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Surviving Cancer And Making An Impact To Cancer Patients’ Lives With Rob Ciaramitaro

Posted on February 14, 2024

The biggest challenges in our lives should not stop us in our tracks, but rather open up new possibilities for a more meaningful life. Cancer survivor Rob Ciaramirato fully embraced this mindset, unleashing a more purposeful version of himself after going through one of his biggest tests. In this special episode for World Cancer Day, he joins Samuel Adeyinka in looking back how being diagnosed and surviving cancer made him realize the purposeful things he can do through medical sales. Rob also shares what it is like to be in remission for several years, how cancer transformed his sales strategies, and why he wants to be useful for other people in their healthcare experiences.

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Surviving Cancer And Making An Impact To Cancer Patients’ Lives With Rob Ciaramitaro

In this episode, we have with us another special guest and he goes by the name of Rob Ciaramitaro. My opinion is every episode and every guest we have on this show is special because they’re bringing value and bringing you a perspective, information, and even a lifestyle that’s going to give you that much more on what it’s going to mean if you decide to take that step into medical sales or if you’re already here, how you navigate through your career and be whoever you want to be.

In this episode, I’m going to put a little extra on it because Rob is an amazing individual. He was a diagnostic sales rep in the cancer space. He was a sales rep in that space for four years, then gets cancer, has that experience, and goes back into the field. I’m going to leave it there. I’m not going to give it away but this is a very powerful episode. We spend a lot of time on perspective and with that story. I promise you, you’re going to learn something and hear things that you haven’t heard before, and have an appreciation for how your life can look. As always, we do our best to bring you guests who are doing things differently in the medical sales space so I do hope you enjoy this interview.


Rob, how are you doing?

I’m doing great, Samuel. How are you doing?

I’m fantastic, no complaints. Why don’t you tell everybody who you are and what you do?

My name is Rob Ciaramitaro. I’m a cancer survivor. I’m very thankful to be on the show with you to talk a little bit about my career and life experiences more importantly.

We got a lot to dive into. I’m excited but we’re going to take it step by step. Let’s talk specifically about your role in the diagnostic space. People are getting more familiar hopefully, if anyone’s reading this show for any amount of time. They’re starting to get a better understanding of what’s out there. You have medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, biotech sales, and diagnostic sales. Please, share with the audience what exactly is diagnostic sales.

There are different categories underneath it. I started in pharmaceutical sales like many people do. What drew me to the diagnostic side was the ability to play a bit more of a role on the front end for the patient. It’s the ability to offer products that could potentially detect disease and maybe even help patients avoid treatment instead of necessarily selling treatment. Diagnostic sales is the difference. It is where we’re playing a role in that journey for the patient, trying to help bring products forward as diagnostic companies that diagnose or uncover disease early on and guide treatment decisions.

You give all the other things that are trying to happen with health care a chance to work because you’re finding out early and getting on top of it. With your position then, what’s the setup like? Do you have a team? Is it autonomous? What type of people are you calling on? Is it doctors, more hospital staff, or clinic founders? Talk to us a little bit about what the landscape looks like.

When I talk, this is based on my experience. These views and opinions truly are mine. I’ll share the landscape for diagnostic sales and what that looks like and give a little bit about what my specific path was like. Similar to a pharmaceutical rep, you’ll have a category of providers that you’re calling on consistently. Those may be primary care providers. They may be specialists. It depends on the disease state that your product is hoping to help diagnose or uncover. In an instance where you’re selling a product that looks for a type of cancer, it would be whether or not that cancer is screened for at the primary care level or the specialist level. That would determine who you’re calling on.

When I was a rep, I was calling on primary care providers quite a bit. My career progressed and I became a manager and managed reps that called on primary care providers. I then began an account management level of experience and began working with health systems, partnering with different specialty divisions that played the different roles of the cancers that we focus on. It’s a mixed bag but the idea is to partner or at least begin to work with the providers that are looking for that disease at the ground level. That varies by disease state and product state.

It’s safe to say though that your primary target is oncologists.

No. By the time a patient gets to an oncologist, they’re going to be treated for whatever cancer they have. That was certainly my experience but the majority of diagnostic companies are working with providers who hoping to weed patients out or elevate them to oncology or whatever specialist needs to treat that disease. A lot of times, the products used for diagnostics or screening are used at a primary care level. It is primary care physicians who are looking into the general population to help determine if there’s disease there. If there is, then we know we need to elevate them to specialists and so on.

You were in pharma before so you sold drugs. Now, you sell tests. What’s the biggest difference?

