10 Questions: Journalist and Author Lu Ann Cahn

Veteran journalist Lu Ann Cahn pens her first book.

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Veteran journalist Lu Ann Cahn has reported for NBC10 for the past 26 years. She's won awards and beat cancer. Now she's penned her first book titled "I Dare Me." 

What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

1) Passionate... I've just always done things 100 percent. Sometimes this is great and sometimes this drives people around me a little crazy. 2) Persistent (and stubborn)... Once I dig into something I don't quit. 3) Sometimes I'm a goofball and totally disorganized (just check out the inside of my car).

What inspired you to write “I Dare Me?”

I was stuck in a way I hadn't experienced before. Change was all around me. The economy was tanking. There were cutbacks. At the same time, the sea of new technology and social media was coming at me and I didn't want to adopt any of it. For the first time I felt old and out of step. I knew I had to change but didn't know how. I was stuck.  My daughter, Alexa, convinced me I needed something outside of work, a creative outlet to get me out of my funk. A Year of Firsts, the blog, was born out of shear frustration and opened up my life again. I wrote "I Dare Me" with the intention of sharing what I learned and to inspire others to try new things.

In describing highlights from your television career, what kind of impact have your stories had?

Wow....I've been doing this for decades so there are lots of highlights. I'd have to say I experience the incredible power of television news when I went public with my breast cancer diagnosis and journey in 1991. I'm still amazed, touched and in a way honored when women tell me they got their first mammogram because of my story. I've been to two Olympics. The one in Lillehammer and the one in Atlanta. Covering the Nancy Kerrigran/Tanya Harding scandal upclose and the bombing in Atlanta are experiences I'll never forget. I was part of the investigative team that won a national emmy for exposing the illegal bar in the dry town of Colwyn. And I interviewed Bradley Cooper. It was the only time my daughter said I really sounded stupid on tv because I was so nervous.

You did 365 “dares” or “firsts,” which two would you like to brag about?

I was extremely proud of myself for doing the Polar Bear Plunge in Atlantic City. First of all, I barely go in the ocean in the summer. Second, I had to wear a bathing suit in the freezing cold. Third, it's one of those things I always said I would never do and I did it.

I was proud I had this incredible conversation with a complete stranger in Rittenhouse Square. A friend dared me to find someone who looked completely different from me and have a real discussion. I actually was surprised at how difficult it was to just plop yourself next to someone and say "Hi". I sat next to a man I thought might be homeless. It turned out he was a retired investment banker and his wife had just died of breast cancer. I told him I was a breast cancer survivor. We connected in a way that just touched my heart. I know he felt good too telling me about his wife. If I didn't have video, I might have thought he was an angel. I've never seen him again.

Did you have a strategy or formula for picking your firsts each day?

There was no formula to picking the firsts. Some days I worked from a list I had. Some days I had to wing it. I had no idea what I would do but I always knew I had to come up with something. Friends, family , readers and viewers gave me great ideas. Sometimes my "first" was just saying YES to something I would normally say no to doing. Some days a "first" would just happen. The key was I had to be open to anything and everything.

What was the most poignant takeaway you learned after an entire year of "firsts?"

We are never "done." When you stop learning, growing and doing new things you are living what I call a "flat line life".....beeeeep.....living dead. I learned to live full-out every day requires pushing yourself outside your comfort zone on a regular basis and that's when the world opens up to you.

You’re a survivor. How has beating cancer and sharing your story benefitted you and others? What have you learned by being an “open book?”

I think because I've lost so many body parts (a breast to breast cancer, my large intestine to ulcerative colitis, part of my right kidney to cancer...and other spare parts), I'm very aware how precious life is. When I was stuck for a year, that was unacceptable to me. I know in some ways it's just a miracle I'm still here. I feel compelled to make every day count. My mother lost her colon to ulcerative colitis too. As a child, I saw her share her story with women who needed surgery and I saw how it made such a difference. I wanted to be just like my mom.

How do you reach your goals?

A woman at a conference asked a great question: ”How do I get from where I’m at to my goal which seems so far away and unachievable?” I suggested it’s not the straight direct path that we dream of and imagine. It starts with getting in the habit of taking risks and doing new things. Every time we do something new, I believe it’s like throwing a pebble in the universal karmic pond of life. There are ripples. There’s expanding energy.

How did you find the energy to do all these first tasks? Were there any changes in your diet? 

I do work out every day and I watch my diet but I LOVE FOOD so it's hard sometimes. I think because of my health issues in the past I've learned to try to support my body in every way I can because I need to keep the parts I have left. Expending energy for me seems to create energy.
Many of my Firsts were new ways of exercising and I think it's a great way for anyone to start doing new things. Keep your body guessing what you're going to do next.

Can you share a fun tidbit from the project that you learned?

When I was researching I learned study after study shows the brain loves new things. The brain is happy to have a challenge to work on....and the brain is us, right? So feed your brain something, anything new.

Nothing new happens when you do the same thing every day. When you do something new for the first time, you create possibilities and new energy. Hula hooping and eating a scorpion may seem silly but these little firsts add freshness to life. As you get used to daring yourself to get outside your box you will cumulatively gain more confidence to pursue the life you want.

Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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