In Memoriam: Nancy Herard-Marshall, a Vibrant Voice for Equity & Healing

The MBC Alliance celebrates the life and work of member Nancy Herard-Marshall, who passed away on May 26, 2024. Nancy, who lived with metastatic breast cancer for four years, was a vibrant and inspiring presence in bringing integrative care to the MBC community and working to end racial disparities in cancer care.

A former dancer and actress, teacher, licensed therapist and healer, and mother to two sons, Nancy used her life experiences to empower and foster healing. Her lifelong commitment to serving her community inspired her to found Gaya Healing Arts to provide a culturally affirming therapeutic approach to Black, Indigenous and people of color – integrating artistic, contemporary, and ancestral healing techniques in her work as a psychotherapist, dance/movement therapist, authentic movement practitioner, and Ra Sekhi Kemetic Reiki practitioner.

As an educator and visiting instructor, Nancy also taught Cultural Competency and Social Justice in the Creative Arts Therapies at Pratt Institute; and worked as a co-curriculum consultant to dismantle and decolonize Pratt’s educational program.

In 2013, Nancy was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ. Though she completed aggressive treatment for her early stage disease, during the COVID-19 pandemic she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. In the face of that diagnosis, she continued to wear many hats while showing up for herself, her family, and her community.

Moving into patient advocacy, Nancy completed Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Hear My Voice leadership training in 2021. As part of the GRASP network, a patient-led program that connects patient advocates with clinicians and researchers, she supported learning exchanges that informed cancer research. As a member of Susan G. Komen’s MBC Steering Committee, she gave presentations for the organization on palliative care and integrative therapies.

She also served as an individual member of the MBC Alliance, joining our Clinical Care Working Group and becoming part of a subcommittee working to change the conversation on palliative care.

As part of her commitment to mind-body wellness, Nancy also transitioned her work with Gaya Healing Arts to focus on the MBC community. Through her newly created MBCmoves! program, she partnered with Project Life to provide free monthly sessions in movement therapy, somatic wellness and conscious dance for those living with MBC. She also lit up the room as a speaker at LBBC’s 2023 annual metastatic breast cancer conference by leading guests in a joyful exploration of movement.

“To experience her energy was memorable, and a gift to all she encountered,” wrote her LBBC colleagues on social media after her passing. “She was passionate about bringing awareness to health disparities in the Black community (and) she will be missed.”

Celebrate Nancy: read her story, dance to her favorite playlist and explore her work on the BeACTive exercise series for Living Beyond Breast Cancer.