It’s the story, truly. I believe the best representatives tell great stories. You have to tell stories about the people that your product supports. What diagnostic sales gave me the opportunity to do was to begin to shift that story from managing the symptoms of patients to playing a role in shaping the experiences that they have in their lives because diagnostic products can change at what point patients discover they have a disease and that impacts everything about what their future looks like. To me, the story was easier to connect to because it allowed me to feel like I was shaping a patient’s experience more so than maybe symptom management.

Diagnostic products can change when patients discover their diseases. This impacts everything about what their future looks like. Click To Tweet

You’ve had cancer and you beat cancer. Being a cancer rep, getting cancer, and then going back to being a cancer rep, I only imagine that it was different.

It’s great for career progression. Let me tell you, if you’re at a cancer company, go ahead and get cancer. It’ll help you climb the ladder. No. It was bizarre, truly. I had spent about four years working in the cancer space before my diagnosis. Talk about an odd whirlwind. You spend virtually every day talking all day to providers about cancer. You’re staring at a provider and they’re telling you that you have cancer. It was weird.

I want you to share this. I want to know how were you selling before you had cancer. When you got back into the field, how did you do it differently?

Before cancer, as many great representatives do, I would focus on the stories that the product could tell and the company had designed for us to tell using the data. Those are powerful. You have to sell with data. In the medical space, your product has no validity. The biggest change for me afterward was the emotional connection to the patient experience. I wouldn’t always necessarily have to share that I went through it for it to be impactful.

No matter what product you’re selling, medical device, biotech, or pharmaceutical, there is a real patient experience that’s being impacted if your product is used appropriately and has the outcome that’s intended. Connecting to the promotional side of that for the patient and the provider too, because they’re the ones having those uncomfortable conversations with patients consistently, it changes the dynamic from you being in there and pushing a product to discuss real-life experiences of people. When you can do that, it starts to feel a lot less like sales and a lot more like people helping people.

We’re going to go through the whole thing but let’s go through it slowly. What did you want to do coming out of college?

In school, I was two years in college. I was still planning on being a history teacher because I had zero direction and was in college mostly. I wanted to have a good time. I was fortunate enough to come across an opportunity for a summer internship with a company called the Campus Special. Have you heard of these guys?

I haven’t.

They’re cool. They developed a model that was meant to be a competitor to all of the school magazines that sold advertising space. The Campus Special was a coupon book but it gave college students the opportunity to spend a summer traveling around their college town and selling small businesses ad space in this coupon book, website, and app. I was raw. I’d never sold anything in my life.

That’s a sales job to get considering you never sold anything in your life.

It was insane. I had no idea of the value of it at the time. I hopped on board. It was all 100% commission-based like so many of those great first sales jobs are. You’re only eating if you’re selling. I hit the road and learned. I sold ad space for them one summer. They had a wonderful program where if you stuck with them through summer and you were successful, then they put you into a sales placement program. I did that the summer after my sophomore year so I still had a couple years left of college.

They followed me through to the end and helped me get my first sales job out of school, which was at ADP. Most of us get paid by ADP, Automatic Data Processing. I sold payroll. It was my first job out of school and Campus Special hooked that up for me. I’m sure you’ve heard of Chegg books. They sell school books. That’s what ended up happening with the Campus Special but they were my start. They were an awesome small grassroots organization that was teaching college kids how to sell.

You’re at ADP. What light went on that said, “I need to be in a medical sales environment, not this sales environment?”

I was walking into every business imaginable, crying in parking lots in my car in between. I was like, “There’s got to be something more than business to business.” Thankfully, ADP is well-known around the country as a wonderful starter sales program. About a year in, I began getting contacted by recruiters from a bunch of different industries. One thing I’ll advocate for always is to maintain your professional profile online on LinkedIn. It seems so insignificant but there are very talented and motivated recruiters constantly looking for sales talent.

MSP 176 | Cancer Survivor

Cancer Survivor: Always maintain your professional profile on LinkedIn. Talented and motivated recruiters are constantly looking for sales talent.


Whenever I have younger sales reps or newer sales reps reach out looking for opportunities. I’ll say, “Connect with as many recruiters online as you can because they are a wealth of information and they have positions to fill.” I started to meet a few of them through inquiries online and got exposed to a couple of different industries, did interviews with medical devices as well as pharmaceutical, and chose to go the pharmaceutical route. I worked for Daiichi Sankyo. I don’t know if I said that but I’m fine sharing that. I was in sales for two years at Daiichi.

