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Board of Directors

Meet our talented and hard-working Board of Directors


Shirley A. Mertz


Shirley received a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer in 2003, twelve years after being treated for DCIS. After seeking training in the biology of breast cancer and political advocacy, she became a consumer reviewer for the DOD Breast Cancer Research Program and advocate for national health care reform. She joined MBCN in 2007, impressed with the scientific and treatment information she received at a MBCN National Conference and the passion of MBCN organizers. In 2008, Shirley personally asked Senator Evan Bayh to sponsor a Senate Resolution for MBC Awareness Day and then co-chaired the team that traveled to Washington to lobby for Congressional passage.

As a Board member, Shirley focuses on research advocacy, representing MBCN at conferences. She has also worked on the revision of MBCN’s by-laws and on planning the national conference. She assumed the duties of President in 2012. In her professional career, Shirley was an educator and suburban high school principal. She enjoys attending classical music concerts and traveling. She is the proud mother of two adult sons.

Katherine O’Brien

Secretary & Public Relations Chair

Katherine was diagnosed with a small volume of bone mets in 2009 at the age of 43. Meeting Joani Gudeman and Shirley Mertz at a Chicago seminar for people with breast cancer inspired her to attend MBCN’s annual conference in 2010. After her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, she realized very few media accounts featured people living with a Stage IV diagnosis. She was determined to change that–she wrote many letters to the editor and frequently offered feedback to online stories. The late Ellen Moskowitz, then MBCN’s President, read one of Katherine’s letters and invited her to volunteer with the group.

Katherine continues to work full time writing and editing technical articles for a B2B magazine. She’s an avid reader and blogger and enjoys keeping up with her many nephews and nieces. Her travels have taken her to Europe, Israel and many interesting places across the U.S. Katherine is the newest addition to the board and she is looking forward to advancing MBCN’s mission.

Debra Tincher

Conferences & Fundraising Chair

Debra was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 1997 that metastasized in 2009. As a teacher for 30 years, Debra found an outlet for educating people about metastatic breast cancer through MBCN. As Chair of Conferences and Fundraising, she is involved in organizing and planning the annual MBCN Conference and assisting members with their local fundraising events.

Debra grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where she earned her M.Ed. She now lives in Hamilton, Ohio. She is married with a grown son and daughter and and 3 grandchildren. Debra enjoys spending time with her family hiking, fishing and boating at her small cabin in rural Ohio.

Past Board Members In Memoriam

Ginny Knackmuhs

Vice President & Treasurer

Ginny was diagnosed stage IV in April 2009 with a previous history of DCIS in 1992. She began volunteering with MBCN in 2010 and worked on launching the new MBCN website in December of that year.

She served as Vice President and Treasurer as well as volunteer webmaster and editor of Voices newsletter. She was proud to use her technical skills, developed during a career in I.T. for the health information and pharmaceutical industries. A native of upstate New York and graduate of Cornell University, Ginny  lived in New Jersey for the last 30 years. She is married and has three adult children. Ginny died on August 15, 2016. Read our tribute here.

Joani Gudeman

Joani was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2004. In late 2008, Joani found out that the cancer had metastasized. She began volunteering with MBCN in late 2009 and served as Board member, Chair of Volunteers and the website’s story editor.

She used her considerable skills as a psychotherapist to reach out to those in need and to edit publications and website pages to make them more understandable and accessible to all. Joani was a strong advocate for those living with mbc and was often interviewed.

She died on July 25, 2014.

Suzanne Hebert

Suzanne was diagnosed Stage IV in 2004, with no previous history of breast cancer. She became involved in MBCN in 2007 and served in a number of leadership roles, including Treasurer and Vice President.

Suzanne lived with mbc for over 7 years and was an outstanding advocate. Her strong voice and compelling story were featured in the New York Times, ABC News, Wall Street Journal and Cancer Today magazine. She passed away on May 30, 2012. Obituary

Ellen Moskowitz

Ellen was diagnosed with metastatic disease in 2002. She was MBCN President from 2006-2010 and was involved with MBCN from its earliest days. A strong leader and advocate, she was responsible for increasing the size of the organization, and led the successful initiatives of that time period, including the lobbying of Congress to declare October 13 Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day; the development of a metastatic breast cancer information kit; hosting of four national conferences and two regional programs; and a project to redesign the website.

Ellen lived with metastatic breast cancer for 10 years and passed away on June 7, 2012.