are considering starting to charge less because, as she said, the vast majority of their funds would still come from donations and grants and that kind of thing. A very small percentage would come from sales, but it’s about skin in the game. So especially for people who are trying to create a transformation, it doesn’t necessarily need to be high ticket. It doesn’t need to be very highly priced, but some kind of cost to it to make sure that whoever is involved is actually going to do the work can be useful.

And then if, on the other hand, they’re coming in person, for instance, then there is that peer group that’s kind of forcing that accountability and possibly taking that place. I think it’s a very interesting path to be able to find funding and kind of not need to sell your courses for a high ticket price in order to make your business work. This is definitely a new path. And you want to make sure that you’re doing what needs to be done in order to support the transformation of your students, even if that means charging.

Abe: Yeah, that makes sense. It shows, I think, kind of a little bit of the uncertainty and ambiguity of this field that we don’t really have answers to these questions, right? We can’t even really tell you with any certainty, like, Oh, if you charge for your course, that will definitely increase participation and people achieving results by X percent. Like, we really have no idea. And it could vary a lot from context to context.

Ari: Right, exactly. I mean, we know, in general that tends to be the case, but not always. Same goes for group programs and having that cohort and community. In some cases, that helps a ton. In some cases, not so much. And yeah, well, and this is where piloting is very valuable. Make sure to test these things for yourself.

Abe: Yeah. So the takeaway at the end, I suppose, is just to be open to experimentation and learning from your students.

So Meg Cadoux is the creator and founder of the Anticancer Lifestyle Foundation. To learn more about her and the Anticancer Lifestyle program, you can check out That’s

Thank you for listening to Course Lab. I’m Abe Crystal, co-founder and CEO of Ruzuku, here with my co-host Ari Iny. Course Lab is part of the Mirasee FM podcast network, which also includes such shows as Once Upon a Business and Making It. This episode of Course Lab was produced by Cynthia lamb and Danny Iny is our executive producer.

If you don’t want to miss the excellent episodes coming up on Course Lab, make sure to follow us on YouTube or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And are you enjoying our show? If so, go ahead and leave us a starred review. It really does make a difference. Thank you. And we’ll see you next time.