Rebecca Timlin-Scalera ’94: Fighting Back, with the Cancer Couch Foundation

Rebecca Timlin-Scalera ’94: Fighting Back, with the Cancer Couch Foundation

When Dr. RebeccaTimlin-Scalera ’94 returned from her Paris birthday celebration in August 2015, she thought her life as a wife, mother of two children, and owner of a neuropsychology practice would proceed as usual. However, at the age of 43, her life plans were dramatically altered with the diagnosis of life-threatening, metastatic breast  cancer (MBC).

Timlin-Scalera was initially diagnosed with Stage 4 MBC and learned that the median survival rates were just three years. “I was stunned that I had such an advanced disease when I had never missed a mammogram or an ultrasound and did self-exams daily.”

Three weeks after her initial diagnosis, she was notified that the disease was upgraded to Stage 3c and a chance at a cure was possible. “Instead of being devastated by having cancer, I was brought to my knees in tears of gratitude that it was not Stage 4.”
While she and her husband were grateful to receive this news, their hearts still weighed heavy thinking about those with Stage 4 cancer. “Knowing that this stage is severely ignored and underfunded, we couldn’t just leave these people behind. I vowed then and there to do something to change the way MBC patients and research money are handled and included in the bigger picture.”
Though always passionate about social causes, starting a non-profit was never something Timlin-Scalera had considered pursuing, but from her chemo bed, she launched The Cancer Couch Foundation, to raise funds exclusively for MBC research. Within six months of its launch, the non-profit Foundation funded two cutting-edge labs at top cancer research centers that study MBC. “We put $125,000 into each lab and started three angel funds for MBC patients all over the country. Now, in just our second year, other organizations have joined us in our mission, allowing us to put $1.2 million into these two labs.”

Timlin-Scalera was a Stag at heart even before she started applying to colleges. She fell in love with Fairfield’s campus and people while visiting her older sister, Vivian (Timlin) Ciampi ’92. “I loved the fact that you could live on the beach. I remember visiting my cousin, Julie (Swengros) Curtis ’81, at Fairfield when I was a little girl and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. It was a combination of the nice people, the small, but not too small size of the school, and the location— a great suburban setting close to New York City— that made me love this University.”

A psychology major with minors in Spanish and business, following graduation Timlin-Scalera moved back to Windsor, Conn. with her parents and worked as a bilingual vocational counselor for Easter Seals, a non-profit outpatient provider of medical and vocational rehabilitation services, and prepared for the GREs. It was the late Mark Worden, PhD, a professor of psychology at Fairfield University for 30 years, who encouraged Timlin-Scalera to stick it out when she wavered about pursuing a doctoral degree. “I took my mentor’s advice, and it was the best career decision I ever made.”

While she graduated from Fairfield over 20 years ago, the University will forever impact her life. “Through my experience studying abroad in Madrid during my junior year, being the captain of the first Division One women’s soccer team, meeting my soul mate, husband Thomas Scalera ’93, making lifelong friends, and getting a great undergraduate education, I gained so much from Fairfield and I am thankful that it prepared me for pursuing and obtaining a PhD and having a great career in psychology.”
Rebecca and Thomas currently reside in Monroe, Conn. with their two children, Bella, 12, and Luca, 9, and dog, Skye. Their family is very active in the Stag community, and Timlin-Scalera encourages current and future Stags to do the same. “College can really be as much a part of your life as you want it to be. My family and I are members of and use the beautiful new RecPlex, we often attend Fairfield athletics games and lectures, and visit the bookstore. I’ve realized over time how connected I am to this great institution and it takes up a greater importance in my life than I ever realized it would. It feels like being part of a larger family.”