Colum Alum Spotlight: Roz Varon

After a 2006 breast cancer diagnosis, Roz Varon’s love of travel changed from a hobby to a priority. In 2017, she released her travel memoir, On the Road with Roz: Adventures in Travel and Life. 


Since childhood trips to the Wisconsin Dells, Roz Varon ’80 has always loved to travel. But after a 2006 breast cancer diagnosis, traveling with her family changed from a hobby to a priority.

From Disneyland to Israel, Varon began collecting her travel stories in On the Road with Roz, a blog for ABC7 (where she’s worked as a traffic anchor for 28 years). Now, those stories appear in her book, On the Road with Roz: Adventures in Travel and Life, which came out August 2017.

Varon talked with us about her jet-setting ways—including why her cancer story appears in the book but never overshadows the story of her life: It might change the way I think about things, but cancer doesn’t define me,” she says.




Why is travel important to you?

Travel is important to me because the world is a very big place and it broadens your mind, it broadens your experience. It makes you look at things through other people’s eyes.

When I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2006, traveling became more of a bucket list than just a passion because I loved it so much and I didn’t know how much time I had left. I mean, who does, really—with anything? But I kind of accelerated those travel plans. I started taking a lot more trips and going to a lot of place that I really wanted to see.




What has been your favorite trip?

My favorite trip by far was driving Route 66. You just see so many different parts of Americana, from urban to suburban to the country to the mountains. You meet the most interesting people along the way. So many people from Europe come to the United States specifically to drive Route 66. That was the most amazing trip I have ever taken in my life. 



You studied Mass Communications with a focus on Radio at Columbia. How does that affect your writing?

I was always really afraid to write.  It’s a funny story because when I was taking radio-broadcasting classes and I had to write news for radio. Back then, it was rip and read.  You had hard wire copy that you would tear off [to read on air.] I would look at this wire copy and go, “I don’t know how to do this.” I was so afraid to write.  And, low and behold, I end up in television writing stories all the time and then writing this book.



How do you tackle the subject of cancer in your book?

I do talk about my cancer journey in a couple of chapters. That’s why it’s called Adventures in Travel and Life, but it’s not primarily about my cancer journey. It comes up because it comes up in my life.  [The book is] almost like a travel diary. As I was editing the book and going through all these chapters, I was watching my daughter grow up. She’s going to be 22 next month. The first trip we took, she was in middle school.



Can you talk about your work as an advocate for breast cancer awareness, and why that’s important?

It’s important to be your own advocate. You have to fight for yourself and be an educated consumer when it comes to your health. You know, early detection is so key, but regardless of how or when it’s detected, you have to go in there and ask questions. Bring somebody with you, because it’s a very emotional time when you’re diagnosed. I tell people the initial diagnosis is the worst part of having breast cancer, or any cancer, because your world is turned upside down. Once you have some information and you have a plan in place, you feel like you’re a little bit more in control. 



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