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    BOY MEETS GIRL® BLOG — cancer journey

    STACY IGEL'S BOOK NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

    On the Chair with Kyla Rayne Phillips, Senior Student & Swimmer

    On the Chair with Kyla Rayne Phillips, Senior Student & Swimmer

    Tell us a little about you.

    I am a high honor roll, rising senior from Washington DC. I am a competitive swimmer for, the top-ranked swim club in the country. I have competed on my school’s varsity swim team throughout high school where I am a record holder on the 200 and 400 Free Style Relay teams. My dedication to swimming inspired me to launch a business as a youth swim instructor where I am passionate about teaching Black and Brown children to swim and about water safety while reducing stereotypes. Since the second grade, I have wanted to become a doctor so that I can “help people” in communities where quality health care is not easily accessible. I aspire to pursue my M.D., MPH and dedicate my life to addressing health disparities at the local, national and global levels.

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought?

    I was in disbelief. I could not believe what was happening.

    Sometimes it’s hard to “thrive,” we all have days where we are just trying to survive. What is something that gets you through on the hardest days?

    My faith in God and prayer. I am fortunate to have great friends and a strong community. Some of my friends have been friends since I was a baby. That has been helpful for me.

    Who is another woman you have admired on this journey that has shared a similar experience with breast cancer/cancer (please type what type of cancer you had/have)? 

    I am surrounded by supportive and strong women in my life who I admire and who have been there for me on my journey. I am blessed and fortunate to not have anyone else I know share a similar experience or diagnosed with myxoid liposarcoma. 

    We all need a good support system; who makes up yours? 

    My friends, my family. I am lucky to be a part of a “village” where my friends are more like cousins. My parents have been amazing and strong while helping me find my voice.

    Through your journey, what are some resources you have found that would be helpful to other women?

    Because I was so young and because I have never met anyone else with the same experience, I was grateful to have a wonderful team of doctors that took the time to explain things to me. 

    What is something society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general?

    I think that society may not know the severity and the impact that going through something like this has on any person no matter the age. It is very hard and scary for a child to go through this journey.

    You come across another woman who has just received her diagnosis. What is one piece of advice you’d have for them at that moment?

    Surround yourself with supportive people whether they are friends, family or others who can be there. Keep the faith. Prayer worked for me.

    Because we have to (we love music here) - what’s the last song you listened to?

    Say My Name by Destiny’s Child.


    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠

    On the Chair with Christine Handy, Model, Author, Speaker, Founder & Cancer Disruptor

    On the Chair with Christine Handy, Model, Author, Speaker, Founder & Cancer Disruptor

    Tell us a little about yourself. 

    Prior to my diagnosis I was a thriving mother-2 sons, self proclaimed  athlete, wife, professional model, philanthropist, addicted to societies  accolades, insecure, zero self esteem and totally dependent on my  external beauty. 

    The year before my diagnosis, I had a torn ligament in my right wrist. I  went to several doctors who all said I had to have surgery. I picked  the surgeon with the pedigree, Stanford grad. He performed the  surgery. My biggest complaint during that time was when would I get  back to yoga, by Christmas he proclaimed. 

    6 weeks later the pretty pink cast came off, his physical therapist  showed me a free exercises to start with to get movement back and I  was on my way,  

    2 days later my arm ballooned with swelling and grotesque pain. I  literally could not move in bed, I laid my heavy right arm on my chest  like a mother holding an infant and shook in pain. After several hours  of icing it I called my surgeon. It was a Sunday, and I was worried that  I was disturbing him on his day off-(self-esteem issue). 

    The surgeon told my I over-iced it. I believed him. One week past and  my arm was still on my chest, I was still in bed, and the swelling was  ginormous.  

    I asked my husband to call the surgeon and take me to his office.  Once in the surgeons office, I could hear him but he did not see me,  his physical therapist told me I had over used it. She splinted it and  sent me home.  

