ER/PR+ Stage Ib Breast Cancer, diagnosed on10/11/11
1. What was the darkest moment in your cancer journey?
I remember crawling into bed on the evening of my diagnosis to cuddle with my then 3 year old daughter. I stroked her hair and sang softly to her as I had done so many nights before, and all that kept running through my head was, “She’s not going to remember me.” Those worst-case-scenario moments replayed in my mind constantly until I had a treatment plan in place, which brought with it hope.
2. If you could go back and talk to your pre-cancer self, what would you say?
Relax. Enjoy each day. Hug your kids more. Listen to them and really hear them. Soak in those quiet moments with your family. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff. Enjoy the beauty of life because it can change in an instant.
3. How has cancer changed you?
Cancer has changed every part of me, but mostly it has mellowed out my “Type A” tendencies. I’m not going to lie to you, before cancer the idea of “living in the moment” was a tough one for me. I had plans, people! Goals! A path to follow!
Until cancer had other ideas and tried to derail my entire world. All of a sudden, the quiet, simple moments became much more meaningful to me. The fear of not having future moments forced me to slow down and actually enjoy the current one. This moment right here, right now… guess what? It’s guaranteed. Tomorrow? Not so much. I find great pleasure in walking my kids to school in the morning, in the crisp, clear blue sky of an October day, in the beautiful sunset that drops its golden brilliance at the horizon as I drive home from a meeting. Life is now.
4. What motivated you to pursue your 2nd Act?
After enduring a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy, I came out of my active treatments with a strong desire to give back. I was fortunate in so many ways. I had a very active support system, which helped me and my family through some of our darkest days. I had health insurance, which covered the cost of expensive surgeries and treatments. I had a husband who not only stepped up to the plate to become an amazing caregiver, but his medical expertise helped me navigate the foreign and frightening journey through “Cancerland.” I was lucky compared to so many others traveling this path.
But I kept coming back to the question, “What does this mean for my girls?” My daughters were nearly three and five years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. How could I help prevent them from walking this same road? Supporting medical research seemed to be the only plausible answer. When I went exploring for ways to donate to specific medical research projects that might help my girls, I found that there was no easy way for me to direct my money to projects that might specifically impact them (genetics, vaccines, etc.). Given the popularity of crowdfunding in other areas, the idea for Consano was born.
Consano means “to heal” in Latin, and our mission is simple: To provide a platform to enable individuals to donate directly to specific medical research projects, advancing medical progress and empowering individual action. Our Honor Funds provide a way for people touched by a health issue to share their story, rally their community – give the people who are asking, “how can we help?” a call-to-action – and raise funds to support medical research without the money and time required to start their own foundation.
I am a firm believer in the power of community, and crowdfunding epitomizes that for me. Because Consano was created from the perspective of a patient, the guiding principle of the organization is to “heal it forward.”
5. What has been your brightest moment in your 2nd Act?
While Consano has received some great press (getting a mention in TIME magazine was a definite highlight!), my brightest moment thus far came from my role as a “mompreneur.” Watching my daughter pitch Consano (unsolicited!) to her 3rd grade Girl Scout troop as a potential recipient of a donation from the profits of their cookie sales is a moment that I will cherish forever.
The fact that my girls see their mom living each day with an attitude of gratitude and using my own story as a positive force for change makes me feel incredibly proud.
6. Where do you see yourself going from here?
I hope to help fund more medical research that will help patients live longer and better, spend as much time as possible laughing, continue to shape two little girls into kind people, karaoke as frequently as possible, read tons of books, maybe even write a book myself, and continue to live the heck out of each day.
7.What’s your favorite quote and how does it fit into your 2nd Act?
“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
– Paul Kalanithi from “When Breath Becomes Air”
Paul sums up exactly how I strive to live my life having grappled with my own mortality.