Breast Cancer, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage IIB, 8 year survivor
Founder, Don’t be a Chump! Check for a Lump!
Author, Live and Give: Facebooking My Way Through Breast Cancer
1. What was the darkest moment in your cancer journey?
The darkest moment in my cancer journey was facing my own mortality and the reality that I might not be around for my babies. I have two girls who were 9 and 10 at the time of my diagnosis. I stood in my living room looking at my wall of family pictures. I thought of all of the precious memories and moments to come that I would miss if I died. I dropped to my knees sobbing and begged God for more time with them. I wanted to be around for them . . . to teach them, guide them, encourage them and love them. I wanted to live for them! Lucky me – God has blessed me with eight more years and hopefully many more to come.
2. If you could go back and talk to your pre-cancer self, what would you say?
Eat fruits and vegetables! I read a nutrition book during month six of my treatment and thought to myself, no wonder I got breast cancer. I learned that 30% of all cancer is caused by lack of proper nutrition. I would definitely go back in time and eat nutritiously and drink more water. I ate to stay slim, not to be healthy. These tend to be two completely different ways of eating in our society, or at least it was for me.
3. How has cancer changed you?
Wow! That’s a big question. I made many, many lifestyle changes from eliminating red meat, drinking tons of water, reduced alcohol consumption, and consuming 7-9 fruits and vegetables servings every day. I eliminated toxic household and beauty products. They are in every store and on every shelf and they are attributing to cancer! Check your products safety on www.ewg.org.
I continue to try to make a healthy change every month. Professionally I also stepped out of my personal comfort zone. I used to be painfully shy. This is a deadly trait to have when you are trying to grow a non-profit. It took immense courage, awesome mentors, and quite a few tears, but I pushed myself to brave public speaking and to learn personal networking skills.
4. How did you find the inspiration to do your 2nd Act?
When I thought I was going to die and thought of my baby girls I remember asking myself, “Will they remember me if I die?” And then, I realized I had done nothing in my life to leave them a legacy to be proud of. I also had this amazing community who wrapped their arms around me, and my family, and brought us meals for weeks at a time, cleaned our house, scrubbed our floors, drove our girls to where they needed to be.
The acts of kindness were endless and life changing for me. I wanted to do something to give back to our community and leave a legacy for my girls. So I did what someone else had done for me. I founded Don’t be a Chump! Check for a Lump! to remind women to perform breast self-exams and get their mammograms. We grew from a tiny grass root non-profit into a prominent figure in the breast cancer community. We offer a comprehensive education program and an assistance program that offers free wigs to breast cancer patients. God has pushed me on my path the entire time, along with an incredibly supportive community.
5. What has been your brightest moment in your 2nd Act?
Personally, it has been every moment of simply still being here, alive, to enjoy and make memories with my husband and girls. I don’t take moments for granted. I sweetly savor them – every last one of them!
Professionally, it’s every time I meet one of our breast cancer clients who received a free wig from our non-profit and she shares her deepest gratitude with me. What a bright moment! I am blessed to be the steward of our community’s generosity. In addition, whenever I have given a presentation and then receive an email or letter a year later to tell me how they have made lasting healthy changes in their life due to the information we provided. It gives me chills to think we are helping to prevent someone from ever getting cancer.
6. Where do you see yourself going from here?
I tend to dream big and my brain doesn’t seem to stop! I want to create a mind shift in the way we think about treating breast cancer, focusing more of our energy and resources on prevention. I want to help women and their loved ones not have to go through this horrifying disease!
Outside of our non-profit, I have big ideas for a TV show. And I’d love one day to edit and promote the book I wrote, Live and Give: Facebooking My Way Through Breast Cancer. It’s really a love story I feel destined to share. And of course, I want to live to be a grandmother and help my babies with their babies!
7.What’s your favorite quote and how does it fit into your 2nd Act?
My favorite quote is from Paulo Coelho in his book The Alchemist: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I’m not quite sure the entire universe conspired with me, but I’m confident in saying that all of our community conspired with me to make Don’t be a Chump! Check for a Lump! an incredibly valuable resource.