I want to go through it with you. I know you speak on this. Take us there. You’re doing your job and selling. I don’t even want to set it up for you. I want to get to where you were working. You got the diagnosis. Give us the whole story.

I was about four years into my time at the company and enjoying it, having a lot of success as a sales rep. Funny enough, I was about three months removed from being on one of the annual trips. I had a good year the year before. I was starting to notice that when I was exercising, I would have substantial swelling in my left arm. We’re talking extravascular or almost a little discoloration. For a hot second, I was like, “Am I finally truly getting jacked? My whole life had never happened. Am I finally getting ripped?” That was it. It was not the case.

I put in an offer for a few months and decided to go in and have that arm checked out. At that point, I thought it was an arm issue. They found a DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis. It’s a blood clot in my superior vena cava on my left side. I was 28 at the time. That’s a pretty bizarre finding for a 28-year-old. I was health conscious with a pretty clean diet. I exercised consistently. My primary care provider thought all those same things. He recommended that I go see a vascular specialist.

The wait time for them at that point was three and a half months. They sent me home on a blood thinner on Eliquis. Shout out to any of our reps who are reading. That was it. I was told to go wait. About 10 to 12 days after I had that doctor’s appointment, I was being consumed by anxiety. I knew something more was going on. It didn’t feel right to me. I shouldn’t have a blood clot. This can’t be as simple as, “You exerted yourself too much at the gym and pinched something. There’s a blood clot.” I was struggling in those ten days and I stepped on the scale. Since I had been at the doctor, I had lost 22 pounds in those 10 to 12 days.

Weren’t you hungry? What was going on?

I didn’t know. That was a major red flag. You could eat nothing for 12 days but you’re not going to lose 22 pounds. I knew that meant something serious was going on. I told my wife, “Hop in the car. We’re going to the ER.” I drove to the ER. That day in the ER, they did a CT scan of my chest partially because, on the WebMD, I was pretty convinced that I had thrown the blood clot and that I was having a pulmonary embolism. That was in my brain. I was like, “I’m having chest pain. It’s got to be that. I’m going to drop that here.”

They did the CT scan. On that scan, they found a 13×12 centimeter, which I thought was a mass in my chest that was about the size of a softball. It was pushing on my heart and lungs. I had pericardial effusion. I’ll never forget the doctor’s face when he came into the room and said, “You don’t have a pulmonary embolism but there’s a huge mass in your chest.” With my work experience and everything, I knew what it meant. That was tough.

It was a crazy day. It happened to be my dad’s birthday. We went to an Italian restaurant after that doctor’s appointment. It was one of the most bizarre experiences that you could ever imagine. At that point, the beautiful part is you shift focus. You would have thought that when I found out that I had cancer, I would have been consumed by fear and anxiety but honestly, I felt better because I had been living the last two weeks knowing that something serious was wrong. It felt like, “We have some direction. Let’s go after it.”

MSP 176 | Cancer Survivor

Cancer Survivor: Even after going through a bizarre experience in life, you can still shift focus. Go beyond fear and anxiety. Have some proper direction and get after it.


They were pretty clear with me that it was most likely an aggressive cancer. They have to do a biopsy to stage it and get the subtype. It ended up being non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, my subtype, and there are hundreds of subtypes. Some are curable. Some are not. Some you live with forever if you’re lucky enough to survive. Another part of the waiting game that was stressful was finding out exactly what subtype I had. Mine ended up being a type of diffuse large B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It’s a very aggressive subtype called primary mediastinal. That tumor was in my mediastinum.

Thankfully, it hadn’t spread elsewhere. It was not in my lymph nodes or any other tissue. Aggressive sounds bad but in non-Hodgkin’s, it’s usually a positive when it comes to treatment outcomes. They have a chemo regimen followed by radiation that’s a pretty standard of care treatment. They were determined to get me started on that pretty quickly. Ten days after that diagnosis, I began chemotherapy. It was a pretty intensive chemo regimen where I was on an infusion for 24 hours a day for 5 days straight. I would have 2 weeks off and I did that 6 times. It was six rounds of chemo.

Over what period?

About 6 months, a little bit less. The diagnosis was late July or early August. I completed my final round of chemo on December 13th. All in all, it was about five months.

It’s one treatment a month.

It would have been a little bit quicker. You can have delays if the treatment knocks your white blood cell count down and it did for me one round. It’s bizarre even for it to be that short of a time frame. Looking back on it, I was only undergoing treatment for about five months. We had scans throughout. After about two rounds, I had a pretty solid indication that the treatment was working well. Thankfully, by the end of those six rounds, I was determined to be in remission so no sign of the cancer.

