She Was Diagnosed With Terminal Cancer—So She Started a Podcast

Alison Hadden

“I’m fueled by an insatiable drive to help as many people as possible, in a way that only I can.”

Alison Hadden was a lifelong athlete, adventurer, and marketing executive when she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer at 38. It metastasized to her brain in 2020, which means she’s now grappling with a terminal diagnosis. But she’s also on a quest to leave her mark on the world: Her podcast, No Time to Waste, is devoted to conversations with big-name guests like Matthew McConaughey, Nora McInerny, Lance Armstrong, Chelsea Handler, Andy Puddicombe, and even Katie. (Here’s a link to that must-listen episode.) On the show, they talk about how their lives have been touched by grief, and the incredible things they’ve learned in the process.

Though it might seem intimidating (or just unpleasant), Hadden’s devoted to helping people confront their mortality — in the hope that it’ll help them live today with more intention and meaning. We asked her to tell us about the creation of the podcast, and what it’s like to live boldly in the face of death.

Recovering from emergency brain surgery in May 2020

You were given a terminal cancer diagnosis in August 2020 and are now “living in three-month increments.” Why did you decide to dedicate your life to No Time to Waste?

Initially, it came from a burning desire to violently shake everyone I passed and yell at them to be grateful for every single day and stop wasting time, because none of us know how much we have left. Realizing that would be both scary and unproductive, I started accepting invitations to speak on stage which led to learning how to produce a podcast after Covid cancelled events, and I didn’t want to stop spreading the message because people told me how much it was helping them.

Now, in many ways, it feels like everything in my life — personally and professionally — has led to here; that spreading this message of No Time to Waste is what I was put on this Earth to do. I have the privilege of having these incredibly rich and intimate discussions with exceptional humans. That’s been so healing and soul-filling for me personally. I’m fueled by an insatiable drive to help as many people as possible, in a way that only I can. 

I like to say I’m so unlucky in that my cancer continues to progress, but so lucky that I’ve found myself finally living the purpose-driven life I always knew I was meant for — it’s just come at quite the cost. 

Your podcast is about how to live, but it’s also about how to die. What have you learned through these interviews?

I’ve learned so much, and I continue to evolve and grow with every conversation. If I had to distill all of it, here’s what I know: 

-Just as we cannot have life without death, it’s in confronting our mortality that we are able to live most fully. The more aware we are of the finiteness of life, the more likely we are to have it influence our decisions every day on how to spend our precious time. That should result in a life with more meaning and intention — a good life.

Grief is incredibly complex and non-linear. It’s experienced and expressed differently by every individual, and isn’t limited exclusively to feelings of sadness. There can be beauty, joy, and big, big love that can sit alongside those feelings of loss. We just need to learn how to hold those all of those feelings at the same time. And grief doesn’t have to be the loss of a loved one — it can be the loss of anything held dear. So, in many ways, the entire world is in the midst of processing their grief around the pandemic. I’m grateful it’s become part of the global conversation.

-It’s in talking about death and dying — bringing the conversation into the light — that we actually ease the suffering of those grieving, because silence isolates. You’d think with death being the only universal inevitability, we’d be more comfortable talking about the topic. But sadly, we still avoid it. And I believe the human race deserves better. 

Amanda on a snowboarding trip in February 2021

You talk about how taboo death still is. What advice do you have for people who have friends and family who’ve lost a loved one, but don’t know how to help?

So often, people apologize in hindsight for going dark because they didn’t know what to say. So for starters, reach out and say something — anything — without expectation. Just let them know you’re thinking about them. It could be as simple as “I’m so sorry. I have no words. I just want to to know we’re here and thinking of you often.”

I’d also recommend instead of asking “how can I help?” you just tell them what you’re going to do to help (drop off meals, mow their lawn, shovel their snow, take their dog for a walk, etc). Because the griever is likely not in a place to make decisions, and you don’t want to burden them. Then I’d make a note in the calendar to check back regularly, because after the initial barrage of support, life gets quiet and grievers can feel forgotten. 

