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Author, Podcaster Bryan Bishop Named 2023 National Conference Keynote Speaker

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2023 ABTA National Conference, September 8-9

The ABTA is excited to announce Bryan Bishop, also known as “Bald Bryan,” as the 2023 National Conference keynote speaker. Bryan is a 14-year brain tumor survivor and American radio and podcasting personality, known for his career with “The Adam Carolla Show.”

In May of 2009, Bryan publicly shared to fans and followers that he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor—just two months before his wedding.

Bryan inspired fans by sharing his experience in the New York Times best-selling book, Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage, and the Tumor That Tried to Kill Me,” published by MacMillan in 2014.

Bryan has spoken at companies including SpaceX, Genentech, Stupid Cancer, and has served as a brain tumor community advocate in a variety of different roles.

A native of the Bay Area, Bryan now lives with his wife, Christie, and daughter, Tessa, in Los Angeles. 

MindMatters sat down with Bryan to catch up on life since his diagnosis and some exciting projects he has in the works.

Tell us about your initial diagnosis and where you were at in life.

I was diagnosed in April of 2009 with a brain-stem glioma, which is inoperable because it’s right there with all the cranial nerves. Initially, the doctor who diagnosed me quoted six months to a year as a prognosis. I was two months out from our wedding. My then fiancée and I were due to be married in two months, so this came as quite a shock, to say the least.  

I ended up with a different healthcare team who guided me through all the steps—chemotherapy, radiation, everything. It was a very tough initial treatment. I didn’t fare so well early on.

It’s now 14 years later and you’ve clearly defied your original prognosis. What has changed since then and how are you doing now?

It looked like maybe six months to a year might be accurate, but then they put me on a new medication at that time (September 2009) called Avastin. And that really turned things around for me dramatically.  

It kept me alive and kicking for over a decade until my tumor started to grow back around the time of COVID-19. I was put on some other medicationssome tough, toxic medicationbut the good news is it worked. 

I’m doing pretty well, still plugging away and getting my infusions and MRIs regularly, meeting with my doctor every couple of months. But that’s the price we pay. 

How did you get started working in broadcast radio and podcasting?

I remember being 10-, 11-, or 12-years old, listening to baseball games on the radio. I just loved the sort of mystique of it all. And then as I got older, I listened to Howard Stern and Loveline with Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew.  

Fast-forward to the era of podcasting, and that’s essentially radio in your own time, radio from your own home studio, if you will. So, it felt like a very natural thing that I was always kind of interested in. And then to be able to work in that, I did the radio morning show for three-plus years, and then Adam Carolla’s podcast for about 16 years. It was an awesome time to be a part of all that. 

What role has humor played in your life and how you tell your story?

It’s interesting, because as we speak, I’m working on a documentary about young adult cancer, and it’s kind of specifically skewed towards humor in cancer. We’re really diving into that and exploring that, the relationship between humor and cancer. And I can say for myself, maybe it’s a defense mechanism. 

Early on, when my tumor was advancing pretty rapidly, I was on a walker for many months. A 29-30-year-old using a walker was pretty jarring to people, but I would use the walker and come into the room wherever I was and say, “Grandpa’s here,” and kind of put people at ease, or at least make people aware that, Oh, this is an absurd situation, so by all means, please laugh.”

In your book, “Shrinkage,” you share the highs, the lows and everything in between that you went through. What kind of feedback have you received?

I was not prepared for the very unified outpouring of people who’ve read the book since it was published in 2014. We’re coming up on 10 years now, and I have people to this day who email me or reach out on Twitter and say, “Hey man, my dad is going through something similar. My brother was diagnosed with something similar. I sent him your book and it really helped me and them.”

I was shocked and very humbled by how helpful people found the book.

That’s one thing I think people don’t realize, is the sense of helplessness that a lot of people feel, universally, when someone close to them is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It really opened my eyes and changed my life in the sense that I, ironically, wrote about in the book, is you never know who’s watching and looking at you as an inspiration, just for being yourself. 

Our readers may not know that you are finishing up a documentary—a project that’s been in the works for several years now. Tell us about it.

It’s about young adult cancer, and it’s kind of specifically skewed towards humor in cancer and exploring the relationship between the two.  

We are mostly done with production. We have a couple of things left to shoot, but we’ve been shooting it for six years off and on, of course, all throughout COVID, all throughout my tumor recurrence. And it is overwhelming, being the first movie I’ve ever made. 

Being more behind the scenes…that’s great. It’s where I belong, honestly, because when I do the interviews with survivors, I’m learning from them. They’re teaching me essentially how to laugh at cancer, what they went through, how it’s absurd and crazy and ridiculous, and no young person should have to deal with this, and yet, here we are.

What life lessons have you learned throughout your career and treatment?

I follow some humorous cancer meme accounts, many of which laugh at the common saying you’ll hear of, Oh, just stay positive,” which can sound very pithy. I think when people tell you to “stay positive,” what they really mean and what’s more valuable is to be resilient.

You’ll have bad days, you’ll get a bad test result, or you’ll get news that the treatment you’re on isn’t working… you’re going to get knocked down a lot. It’s really about how you pick yourself up. It’s about how you regroup and put the pieces back together once you’ve been broken.

Bad things will happen, and you need to know that they’re going to happen, so you’re more prepared to bounce back from them. The only way you’re getting through this is to be resilient. 

You'll have bad days or you'll get a bad test result...you're going to get knocked down a lot. It’s really about how you pick yourself up. It's about how you regroup and put the pieces back together once you've been broken.

Hear Bryan Bishop share his keynote address at the 2023 National Conference on Friday, September 8. In-person attendees will receive a signed copy of Bryan’s book. The conference will be held at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel and streamed virtually. Make plans to join us for the conference and register for free today!

Jessie Schlacks

Jessie Schlacks

Jessie is Managing Editor of the bi-monthly e-newsletter MindMatters. Submit story ideas or questions to jschlacks@abta.org.