In 2004, when I was 39 years old, I found a lump on my left breast. I had a negative mammogram, an ultrasound and a surgical biopsy to remove it, and was told it was malignant. I had a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy and was diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. I started chemotherapy on May 5, “Chemo de Mayo”, shaved my head on May 7 – my 40th birthday – had a stroke during my 4th treatment, had a trans-catheter-closure to repair the hole in my heart, resumed chemo, had a bi-lateral mastectomy on October 13 and had reconstructive surgery via tissue expanders.
My girlfriend Susan (one of the coolest and smartest chicks I know) and I gave birth to the Get In Touch Foundation one morning while scarfing down doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. We are “women of strength” and were determined to kick this cancer thing right in the teeth and turn lemons into lemonade. We have five daughters between us and dream of a day when breast cancer is a vaccinatable thing of the past, (I’m not sure that vaccinatable is actually a word – but it is now!) but until then, we wanted to at least arm these girls with all of the information and tools they need to be as strong and smart as their moms!
A Key Talent | One of my greatest strengths has got to be my ability to “choose joy” in the face of an illness which will take my life much sooner than I or my loved ones would like it to.
I believe that when we experience deep and profound challenges, we become a bigger version of who we already are.
So ask yourself this…who are you?
Do you live your life out of fear, or out of love?
If you are told you have five minutes to live, will you spend even one second of that five minutes being unhappy?
Not me. You want to be happy every single second of that five minutes…and so, I am!
Lessons I Have Learnt | My favorite piece of advice is a lesson in positivity and joy…”by celebrating what is right, we find the energy to fix what is wrong.”
Focus on the positive, on the good things you have, don’t get weighed down and stuck in the negative – it’s like quick sand, you’ll go down fast!
Celebrate even the tiniest success and joy, it leads to a mindset of abundance, and your life will begin to reflect this.
Dealing With Doubt | My faith life keeps me in balance, keeps me grounded, focused, and grateful. I meditate, practice yoga, walk on the beach, pray, and spend time alone and in silence.
When self-doubt or fear creeps in I try to reconnect with myself. Fear and self-doubt are almost always a result of what others are heaping on us, we must allow ourselves the time to unplug, step away from the advice and noise of the world and tune into your own internal frequency – get in touch with your instinct.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | My dreams and goals have changed over the years because of my stage four recurrence of breast cancer. I certainly plan for tomorrow, but I live in the moment, I savor each breath, each sunrise, each sunset, each and every raindrop.
When I dropped my youngest child at college a couple of years ago I was greeted by a tearful mother who asked me why I wasn’t crying. Honestly, I was so grateful that I had lived to see that day that I rejoiced in it, not feeling a bit sad, but grateful, and alive!
The Meaning Of Life | My whole being is rooted in my deep faith as well as a really strong and wonderful relationship with God, and a deep desire to live a life in service of others.
I really do see God in everyone.
The final line from my favorite Broadway musical, “Les Misérables,” sums it up perfectly…”To love another person is to see the face of God.”
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Surround yourself with smart people, people who are smarter than you are!
I always “play up,” and never want to be the smartest person in the room!
Advice On Building Wealth | Hmmm…my advice would be to seek out someone else to get this advice from – after all, I am the founder of a global non-profit organization, I raise money and provide a FREE breast health educational initiative to schools all over the world – what I have, I give away!
Honestly, I might turn the tables on them and ask how they plan to share their riches and their wealth once they acquire it.
I Am Inspired By | I am in inspired by the women of unimaginable strength whom I am treated alongside every third Wednesday, and will be for the rest of my life, at the cancer center.
I’ve been treated beside women from 22-years old to 92-years young.
When a newly diagnosed woman enters the treatment room on her first day, nervous and shaking from fear, she is greeted by a group of survivor-sisters who hold her hand, encourage her and tell her they’re right beside her and that she can do this.
I am always in awe when weeks later I am privileged to witness that same woman be the first to jump to her feet and welcome a newly diagnosed woman who enters that same treatment room on her first day…the healing is transformational – for everyone blessed to share the sacred space, this holy ground of the cancer center infusion room.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | My three children are my most important personal legacy; I mothered and raised three loving human beings who are devoting their lives to making a better life for others.
The Get In Touch Foundation is my professional legacy, and knowing that our breast health educational initiative is saving lives, well, believe it or not, it makes my own breast cancer diagnosis a whole lot easier to deal with on a daily basis.
I wouldn’t change a single thing in my life.