I can only speak from my own experience, though. Rabbi Steve Leder shepherded thousands of families through loss over the last 30+ years: His book, “The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift” is a field guide for anyone navigating grief. It’s at the top of my recommendation list, but there’s more resources available on my website

You’ve interviewed quite the lineup on your podcast — which interview surprised you the most?

Peloton Instructor Adrian Williams is this exceptionally strong, fit athlete. But he’s got a beaming smile that hinted at a big heart underneath those bulging muscles. In our conversation, he opened up about some highly personal regrets he carried and showed his vulnerability. He almost channeled Van Jones — someone I admire as a “model of a modern man” who I’d also love to talk to. 

Two of my other most-cherished conversations were with Rabbi Steve Leder and my Dad, both sleeper episodes that turned out to be unexpected fan favorites. 

Listen to Katie’s episode of No Time to Waste here!

I love your philosophy about life after death: Can you share that with us? 

I ask every guest for their POV on this. At this point, I have to believe there’s something after our time here on Earth; this isn’t all there is. I can’t tell you exactly what happens but I’m holding on to the hope that this is just one chapter in a long series of adventures. When I think about the wonders of nature, the magic of outer space, and other things my pea-sized brain just can’t wrap its head around, I remind myself I can believe in something I don’t quite understand. Maybe that’s faith?

I’m told by those who’ve sat with hundreds of people in their final hours, that no one is ever anxious or afraid at the end. I’m going to take that as a leading indicator that I’m going to be OK. We’re all going to be OK. So whatever’s coming next is going to be totally different but it’s also going to be amazing. And if this vision brings me comfort during my remaining days on Earth, and I end up being wrong, what’s the harm anyway? 

The more I learn about dying, the more comfort it brings me. That’s why I’m so motivated to bring this conversation to the forefront and share the end-of-life resources I’ve only recently discovered. I believe that if only people knew more, they wouldn’t be so scared, so that’s part of what I’m trying to do now with No Time to Waste.

Learn more about Alison notimetowasteproject.com or @notimetowasteproject

It’s Almost Tax Day — Here’s How This Tax Prep Company Pivoted Amid Covid-19

Katie Couric catches up with H&R Block’s Jeff Jones

The latest episode of my podcast Next Question features a conversation I had with H&R Block CEO Jeff pre-Covid-19 — before masks and social distancing were the norm — about how H&R Block is creating a more inclusive work environment. But then the country went into lockdown in March, right as Jeff was preparing for the company’s busiest time of the year: tax season.

Now, with the extended tax deadline right around the corner — that’s July 15, everyone! — I caught up with Jeff for a follow-up interview, as so much has changed in the world since then. He told me how H&R Block has pivoted in the midst of a pandemic to provide support for small businesses, while also creating a safer socially-distant model for clients to do their taxes. Read our conversation below… and listen to the episode here.

Katie Couric: What do you miss most about the period people are calling “B.C.” (Before Covid-19)?

Jeff Jones: It’s almost hard to remember “B.C.” days at this point but I definitely miss the spontaneity of a last-minute date night, a hallway conversation with a colleague or greeting a friend with a hug or handshake. I miss when conversations about the wellbeing of others didn’t turn into politics. While the pandemic has created a crisis in many parts of our lives, there are silver linings too. On a personal note, that has mainly been about time at home with my wife, and two daughters who are home from school, doing something as simple as enjoying dinner together.

How has H&R Block adjusted to doing business during the pandemic?

The response and resiliency of H&R Block associates during the pandemic has been amazing. We pivoted many aspects of our business model — almost literally overnight — in mid-March. For example, we were in the middle of the tax season when Covid-19 hit and had approximately 1,400 customer service agents answering customer calls across 10 different call center locations. Within just a few weeks, we had 85% of the agents working from home.

Within days, we pivoted to a primarily drop off model nationwide to support social distancing in our offices. We are even piloting in three cities a ‘pick-up’ model allowing clients to schedule for an H&R Block associate to pick up their tax documents from their home and then prepare the tax return remotely. We offered our virtual tax prep service, Tax Pro Go, free of charge to frontline workers in May and June, and we were one of the first in the nation to offer a stimulus payment calculator on our website.

