On the last day of the 20th century, as the world geared up for a once-in-a-thousand-years bash, Elaine Glass was at home in Beverly Hills making other plans. She had just been told that she would be welcoming the year 2000 as a lung cancer victim.

That marked the beginning of an odyssey as sad as they come, yet as inspirational as anyone could ever hope for.

Since January 1, 2000 Elaine has twice fought off cancer in both lungs and her bladder. Brain cancer retreated after just one encounter with this gutsy lady.

Score: Elaine 5, Cancer 0. But hold your applause. There’s more.

During this period, Elaine also underwent two hip replacements plus a disc fusion, and she developed diabetes. There were also three bouts with non-contagious tuberculosis, which “compared to everything else, seemed like the sniffles,” she said.

“Everything else” included losing 25% of a lung to cancer. But the damn thing didn’t touch her spirit or dampen her courage. I guessed that as I watched her emerge, all smiles, from a Curves fitness center.

We met on the patio adjoining Curves, where I interviewed her for this story. And where she took command. Before I could ask the first question she announced, beaming and bubbly, that she had trimmed off 12 ½ inches in only 3 ½ months of workouts.

Then with a flourish she whipped out a Curves report to prove it, adding: “It sure beats my last exercise program—dragging the IV back and forth from my oncologist’s treatment room to the bathroom.”

Next on the agenda was her resume. It was short but very impressive. Elaine worked in the motion picture industry for 40 years, over 32 years as Administrative Assistant to  Norman Levy when he was President of Columbia Pictures and Vice Chairman of 20th Century Fox.

Did I guess right about her or what!  This is no woman worn out and worn down by years of unbelievable sorrow and pain. This is a woman who can remain high on life, no matter what hits the fan. And plenty of stuff did.

One of her favorite coping mechanisms is the irreverent response. For example, when her lung cancer was found to be active the second time, she was informed that chemotherapy treatments would be resumed immediately. To which she replied: “I’m finally having a good hair day, and you guys start screwing things up. Can’t I enjoy this for a while?”

Her message got through, as usual. The doctors switched to a special “target” chemotherapy technique that treated the tumor directly without seriously affecting her hair.

The interview showed Elaine to be a giving person, too. At one point she worked at a school playground for kindergarteners through grade 8, “caring for kids I loved and who loved me. That wasn’t a job. That was pure joy,” she said.

Unfortunately only one immediate family member is on Elaine’s grownup playground, which includes a host of friends.  Both parents and her twin sister died of cancer. Another sister, currently in remission, has survived three cancer attacks.

Though upbeat, Elaine Glass has no illusions about her situation, pointing out that “it can be a terrible way to live unless you find reasons to be happy that you’re here to live it.”

There’s a lesson in that for all of us, healthy or otherwise.



  1. Hello Sheldon,
    I can’t thank you enough for doing this post on one of my closest friends ever, Elaine. I met Elaine ten years ago when my son was at the school that Elaine worked at. I loved her the moment I met her. She has one of those personalities where you just feel as though you have known her your whole life.
    I feel like the luckiest person to have her in my life. Still to this day, we e-mail each other daily. She is a huge inspiration to me and I just can’t say enough wonderful things about her.
    She deserves the best life has to offer and I am waiting for it to give her a break and let her enjoy each day without worries of tomorrow.
    She and I have fun and sarcastic personalities which keep us laughing even through the hard times.
    Thank you again for doing this story on such an amazing woman who is such a role model!!!

    Aimee Boschet

  2. I have known Elaine for just about 40 years now, and she is just as beautiful today as she was way back then.
    We are best friends and confidants even though we live at opposite ends of the country.
    Her strength, courage and positive attitude in the face of unfathomable obstacles constantly amazes me. Most would have just gone into a fetal position and given up – but not Elaine.
    SHE is MY rock and I love her like a sister (LULAS) and always will.

  3. Hi Shel.

    What a marvelous blog. This really puts our troubles in perspective. It came at a good time for me. Now I plan to keep up to date on your blog. This medium is all knew to me. I have a lot of catching up to do. Your work is my next project!

    Fondly, Carol

  4. Hi Shel,

    Just finished your Elaine Glass blog, fantastic. It came at a good time for me.Now I plan to keep up to date on your blog.This format is all new to me. I have a lot of catching up to do. Your work is my next peoject!

    Fondly, Carol

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