That left me with an interesting decision. My local oncology team suggested that I do radiation following the chemotherapy. I was a little uncomfortable with that because of the proximity to my heart. The tumor was right in the middle of my chest. I was thankful and blessed to connect with one of the leading researchers on my subtype. He was out at NIH in Baltimore. He’s a great guy. He took the time pro bono to look at my reports and get back to me. I’ll be thankful to him forever. He said he wouldn’t do it.

At my age, he was like, “You had such a great response to chemo that you have a higher chance of dealing with major issues and potential fatality from radiation side effects in twenty years versus the cancer coming back.” I made that tough decision not to do the radiation against the recommendation of my local team. By making that decision, I knew there was never probably going to be a way that I would know if that was the right decision or not. If it comes back, I’ll always wonder if it was the wrong decision. That was 2019. I have been in remission for a few years. I feel great physically and mentally. That is not something that I could have said for quite a while. I’m thankful.

Let’s go back to that time. When you’re going through this, I want to believe that you probably show up in a couple of different ways. Some people show up defeated like, “I can’t believe this.” Some people show up shocked and stunned. They paralyzed. Some people go immediately into the fight. I want to believe that at some point, you got to go into that fight but I assume you have to gradually get there. Talk to us a little bit about how it was for you. What were the stages for you? That’s what I’m trying to ask.

I was a mess, good days and bad days. You captured that well. There are times when you feel like, “I’m doing this thing. I’m fighting it,” and then there are setbacks. They don’t even have to be substantial physical setbacks. It can be something minor that makes you feel so defeated. While that time frame was only five months, it felt like years. Going through chemotherapy not only strips you of a lot of the physical attributes that you truly use internally to create an image for yourself but it changes everything, how you think about yourself and feel about life.

I was always someone who had a pretty positive, rosy disposition and then I’m faced with the idea that my mortality is very much so in question. You have to rally and find a way to push through it. It was easier to do that while the fight was still going on. When you’re going through treatment, there’s so much going on. You’re on these physical highs and lows from the cocktails of drugs along with steroids. It’s easy to put your head down and look at that finish line. I told myself throughout that process, “Get to that finish line and then we can start getting our life back.”

What I didn’t even begin to realize was that once I crossed that finish line and reached remission, the real battle was waiting, learning how to live and function again, how to not be an anxious mess, scanning my body internally every five seconds of every single day, and feeling my neck and lymph nodes. I drove myself to the ER so many times, Samuel. I can’t even tell you. You asked a great question and there’s no easy answer to it. For anyone who’s going through treatment, my heart is with you. Keep going. That’s all that matters. There were days I broke down and cried. There were days I felt like a warrior that could withstand anything. You’re going to have both of those.

What was the support like for you, specifically?

Do you mean family-wise and stuff?

Everything-wise. I don’t know if maybe the family was there, groups, or friends. Support has to play an important role. It probably looks a little bit different for everyone so what was that support like for you?

First, I’ll say my main takeaway from a question like this is that you have to be your champion. Let’s first talk about medical team support. When I first went through that diagnostic period where they uncovered my cancer, I was with a certain health system and I didn’t like how my care was being handled. I didn’t feel like they got me in to see a specialist quickly enough. Once the mass was discovered, I realized that there had been tests that were done at my initial primary care appointment that were never reviewed.

Shout out to the medical sales. I had relationships with physicians because of my career, thankfully. I changed health systems. Maybe that’s part of me being blessed by having worked in the field. You have to be your advocate here because there were timelines of getting me into treatment and seeing a specialist that would have taken longer had I not advocated for myself.

One thing I’ll say is if something doesn’t feel right and you’re not getting calls back quickly enough, tell you you can’t get in to see somebody for a certain amount of time, and you’re like, “I have cancer. I’m dealing with this disease. I need to get treatment,” be your advocate. Make the phone call. Make someone feel comfortable. It’s okay. You have to do it for yourself because otherwise, it’s too easy to be just a number to them. It’s not their fault. They just have tons of things in place. That’s number one.

Number two is I’m blessed with an amazing support system. My wife, Jamie, was there with me every step of the way. I have a wonderful very close-knit group of friends that I’ve grown up with that embraced this with me. I had a revolving door of people in my life. All of those things aside, it’s an incredibly lonely experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s the person I respect most in this world, one of my best friends, or someone off the street.

When you’re experiencing something as profound as a cancer battle and the mental struggle that comes along with it, I found very quickly that nothing anyone said made me feel better with the slight exception of people who had lived it. One piece of advice I would give is not just about cancer. If you’re going through something, any trauma or hard times, find support. It can be therapy. It doesn’t have to be therapy. It can be support groups, connecting with other cancer survivors and other people going through the battle.