Throughout the pandemic, everyone’s well-being has been very important to us. That’s why we implemented an absence policy for all 70,000 seasonal associates which provided new paid benefits and flexibility during the peak of the pandemic. And, we are continuing deep cleanings of our offices and taking several social distancing measures as we push toward the July 15 extended tax filing deadline.

You’ve always been committed to helping small businesses. What is H&R Block doing to help support this especially vulnerable sector of our economy during this time?

H&R Block believes small businesses are key to the vibrancy and success of every community. We serve approximately 2.5 million small business a year and we are committed to supporting small business as part of our community impact platform, Make Every Block Better. During the pandemic, we took several steps to help small businesses.

We launched a Covid-19 Resource Hub for small business owners on our website. We provided information, including questions small business owners may have about the Paycheck Protection Program, and other federal stimulus programs. We joined the Stand for Small coalition, which was launched by American Express. Stand for Small is a group of leading companies representing several industries, that joined forces to support small businesses as they navigate the impacts of Covid-19 with resources and offers located on a centralized portal.

We were one of the first in the country to help small businesses navigate the CARES Act stimulus options with our Recovery Action Plan service. … Again, we believe small businesses are vital to local economies, and as the son of small business owners, I know firsthand how hard being a small business owner can be during the best of times, let alone trying to survive during a pandemic.

H&R Block has been praised for its commitment to diversity — what’s your perspective on this moment of racial reckoning? Tell us about the specific actions H&R Block is taking to address racism.

In late May when the protests began, I wanted to know how H&R Block associates were feeling — especially our Black associates. I sent out an email to everyone that said, “I’m reaching out to check on you… I wanted you to know I am here. Please share your thoughts and ideas with me.” It started with listening empathetically. I received hundreds of emails from associates. They shared their fears and worries, personal experiences with racism, and ideas about what we could do as a company to stop racism. It was impactful. They shared powerful stories about their lives.

Two weeks ago, we announced the actions we will take as an organization toward equality and belonging that you can read more about here. There are five main areas of focus: 1) We are examining our hiring practices and will be more intentional in our recruitment efforts by partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as Black student groups and professional organizations, 2) We are educating all associates to help them uncover their biases and providing training to equip our leaders to have conversations about bias and racism with their teams, 3) We are increasing our training efforts with a more robust bias training and will require an in-depth workshop training for all of our leaders, representing more than 200 associates, 4) We are evaluating our policies and practices by making sure zero tolerance for any form of racism is explicitly noted in our policies, and we are beginning a new minority-owned business supplier program, and 5) We are ensuring a portion of the dollars and volunteer hours of our community impact program, Make Every Block Better support Black small business owners and causes benefiting underserved urban neighborhoods. We are also forming new partnerships with national and Kansas City organizations focused on racial equality.

While we are living during an important time in history, this is more than a moment — it’s a movement, and I believe it is up to every person, company, government, etc. to do their part to end systemic racism once and for all.

How are you spending time at home? What are you watching, reading, cooking, listening to?

A lot of my time at home has been working — leading H&R Block through the business crisis caused by the pandemic — but I’m using my time differently. I’ve been prioritizing well-being even more, committing to taking mental health breaks during the day and walking 20+ miles a week to recharge.

The impromptu meetings with a colleague have become impromptu chats with my wife or daughters over lunch at the kitchen counter. As a family, we definitely have watched more television together…including, yes, Tiger King. We’ve done large puzzles and celebrated our youngest turning 18 and graduating high school. We Zoom with friends, and my wife and I have enjoyed discovering new brands of tequila. The quality time with our dogs, Fergus and Frankie, has brought us all closer. A couple of months ago on Twitter I discovered an artist who was doing “mini” paintings of Covid-related themes. I was inspired by her work and commissioned eight pieces, all of which represent individual moments from this pandemic that I want to remember forever. Art is a powerful force in coping with difficult times.

