Selma Ruth Schimmel


Dear Friends:

On behalf of the Vital Options International (VO) Board of Directors and myself, it is with deep sadness that I notify you of the passing of our beloved founder, Selma Ruth Schimmel.

Selma died on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 of complications from the disease for which she worked so tirelessly to help others cope. She passed at Providence Tarzana Medical Center near her home in Los Angeles from malignant psoas syndrome, a complication of the ovarian cancer for which she was being treated.

Selma was a visionary who helped thousands of people afflicted with cancer to talk about their disease. In 1983, after she learned of her diagnosis of breast cancer, she founded Vital Options to provide emotional and psychosocial support to young adults with cancer. Since then, she enriched the lives of thousands of patients, caregivers, advocates, and physicians whose lives have been impacted by cancer. She has produced hundreds of educational radio and video shows for the patient community as part of The Group Room. In 1999 Talkers Magazine® named Selma one of the 100 most important radio talk-show hosts in America. Her book, Cancer Talk: Voices of Hope and Endurance from The Group Room, the World’s Largest Cancer Support Group, was published in 1999 by Broadway Books, a division of Random House (also translated to Chinese).

In 2000 Vital Options officially became an international charity based out of the American Hospital of Paris and run by Dr. Claude-Alain Planchon under the name Choix Vital.

Selma also produced videos for the oncology professional community. Among her credits are The Group Room and Advocacy In Action. She filmed interviews and moderated panel discussions at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), and at every other major oncology conference.  Vital Options serves as a content provider for the European Society For Medical Oncology (ESMO) and has filmed medical conferences throughout Europe.

Selma’s leadership spanned the cancer community. She was involved in projects with the Institute of Medicine, National Research Council, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship. She was a founding member of the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance steering committee and sat on the C-Change Advisory Committee – “Assuring Value in Cancer Care”. She was recently honored with the C-Change Hidden Heroes award – the 2014 George and Barbara Bush Collaboration Award.

Selma’s religion was an important aspect of her life. She was the daughter of Rabbi Meier Schimmel and Rebbetzin Rochelle Schimmel.  Selma was a very engaged member of the board at Congregation Beth Meier, the first conservative synagogue in Studio City CA., her parents founded more than 50 years ago.

Selma is survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Debby and Ken Bitticks, four nieces, Shari, Michelle, Lynn and Sandi and their husbands, eight wonderful great-nieces and nephews.

A private burial is being held, but there will be a Memorial Celebration of Selma’s Life here in Los Angeles this summer.  This will be open to everyone she touched through her work in cancer advocacy from around the world.  We will send out a save the date notification and post it on the website as soon as those arrangements are made.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you send memorial donations to Vital Options International through or mailed to:  Vital Options International, 17328 Ventura Blvd. #161, Encino, CA 91316


Terry Wilcox