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Melanie Young
Gardiner, NY
Breast Cancer, 8 ½ year survivor
Health Advocate/Radio Host
Author of Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide To Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer
MelanieYoung.com

1. What was the darkest moment in your cancer journey?
Aside from the day I was diagnosed, and I realized my life was about to change forever, there were two darkest days. The first was flying to Chattanooga, TN, in early September a few weeks before my double mastectomy, to tell my father “good-bye.” He was in hospice and neither of us were certain we’d ever see each other again. We didn’t; he died November 2nd. My father was my “rock” all my life, a partner in business and a friend when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I lost Dad at an extremely vulnerable time for me when I needed him most. The pain in my heart from his slow death from cancer was as crushing as the pain of losing both my breasts. The next dark day was when I flew down for his funeral. I had just finished my second surgery to remove more lymph nodes and had just had my drains removed. I said good-by again as he lay in his coffin.

2. If you could go back and talk to your pre-cancer self, what
 would you say?
It’s okay to step away and take time off from working so hard, something I didn’t do. You don’t have to be a hero or prove anything to anyone about how strong you are. You just need to take care of yourself at your own pace and learn to let things go. Cancer does not wait for you to meet your work deadlines. Why push yourself?

3. How has cancer changed you?
Cancer changed me in myriad ways. First, I have become a more compassionate person who will stop everything to help a friend in need. Second, I walked away from my public relations business. I closed my company, determined not to let the stress of running my business ruin my health again. I started writing and using my voice in new ways with a focus on healthy living and reinvention. In the process I reinvented my own life. I also moved out of Manhattan to the country.

4. How did you find the inspiration to do your 2nd Act?
I have always been a driven workaholic. My dad was a West Point Grad and drilled me to work hard, even in the face of a health challenges, as he did several times. I had to learn to rewire all that driven energy. What propelled me is that Dad died, and I lost my “drill sargent.” I was convinced that my work habits and non-stop pace and stress made me sick and I just would not, WOULD NOT, go back to that way of life again.

I also wanted to be in control of my voice and how I used it. Working in PR, I was always speaking for someone else or putting words in other peoples’ mouths.  And I was constantly being scrutinized and evaluated by clients. I wanted freedom to be who I was, and say what I felt. I love to write and speak, and that is what I do now. And I love it!

5. What has been your brightest moment in your 2nd Act?
Writing my first book, Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer, and a follow up, Fearless Fabulous You! Lessons on Living Life on Your Terms, have been two bright moments, especially when they were both recognized with honors. I realized my voice really mattered, and people were listening. I could help people.

6. Where do you see yourself going from here?
I am working on a third book, Healthy Thrivership: Fearless Fabulous Cancer Survivor for women past the 5-year survivor mark. I don’t see enough information for this group addressing practical questions on how to survive and thrive, and there are many long-term topics to address. I also intend to write a food memoir about my work in the industry. And I am continuing to host my weekly radio shows, “Fearless Fabulous YOU” (for women) and “The Connected Table Live” (food and beverage). I’ve always liked helping people tell stories, and now I am doing it.

7.What’s your favorite quote and how does it fit into your 2nd Act?
These are actually both my quotes:

Fighters:
“Cancer can knock you down physically and emotionally. But it should never knock you out. You need to draw upon your inner strength and confidence to keep going because the hardest days you will face and fight fearlessly will be better than the days you may lose from not trying.”

Life:
“If you are comfortable with yours elf, you don’t need approval from anyone else. Self-esteem is your best asset. Invest in it and protect it.”

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