Founder's Forum: Stacy's Temporary Absence

Hello Everyone, 

I sit down to write this letter today with a strong mix of emotions both bad and good. For the last few months, I've been jumping through a whole lot of hoops to identify the source of a lump I found in my left breast. It started out as seemingly nothing - it acted just like a cyst - but became more and more worrisome as I kept getting asked back for more and more tests. 

The second mammogram and ultrasound I had to take revealed the lymph node in my armpit was swollen and the lump which we thought was nothing was "highly suggestive of malignancy". My doctor began preparing me for the worst even before I went to get a biopsy. I ran Gen Con under the specter of what the results may or may not be and got them minutes after we touched down home in California after the convention. 

I have breast cancer, and it's metastasized to the nearest lymph node. I don't know all the details, yet, but I do know it's going to require a double mastectomy and likely either radiation or chemo - most likely chemo from what I've read on the subject. No matter what, however, I'm going to be out of action for a while, and ConTessa still has two more conventions this year: GeekGirlCon and U-Con. While I won't be able to attend these conventions myself, I'm gifted with an extraordinary staff who were just battle-tested at Gen Con of all places. 

Emily Danvers (Managing Editor / Acting Lead): For all intents and purposes while I'm away, Emily is me. She is my best friend, so she knows my mind well, and I trust her implicitly with making decisions about and for ConTessa. Unlike me, however, she has a normal day job, so be patient in your correspondence with her. She also plays a lot of Pathfinder, is a huge fan of The McElroys, and is my co-author on an urban fantasy game we've been working on for years. Emily's email address is: 

Bailey Nichols (Event Coordinator): If you were a GM or volunteer with us through Gen Con, you probably already know Bailey. She is She Who Commands The Power of Spreadsheets, and an expert at cat herding. She has been a champ at setting schedules up for us, setting up pages for recruiting, recruiting, and making sure our on-the-ground logistics are covered ahead of time as much as possible.  Bailey runs and plays a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classics, including some games for very large groups. You can contact Bailey at 

Ariel Celeste (Event Coordinator / Executive Admin): Ariel has been bugging me since she started about letting her do what she does best and function as a personal assistant to myself. Up until Gen Con, I stubbornly stuck to doing all of those things for myself (I'm terrible at accepting help), but at Gen Con I realized I and ConTessa had grown larger than my ability to handle these things myself, so I'm caving to Ariel's wishes. Going into the future, you'll likely be going through Ariel before talking to me, and when it comes to things like scheduling podcasts, interviews, and ... stuff, she'll be the one setting all that up. Ariel's also an ace for our on-the-ground logistics, making sure our setup and materials get to where they need to go. Ariel is coming into RPGs from a board gaming background, and when I mean from a board gaming background, which helps us fill a huge gap (I don't know squat about the modern board game market, but Ariel's helping with that). You can contact Ariel at 

Bardaree Bryant (Event Coordinator / Social Media Czar): Bardaree joined our staff juuuuust before Gen Con (we wanted her earlier, but she had other obligations to fulfill first). She helped out anywhere we needed at Gen Con, which was a huge help as there were many moments of, "I just need someone to...", and she was right there "to". Going forward, she's going to - at the very least - become our Social Media Czar (and group photographer), working on increasing our social media presence and making it more consistent. I'm sure she'll also do more stuff, but we've got time to work that out. You can contact Bardaree at 

Darcy Ross (Event Coordinator): I list Darcy last only because she's presently swamped with academic responsibilities on top of her new job at Monte Cook Games on top of the other 6,000 things she does in the RPG industry. The fact that Darcy can juggle that many balls is amazing, so I try to give her a lot of leeway. Darcy doesn't think she does enough for ConTessa, but she is, without a doubt, our top-of-the-line recruiter. Soooo many people were running for us at Gen Con specifically because of her. Darcy's role with ConTessa will solidify further as she gets ahold of her time again, but for the moment all we need from her is to keep spreading the word! You can contact Darcy at 

We also have a brand new person added to our staff - Tracy Sizemore. I haven't completely onboarded Tracy yet, but she'll be working with Emily in her primary job as Managing Editor of the blog, so you'll be hearing more from her real soon. One of my goals this year is to get our blog back in shape to compete with Gnome Stew (shhh, don't tell Darcy).

ConTessa turns five this year in early December. It's hard to believe I've been doing this for five years. There were many, many moments I nearly walked away. There have been things that have happened that have caused me to trust so much less (and I already have issues with trusting), and there were so many moments when I thought the only way to have the organization I wanted was if I did absolutely everything myself - and that's impossible. 

As sad as it is that I have to step away from my own baby for the next 6-8 months, it's also a moment of great joy and overwhelming pride. It's a long journey from "I'll never be able to trust anyone again" to "I can step away for a while, and I know everything will be in good hands". I have great affection for all the people on my team. I merely had to tell them all the diagnosis and without question or hesitation they circled the wagons and did what needed doing to keep moving forward. 

I will be back. As Emily and my husband both keep reminding me: I don't lose. I've fought some hellishly big monsters in my time, and won, and I'll win over this one, too. I plan to see you all next year at Gen Con, this time as a cancer survivor

In the mean time, you're all in the best of hands. I can not overstate my praise of these people. They are the best of us. 

With All My Love, 
Stacy Dellorfano
Founder & CEO, ConTessa

PS: If you feel inclined to donate to some organization or another after my harrowing story of breast cancer, please choose Planned Parenthood. Do NOT give to anything related to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Donating to ConTessa would be awesome, too. :) 

PPS: We're presently looking for GMs for U-Con, a great convention about 1,000 attendees in size located in Ypsilanti, Michigan (that's right near Ann Arbor and Detroit), running from November 17th - 19th. Please come out! And, since I can't be there, please take lots of pictures!