One of the beautiful parts of social media is that we can connect with people far away very easily. I joined online support groups. I would go back and read. When I was feeling something that felt off, I went and typed it into the search bar. Years ago, someone in the group had posted a similar comment and a bunch of people had responded. That may seem insignificant but when you’re having those little mental battles twenty times a day and you can get a little relief, every little bit helps. I tell people that if you’re going through something, find some other people who are living it and get that support.

MSP 176 | Cancer Survivor

Cancer Survivor: If you are going through something, find some other people who are also living it to get the right support.


I told you that my mother was diagnosed in ‘08 and went into full remission. God bless her. There’s this automatic sympathy that you garner when going through something like that, I assume. I heard people say they didn’t mind it and couldn’t stand it. Talk to us a little bit about what your position on that was.

It’s weird. You have to take control of it and that takes a little bit of time. When it’s early on, there’s going to be pity. People can’t help it. I can show you a photo of me that I promise you, you will feel pity when you see it. There’s nothing you can do about it. I hear the same things from survivors in the groups I’m in, they can’t stand the way that people look at them, talk to them, or the way they make them feel with certain questions.

I will say as a reminder, you are the one who’s going through the hardest thing but it’s uncomfortable for people. People don’t know how to react in a situation like that, especially if they haven’t been through it so give them a little grace. Eventually, I promise you, you’ll have the chance to reclaim the narrative and start rebuilding your image. I never thought I’d be here looking like a biker in front of you guys, bald-bearded, but here I am. No more hair on the head but I got the beard going. You can write your narrative again eventually, I promise.

Amen to that. I’ll show you this. I had a scare. I had stomach issues a few years ago. When I say I had stomach issues, I couldn’t hold food down for three days straight. The doctors couldn’t explain it. I was in the ER three times. Finally, they did some searching down there. The fear was this guy might have stomach cancer. The doctor was not sure. They had to get into it and figure it out. I remember there was about a weekend, maybe 2 or 3 days, that we didn’t know.

I kept thinking, “What am I going to do about it? How do I make this work for me?” I’m a big believer that no matter what life throws at you, there’s always lemonade to make. How am I going to make some lemonade? What can I do? I started thinking, “What do I want to accomplish?” I rushed to try to accomplish things and I’ve also wanted to accomplish that much faster. Maybe I should throw my hands up and become a hedonistic human and do whatever. We’d go through all these different thoughts. What was it like for you?

It’s all iterations of that if I’m being honest. It lasted probably 18 months to 2 years post-remission before I got a good grasp on being in a good place mentally again and functioning without constant anxiety. I was still fine and productive at work. I still maintained my relationships. I didn’t burn things down but I was struggling every single day, probably for eighteen months, before it started to get better. I love that you asked this question because it’s part of my path through it and what I advocate for anyone who’s been through so much of the miserable suffering that this world can offer.

I tried the hedonistic approach first. There was a time in early 2021 when I spent thousands of dollars on the most expensive bourbons and I was sucking them down. That was my new thing. I was a bourbon taster consistently. I would not recommend that approach even though you may go through it. What truly ended up helping me regain control of my life was anchoring to the aspects of what I had been through that I could control.

There’s a lot that you can’t do in cancer. That’s the reality of it, but you can control what you do with your life moving forward and the aspects of your life that are tied to disease. Maybe not necessarily cancer but there’s certainly manageable disease out there. You can impact your chances of getting heart disease, getting certain types of cancer, being obese, or having Type 2 diabetes. I anchored to knowledge, consistency, and self-discipline.

I began to read a bunch about health. I had a base of knowledge from working in the field but not about what our lifestyles and diets mean to us. That became my thing. That doesn’t have to be your thing but once you’ve been through something traumatic, you have to have a purpose. There’s got to be a purpose that you’re pushing forward. Some people anchor to helping others like what you have here with this beautiful show and your business.

Once you have been through something traumatic, you will discover a purpose that will push you forward. Click To Tweet

Helping others is a part of mine too. You know that. I love working with people who have been through things. For me, in my day to day, it became about my health. I rarely drink anymore. There’s a lot of bourbon down here in this basement that I could share with you if you came by. It’s not like I never do it but that’s very rare. I spend a lot of the time thinking, learning, and continuing to gain knowledge about different ways that our lives, diets, and decisions impact our health. That’s become a big passion for me.

