As we look forward to hearing from author Regina Calcaterra at the Bold In Business Annual Forum on Friday October 13th at 8:00am at The Desmond (Click Here to Register), I thought I would share a story, or should I say stories, of resilience and tenacity.
When I was a senior at Siena College, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Fortunately, it was caught very early. But once you hear those words, “you have cancer”, your life is never the same. You have anxiety leading up to doctor appointments. You have anxiety in the months between doctor appointments. You think every cough, lump, pain, or mark on your body is cancer. As if that’s not hard enough, try adding on what it means if you’re a mom. And then add on another dimension, you’re an executive, owner of a company, or breadwinner in the household.
Granted, when I was diagnosed, I was just getting used to being an adult. My first job out of college was with the American Cancer Society. Three months into my new job, and barely one year of survivorship, my boss had asked me to share my “Survivor Story” at our annual breakfast. My mother, who is now a 5 year breast cancer survivor, was, and still is, a very private person. She told me the world didn’t need to know everything that was going on in my life, especially with my health. Depending on your situation, that may be true. My situation, at that time, was one that gave me an opportunity to help others by sharing my story. It gave me a unique set of job skills that made me an expert in this field. In fact, it gave me credibility. Here was living proof standing right in front of my patients that you can thrive and beat cancer.
For other women, that might not be the case. For other women, admitting to their boss or clients they have cancer may make their clients wonder “will she have enough time to, or be able to, manage our finances?”, or “will she be able to travel and keep up with the demands of this high level job?”.
When I received the Women of Excellence award in 2014, I mentioned in my speech how I was a cancer survivor. My dear friend, Alissa Quinn, came up to me afterwards and asked me how she didn’t know this about me. She told me she was thinking of starting a new group that would consist of executive level women who had been affected by cancer. Alissa had just battled a very private battle with cancer because of these fears I mentioned above. As if it wasn’t hard enough being a woman in finance, add a cancer battle into the mix. Passion & Purpose was formed, and we have regularly been having dinner once a month with 13 other executive level women, who many of you all know and love. We gather for encouragement, wisdom, and shared experiences, to help remain at the top of our professional careers, physically and emotionally, during and after our cancer challenges. We were featured in the July 2016 issue of HERLIFE magazine, and on October 18th, we will be honored at the 2017 Visions of Strength event, which celebrates cancer survivors. All funds raised go towards programs and services at the Hildegard Medicus Cancer Center at St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy. Our stories are those of resilience and tenacity. The battle doesn’t end when we hit the five-year “cancer-free” milestone. I am coming up on my 14 year “cancerversary” and the battle/anxiety/fear still lingers in the background.
But I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from Etched in Sand, one of encouragement and hope:
“No accomplishment has taken place without trial, and no growth could have occurred without unwavering love.” – Regina Calcaterra
Members of Passion & Purpose, July 2016
(Carmela still in my belly and proof that having cancer can’t take away your dreams and future)