Jeff Jones

This originally appeared on Medium.

What Danica Patrick Wants You To Know About Wellness

The all-star racer chats about her podcast and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers

Danica Patrick is best known an all-star racing driver, but this year she took on a new role: podcast host. On Pretty Intense, the racing champ interviews other remarkable people — from Gloria Steinem to Neil deGrasse Tyson — to find out what motivates them and get to the core of what makes them who they are. We chatted with Danica about the show, as well as her own approach to wellness. (And of course, we had to ask about her relationship with NFL star Aaron Rodgers!)


You’ve served as a major inspiration to young women in racing. You’re retired from the sport now, but do you still follow it?

I watch it like a casual fan now — I find myself watching all the popular races that everybody watches. As a fan, I’m like, “Oh it’s Talladega, or Daytona, I’ve gotta tune in!” Sometimes I’ll check results on ESPN. But do I watch every single weekend, and go to races, and have a real opinion on things? No. But I definitely still pay attention!

Your groundbreaking career in racing began early on — you were a young go-karting champion before you even became a professional racer. How do you think you became so motivated at such a young age?

My parents led by example with hard work, that’s for sure. I remember being a kid, and my parents would sometimes work until 2 a.m. at their shop, and my sister and I would sleep at the shop with them in sleeping bags. That’s the kind of hard work they put in. Not only to make money and be successful, but to be able to afford the life that they wanted for us. Their hard work paid for everything from my racing, to new clothes every year for school, to family trips. My parents were really hard workers. Their example has been ingrained in both my sister and me.

I also moved to England when I was a teenager — I lived there from age 16 to 19. Traveling, and adapting to a new environment, really forces you to grow up. I think the best thing you can do with kids is push them out of their comfort zone, which traveling did for me.

Now you have a podcast, the aptly-titled ‘Pretty Intense.’ What’s your goal with this show?

The core of what I’m interested in is health and wellness. So topics from fitness to food to mental well-being… you name it. An extension of that is the concept of personal growth, and how different people face challenges and learn from them. When we enter spaces that feel really difficult, it’s easy to fall into old patterns.

So with the podcast, I really want to learn from various different people what they did when that difficult moment hit, and how they got through it. I want listeners to relate their own stories to something they hear on my show. Or maybe an interview you hear just plants a seed, so if something comes up in your life, that reminds you of the conversation and you can go, “Oh, this is the part where I have to dig in. Now that things are difficult I should actually feel hopeful, because I’m about to have a breakthrough.” I want to help people to stop feeling like they’re stuck. And I think that’s a part of wellness.

Describe your ideal dream guest for us.

I mean… Oprah! Or Brené Brown would be amazing. Anybody that’s open. I love guests that are willing to tell their stories, no matter how ugly or challenging or embarrassing they are. Because we all have them. So we can relate. Vulnerability is so relatable. On top of that, someone has to be a really great storyteller, and have some opinions and perspective on certain topics. That takes an interview far. Every interview is a little bit different, but I love when people can take their own story and offer action points. Because you can consciously understand something, but how do you reprogram the subconscious to actually act on something and change your behavior? That takes action points — for instance, what can I be doing differently on a daily basis that can reprogram my subconscious, and create a better reality for me?

You can’t make someone change — they have to make the decision for themselves. Wellness comes from within, and it starts with the mind.

That’s so true. In that same vein, you’ve said that your boyfriend Aaron Rodgers helps you “go with the flow.” You’re both pro athletes, and incredibly busy. So what does a Saturday afternoon with nothing to do look like for the two of you?

We cook together a lot. Sometimes we play cards, sometimes we read together, sometimes we just have coffee and chit chat. We listen to music a lot. Other than sports, we really don’t watch a lot of TV. I don’t think I’ve turned the TV on in the morning in a year. But we do watch a lot of sports together. We enjoy being stimulated, and growing, which is what I think makes us both so optimistic. When you’re in a growth mindset, you can be open to new thoughts and perspectives. Rigidity can be a real problem in any part of your life, including relationships. It can be alienating. But Aaron and I both think the same way: We know how important it is to talk to each other and grow together and work to understand each other. I’m very lucky. He pushes me in some areas and I push him in others.