I’ve had the chance to meet some well-researched and brilliant people through those conversations. I try to live with them. I advocate for survivors to move and do some resistance training because strength is so important as we age. You lose a lot of it when you go through treatment. You don’t have to necessarily be a bodybuilder but do some resistance training and build some strength as you start to come out of treatment. Don’t push yourself too hard but take those baby steps back.

I’m a big advocate of eliminating processed foods and refined sugar as much as you can. Eat a whole-food diet as much as possible. It’s little things like that that make all the difference and help me not only to become my focus but feel better physically, get my head into a clearer space, and give me a path forward out of this. That’s what you need. Even if treatment goes great for you, as mine did go well, you have to find out, “What is this life post-cancer for me?” It’s got to have a purpose. That can be tough to figure out.

What was your purpose pre-cancer and post-cancer?

My purpose pre-cancer was happiness. I thought I was chasing being happy. Traveling and time with friends are great things. Live in the moment. I was constantly in search of whatever would make me happy. Now, I want to be useful. That’s my purpose. I want to be useful to myself with my health. I want to be useful to my family, other survivors, and my company. That shifted my perspective. How I view myself internally, it’s ten times over.

There are going to be times in life when you’re not happy. I hate to break that to you. That goes for everybody on here, whether you go through a battle like me and your mom or not. If you can learn to set the barometer for yourself around being useful, it becomes a fun opportunity to continue to build usefulness in different ways and happiness comes with some of those. That’s been a big change for me. I don’t have anything figured out. I’m learning every day and that’s part of the beauty of this.

Are you a God-fearing man?

Of course. I was in a Catholic school for twelve years.

I would think that with an experience like this where your mortality is threatened, your relationship with your higher power hits a new level. Was that true for you? If you can share, what was that experience like for you?

It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I did pray a lot when I was going through it. I feel like in many ways, it strengthened my relationship with my spirituality. Let me frame it this way. In my search for coping with my experience, I’m anchored to some different philosophies. The philosophy of the Stoics is one that I enjoy and it still brings me peace.

I have a relationship with spirituality I want to say because I don’t like to say one religion or another. I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged. The presence of religion is less important than having belief itself. When you go through something like that and you feel like you relied on your spirituality, it can grow and it did in ways but what it taught me was that I can choose to frame the way that I go through experiences and that takes internal work. That’s work that you have to put in for the rest of your life.

As I began to learn about these different philosophies, which I mentioned stoicism, what it helped me to realize was that whether it’s through prayer to the higher power that you believe in or through internal reflection and intentional effort every day, when you go through something traumatic in your life or the stresses of being a human every day, working in the medical sales industry, I hate to break into you but there’s a little bit of stress in this industry sometimes and it’s called a quota, you can frame how you feel, how you process those emotions, and how you react.

The medical sales industry comes with a little bit of stress due to the need to meet quotas. However, you can always frame how you feel about it and how you process your emotions. Click To Tweet

That was something I had never spent any time thinking about before cancer. Maybe that’s not because of cancer. Maybe it’s because the kid had to grow up at some point. I’m still trying to get there. The biggest change for me is learning that I can truly be intentional. When I experience something, I’m going to feel all kinds of different feelings. I can process those and choose to react how I want to instead of allowing myself to have an emotional overreaction to all of the things that happened to me. I know that’s a weird way to answer your question about God.

It’s not weird. It’s rare.

That’s where it took me. It taught me that whether it’s through spirituality or searching internally for those philosophies that bring me peace, I have to own that part of my life and how I handle stressful situations. I have to intentionally work on getting better at them or else what can I expect? I can expect to have the same or worse results in those kind of situations.

That’s beautiful what you shared and it makes me think. Cancer is in the rearview. Life is in front of you. Resourcefulness and being useful are the new missions. I want to say you almost developed a little superpower in being able to have anything happen. Slow down for a moment and process how you want to step into it. Give us some examples of what that looks like for you.

It’s intentionality in so many different ways. In leadership roles and our careers, it’s looking at a situation and speaking last instead of speaking first. It’s listening to feedback and not having an emotional reaction if it’s negative. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of perspective from going through something like cancer. It’s almost the insignificance of many of life’s great stressors. It’s many of the things that would have driven me nuts.

That’s a gift. That’s the funniest part. I tell people this all the time. Anytime you go through an experience and you’re able to come out on the other side, there’s going to be gifts and learnings from it. That’s probably one of the most beautiful ones. Don’t let the little things become the big things. There are very few true big things in your life but I promise you, your health is one of them. You’ll learn that quickly if you ever get sick.

