Clarion University student, cancer survivor shares story in UPMC commercial production

A Clarion University student has had the opportunity to share her inspirational story with the world. Chelsea Switzer is a communication major with a concentration in journalism and strategic communication. She is also a survivor of ovarian cancer. Switzer and her mother have recently participated in the production of a series of commercials by UPMC, in which actual patients were given the chance to tell their stories. She was first approached by UPMC through her participation in a cancer awareness and fundraiser event. “They had actually gotten in contact with me through an ovarian cancer walk that I was at, and my PA assistant had asked me if I’d be interested, and I said yes,” she said. “I started getting calls from producers, actually, in California, and I had the head of the communications firm at UPMC asking me a bunch of interview questions over the phone. And I kind of thought that was it, until one day they called me and said my mom and I needed to be in Pittsburgh because they were shooting the commercial. It was definitely a jumbled mess; I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen, but it ended up being an actual TV commercial.” One of the other commercials featured a family of five, the mother of whom had had complications during a twin pregnancy. Switzer and her mother got to know the family during the production. Switzer said that she loved the experience, especially since it gave her a chance to view firsthand the type of things she wants to do with her own career. “It was awesome,” Switzer said. “It was nerve-wracking, definitely, because when you were in a certain place, you couldn’t make too much noise or you couldn’t talk because they were recording other people upstairs. But it was nice to be able to see how things worked, whenever that’s [what] I want to do with my major.” She said she had a lot of fun with the coordination of the production when it came to outfitting and makeup. “They made me send pictures of certain colors of clothes that I had to them. They wanted me to bring certain clothes, and they said we could come with our hair done, but not our makeup. So they did our makeup and all that stuff.” The commercial aired on Sunday, Nov. 24 during halftime of the Pittsburgh Steelers game. She had been told that the commercial would first air that Monday, but when Switzer was at work, she began receiving messages from friends. “My phone’s getting blown up, and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what’s going on,’ and they’re like, ‘We just saw you on TV!’” she said. Switzer said she believes that the UPMC commercial was well-done and will be a good way to help spread awareness. “I think they did a really good job. I know [that] how they found what patient to do what was: the doctors and nurses in a certain wing in the hospital voted on who they thought had the most impactful story, and I guess I was brought up. They picked me, as long as I agreed, and I said yes. “I feel like when people see the commercial they see that it’s real life people and [that] not only, like, young kids can get cancer, or older adults, but anyone can, so I know a lot of people who are my age that watch it, they can relate to it just because we’re the same age. And it’s not staged out; you can tell it’s real, and my mom’s telling exactly what happened and how we felt. I just felt like that’s why it makes it more meaningful for people to watch.” As of October 2014, Switzer will be four years cancer-free. “It was definitely a hell ride, but it’s a lot better now,” she said. The UPMC commercial can be viewed at

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