On top of everything else you’re doing, you own a vineyard, Somnium, in Napa. We’re of course thinking about California now, especially in light of the fires there. How is the Wine Country community rallying together?

It’s unbelievable. It feels like an unprecedented problem. The fires were so bad two years ago, and they’re so bad again. Thankfully they’ve come a little later, but when I was there a few weeks ago, most of the town had the power shut down. Yet here we are with more fires. It’s really destructive.

But the valley does a really good job of supporting each other. The fundraising the community does is so helpful in fighting the fires, but also to help people who have been displaced. People there really take care of each other, and the firefighters are putting themselves on the line to save everything from people to vineyards to homes. They are incredible.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.com

Sophia Bush on the Joy of Working in Your Pajamas

The actor and activist explores why we’re all “works in progress” on her new podcast

Here’s a secret about humans: Even if someone seems like they’re on top of the world, in truth, we’re all just works in progress. Sophia Bush explores this concept in her new podcast… aptly titled, Work In Progress with Sophia Bush. The One Tree Hill actor, and passionate advocate for women and girls, features interviews with a variety of people (ahem, including yours truly!) to discover what they’re still working on — professionally and personally. Check out our episode of the podcast (premiering Tuesday, October 15), and read for more.

Katie Couric: Sophia, you’ve had a successful career in acting and you’ve done important work as an activist. Now, you’ve entered the pod game. What inspired you to take the leap?

Sophia Bush: I have been so fortunate to exist in such interesting communities — activists, creatives, political leaders, writers, musicians and more — and I realized that so many of the most fascinating conversations that I’m privy to would make for a great podcast. Being able to take the conversations that I get to have with audiences online into a deeper and longer-form space felt so natural to me. And exciting! That natural expression of my love of journalism and deep talks feels like the next right step.

On the podcast, I get to run the gamut of topics. It’s so much fun. It’s a space to have creative, personal, professional and sometimes political conversations with people I admire. And we get to dive into passion, motivation and drive. I have the opportunity to ask each of these incredible folks what they still feel like they’re working on, and what, to them, still feels like a work in progress.

Sophia Bush’s new podcast, “Work In Progress”

So, what have you really enjoyed about this format?

I love that it provides an open runway to deep curiosity. Being able to dive into the marrow of things with guests has been such an inspiring experience. I feel so fulfilled, and simultaneously so curious every day. It’s given me a container for my natural curiosity and obsession with how things work, from creative practice to political activism to the big systems we all participate in. The format is a gift.

Many of us have seen your work in front of the camera, but you’ve also been behind the camera as well, in terms of directing and producing. How are you drawing on these experiences with your podcast?

No matter what content vertical I’m working in, I’m a storyteller. And as an actor, my job is to figure out what makes people tick. That’s my favorite part, really. I’ve always been the actor who likes to attend production meetings and episode scouts, to really understand what makes the set and the crew tick. That’s informed so much of my work as a producer, which applies here very seamlessly. In this vertical, I get to figure out what makes people tick in such an in-depth and fun way, and do that in my pajamas if I feel like it. That’s real freedom for a storyteller!

What can listeners look forward to with the podcast? Any favorite interviews so far? (No pressure…)

Other than ours!? Really, our conversation was so much fun. Thank you for being so vulnerable and thoughtful. I’m also over the moon about my episode with Gloria Steinem. Karamo Brown was a highlight, as was Chelsea Handler. I had one of my longest conversations so far with Evan McMullin, who is a dear friend and happens to be the former foreign policy director for the GOP. People may not expect us to be pals, or to find points on which we agree about the future of American democracy, but we really do. I think it’ll be a very eye-opening conversation for my audience. I also sat down with Lisa Ling, and our conversation just lit up my brain! She’s another journalist that I admire so very much. Everyone has been incredible so far!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.com