The blessing that that’s given me is it’s removed that unnecessary emotion from insignificant things. What it has done that I still haven’t figured out and maybe I never will is it’s created this burden, which I don’t want to call it but it feels like it at times if I’m being honest, of a need to do something more significant with my experience. I have lived this. I have done small things to share my experiences. I’m doing one of those with you, not that your business is a small thing. This is beautiful but you know what I’m saying.

I do feel the constant pressure to not waste this, not just live that hedonistic way, and not just be great in my career but to make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve been given this perspective that many people won’t have. If they do go through something significant, that perspective is very valuable. That’s challenging and it’s something that I struggle with every single day. I’m always working on it and trying different things. I don’t know what that end answer looks like but that search is a part of me too.

When you described the drive to want to do this and not waste the gift that you have of being able to do your life the way you want to do it, you said pressure. Talk to us a little bit about what you mean by this pressure. Did you say mounting pressure? As days go by and you’re feeling it, is it in the form of someone saying something? Does it hit you randomly? Talk to us a little bit about what that pressure looks like.

It’s 100% internal. I feel like because of the experiences I’ve had through cancer, I owe more to people. Maybe that’s wrong. There are times when I try to convince myself that I should not feel that way and I’m probably making myself feel less happiness. We don’t care as much about it anymore. We’re trying to be useful. Let’s stick with 2024’s themes. I’m being real. I do feel it. I don’t know how to get rid of it.

Even before I was sick, I always felt that I wanted to do something greater than just have a career and build that. I want to impact people and that is so maximized. The way that I feel that because of my experiences, if I go too long without doing something that is working with cancer survivors or impacting potential cancer patients, I start to feel like, “What am I doing? I’m not using my experience.” That is not a good feeling.

I am constantly exploring different ways to use it. I get a lot of utility out of them too. This isn’t just Rob being selfless. I truly feel most useful and get a lot of positive utility from helping people. It doesn’t even have to be cancer but also those who are going through things and are struggling because I’ve been there. There’s nothing worse. I’ve been through a lot in life.

I was sitting in a Tim Hortons at 5:45 AM with a chemo bag waiting for them to open so I could order some breakfast sandwiches and crush them because the prednisone is making me starving. That sucks but it’s not as bad as the anxiety after when I was unable to wake up every day without freaking out. People are living those things and I’m so motivated to help those people. That can feel a lot of pressure.

What I’d like to say specifically that is I almost feel like if that is weighing on you, it’s supposed to be there. If you’re developing this sentiment and I need to do something about this feeling that I have, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. The more you continue to step into it, the clearer it’s going to get and the more fulfilled you’ll start to feel.

I already feel it. I feel it when I do things that go in that direction. I have no doubt about it. I’m very blessed. I’m very blessed to have a career where I get to feel like I’m making an impact on patients. I’m thankful for that but I have no doubt that there’s more to come for me.

I want to switch gears a little bit because you shared a nugget with us. Not only did you champion life for yourself but you champion life for a new life. Please, share with us what I’m talking about. I won’t spoil it. I’m not going to give it away.

We hopped on and we were catching up at the beginning of our conversation here before we went live. I shared with Samuel that we continue to go through the process of IVF to have kids because of my cancer journey. I’m very blessed and thankful to have a son, Sonny. We are trying to have more kids but that’s been very complicated by cancer too.

When people talk about the reverberating effects of something like cancer, it’s so hard to quantify the impact it has on you, your family, and the people who love and care about you. Those webs spread wide. One area that’s been profound in my life and unfortunately, this is much harder on my wife than it is on me, is the ability to have kids naturally. We’re not able to do that so we’re very thankful. I had a good oncology team that did have me freeze sperm before I went through treatment. We do have options and we’re able to go through them. They’re very arduous and expensive. It’s hard on her.

Nothing’s guaranteed in those. We’ve been through many without any success. Thankfully, we got our little guy. That’s the beautiful and most important part of it all. It’s a reminder. There are so many aspects of this journey that many people probably don’t think about. Your life will continue to be affected by what you’ve been through. We could talk about it all day long but at the end of the day, I’m so thankful to be able to be here and have this conversation with you. Those struggles are tough but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it means I get the chance to live and experience more here.

On that note, is there anything you’d like to share with the audience? There’s a lot of people reading and I’ll set the stage. There are people who want to get into the industry, who are in the industry, who are leading the way, and who want to listen to two people discussing real-life matters like we are. What would you like to share, if anything, with the audience?

