Nancy Stearns Bercaw- Author, journalist, 17x Olympic Trial Qualifier

Nancy Stearns Bercaw is a seventeen-time NCAA All-American athlete and was inducted into the University of South Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Korea Herald, U.S. News & World Report, Abu Dhabi’s Tempo magazine, and She is the author of Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey through Her Father’s Memory and a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.


Nancy Stearns Bercaw Show Notes:


[02:07] How Nancy started writing

  • She joined the peace corps and went to Kenya
  • Nancy went to South Korea to see her former rival compete and eventually landed her first job at The Korea Herald to cover swimming and diving events for the olympics
  • Eventually, her rival couldn’t go to Korea due to being positive for performance-enhancing drugs


[04:55] Nancy’s career with swimming and after college

  • Nancy started swimming when she was 4 years old
  • Nancy went to swimming programs and joined clubs where the best swimming coaches go and got scholarship in college
  • Figuring your identity moving forward was a struggle for Nancy


[08:55] Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey through Her Father’s Memory

  • When Nancy’s father got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s she started a blog as a way to hold on to the fleeting moments and turned into a book.
  • Nancy’s father decided to specialize in neurology because of his father’s Alzheimer’s.
  • When her grandfather died, he got his father’s brain removed and put it in a jar and in the center of his neurology desk.
  • The book ends with a letter from her son telling his grandfather that, whether he’ll get Alzheimer’s or not, he’s not gonna live his life out of fear like what his grandfather did.
  •  It’s about committing to be present in this world; Living the best life.
  • Seeing the drudgery of life as meditation.


[18:13] How Singapore became the place that reconciled her father’s memory loss

  • We shouldn’t be really so terrified and we don’t have to fight against it so hard
  • Our level of not understanding can become liberating in a sense.
  • When she started accepting her father’s condition, she started understanding him more


[21:25] Her advice for her friends dealing with parents who are experiencing memory loss

  • Do not demand that they remember
  • Let them be the person that are now


[21:49] How Kenya played a role on her books and what it means to her life

  • Kenya was the first place she became the “post swimmer Nancy”
  • She spent 3 months in training and got sent to a far-flung town that was once the most densely place in the world
  • Nancy seized the opportunity to learn the language and lived among the people as much as she could.
  • Kenya ignited her general curiosity about the world


[25:00] How Nancy stopped her alcohol addiction

  • Moving to UAE in 2015 became the place for her to quit her addiction
  • UAE’s culture became the drive for her to quit
  • There was a void that got filled with chlorine and alcohol but she doesn’t have that anymore


[28:32] Her role as a Strategic Communications and Marketing Senior Advisor/Chief of Staff of Ajman University


Resources Mentioned

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About The Author

Atara Twersky, Author of Curlee Girlee is a TODAY Show Style Icon. Her mission is to teach girls to embrace the beautiful curls they have with power and confidence. Join us as together we change the “coarse” of curly hair. Don’t forget to read our recent article featuring charities that Curlee Girlee loves!

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