I know that the majority of your audience is either in medical sales or interested in getting into medical sales. I’ll say one of the best parts about selling in this industry is the ability to champion people. I was an example of a patient who could have benefited from some future diagnostic test that will probably exist at some point and certainly from a drug that already did exist or else, I wouldn’t be here. I’m a big believer in modern medicine because I would not be alive without it.

My advice to you would be if you get a chance to interview for a position in this industry, you get your first job in this industry, or you’re trying to climb the ladder in this industry, make it about the people. It’s easy in any kind of sales to focus on the product. One of the beautiful parts of medical sales is that you’re impacting people’s lives, patients’ lives, providers’ lives, and the people that you work with’s lives.

One of the quickest ways to make sure you don’t climb at a company is to not be a positive contributor to the culture of your team. Make it about the people who are closest to you at work, the people you’re serving with your products, and the people who ultimately use those products to improve their lives. If you can tell those stories, you will go far.

I couldn’t have said that better, Rob. We’re going to go to the lightning round. I’m going to ask you 4 questions and you have less than 10 seconds to answer. First question, here we go. What is the best book you’ve read?

Outlive by Doctor Peter Attia. It’s all about health, wellness, and longevity. It’s an absolute must-read. There’s so much wealth of information and all researched back.

MSP 176 | Cancer Survivor

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity

I’m reading it. I’m almost halfway but I’m fascinated. My sister turned me on to that. She’s a doctor. She’s like, “You have to read this book. It’s all about preventative medicine.” You’re right. The stuff in there is pretty profound.

He’s brilliant. I’ve read it twice. I’ll read it again. He’s so good.

What is the best TV show or movie you’ve seen?

We’re watching the newest season of True Detective on HBO. I am a sucker for true crime.

I watched it years ago with Matt McConaughey. It was so awesome.

They stopped. They had a bad season. It was Season 2 with Colin Farrell. It didn’t hit well. Season 3 was pretty good and then they spent off for a few years. They brought one back. We don’t watch a ton of TV. I hopped in because I loved the first one with McConaughey. This one’s good. It was set in Alaska and was super creepy. I’m a big true crime guy. That’s one of my dirty little secrets. If I’m driving in a long car ride, I’m listening to some murder or missing person mystery. That’s my jam. True Detective is good.

We want the restaurant, place, city, or state. What’s the best meal you’ve had?

Chicago, Illinois, Bavette’s. It’s a little French-style bistro. They have a 60-some-day dry-aged ribeye that’s got a crust on it that’ll change your life. You get to dip it in salt and pepper. It’s one of the best meals on the planet but that’s Chicago, Illinois.

I’m sold.

Get there. There are so many good things on that menu. You have to go. My brother lives in Chicago. I go every time I visit.

Last question, what’s the best experience you’ve had?

It’s time with my little guy. Nothing too crazy there. We’re playing soccer with him. Getting to watch him not take instruction well and terrorize other families is a real treat. It’s family time.

Rob, it has been an honor spending this time with you and getting to hear your perspective on life. It’s very powerful stuff. Please, keep on doing amazing things. We can’t wait to keep watching you work.

You too. Thank you so much for having me.


That was Rob Ciaramitaro. Wasn’t that an amazing story? It’s to be faced with your mortality and then given that second chance to go back to life. I love it when he says all the nonsense, the things that he used to worry about, problems, issues, concerns, stressors, and how little they mean with this new perspective after going through what he went through. It’s powerful.

Perspective and being able to have a situation happen to you, disassociate yourself from it, and understand that this thing happened. It’s not bad. It’s not good. It just happened. “How am I going to manage it, step into it, and walk through it?” That’s where all the magic happens. Rob had an opportunity to become a true master at it because of his experience.

There are a lot of you reading this and thinking to yourselves, “What if I can be in a position to sell a tool to a provider that allows them to get in front of cancer, change someone’s life, and give them the opportunity to get in front of something that if they weren’t able to could be the end of their life?” You ain’t know what I’m going to say. Go visit EvolveYourSuccess.com. Fill out an application and schedule some time with an account executive. Learn what you can do to get yourself into that type of position.

One thing I want to add is as you go about your day or night or whenever you’re choosing to read this, remember that you can do whatever you want in this life. All the things that happen to you, you get to decide what they mean and choose what you’re going to do with it. On that note, we do our best to bring you guests who are doing things differently in the medical sales space so make sure you tune in for another episode.


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About Rob Ciaramitaro

MSP 176 | Cancer Survivor

Rob is a medical sales industry veteran and cancer survivor who has dedicated his life to finding ways to impact cancer patient (& family) lives and experiences.



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