    One week later I called the surgeon again, my husband drove me, I  carried my arm on my chest and I was seen by the surgeon. He told  me I had this thing called RSD, it was a bummer but not to panic, I  would see his pain management doctor and we would go from there. 

    He explained RSD was a misfire in your brain-basically my brain was  saying to my right arm-PAIN-SWELLING, when in fact it was fine.  

    So I went to his pain management doctor, she loaded me up with  pain meds and they sent me to a physical therapist far away from  their offices.  

    A month went by, and still extreme pain, I ditched the narcotics but  went to PT daily to get as much movement back in my right wrist as  possible. Christmas had come and gone and still no yoga. 

    A month goes by and wrist is getting worse, I see the surgeon on  occasion and the real bullying begins. 

    Long story much shorter, I finally get up enough courage, 6 months  into this arm debacle and see a second opinion (self-esteem issue). 

    The new doctor took one Xray and every bone in my wrist was  broken, I had no cartilage left and within hours I was in emergency  surgery to dig out as much infection as possible. You see, the entire  time, dated back to the original day of surgery, I had an infection  brewing. It's as showing its nasty face by the pain, swelling and loss  of movement, but the doctor was ignoring all the signs. 

    Ultimately, I went to NYC to HSS hospital where they excavated my  own broken wrist, replaced it with cadaver bones, cadaver bone  grafts and a cadaver Achilles tendon. My arm was now permanently  fused-handicapped and in full pain. 

    6 weeks post arm fusion, I was back in NYC in a hotel with a heavy  cast on from my finger tips to my shoulder attempting to take a  shower. My heavy cast hanging out of the shower, I took the bar of  soap and brushed it over my left breast to wash it and immediately  felt a lump. 6 days later, still trying to imagine life with a fused arm,  how would I cook? Drive? Type? Take care of my kids, myself, my  husband, my modeling career? I was diagnosed with an aggressive  form of breast cancer. 41 years young, no family history of BC and  now a sickly woman needing constant care and attention.

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought?  

    I couldn’t wait to die. After the previous year of being in grotesque physical pain, to being stripped away of so much of what I loved with a freshly fused arm, to losing all that time with my children, to facing a  new trauma, and the realization that my self-esteem was so  damaged, to facing the realization that I allowed that vicious doctor to bully me for months. All cascaded in my mind, I was desperate to die, to quit, to move on to a more peaceful place and to free up the  burden of my life on the ones who loved me. Fortunately, that sentiment only lastly the firs month. That is when I began to fight for my life, my self-esteem and my worth. 

    What is something that gets you through the hardest days?  

    Many things. Fortunately I rebuilt my self-esteem. I replaced people  who put me down with people who wanted to cheer me on, I shut  down the negative mental thoughts that previously consumed me,  (your are not worthy, you are not beautiful, you are not capable-you  are only……). Those limited beliefs no longer paralyzed me. I also  rebuilt my life on things that could not be taken away, I knew my  beauty could be taken, my material items, the very bags I used o  covet couldn’t save me or comfort me during chemotherapy. I shred  the false Idols in my life that never filled me up, they were only  temporary. So now I live to serve, to inspire, to share hope, to use my  story of pain to make others feel less alone in their struggles. I speak vulnerably about who I was and why that life doesn’t work. So on my hardest days, I seek to serve more, I find new ways to offer hope, I  search for people who are lonely to help them because I never want  anyone to feel as bad as I have felt in my life. I also cling to God and my faith in a higher power, that cannot be taken from me. 

    Who is another women who also had cancer that I admire.  

    Truthfully, I have many women I admire, mostly the friends who taught  me self love and stood in a space that allowed me to learn about what truly matters-not stuff-but people. They led me through the seasons of trauma in my life and assured me that once I was healthy, I would have the privilege of inspiring others. They are my heroes. In the cancer world, I have many friends and I respect all survivors, It’s a  traumatic road for us all. I was diagnosed with stage 2 level 3 Her 2 positive breast cancer October 1, 2012.

    Support System? 

    I would say my support system has historically been my female  relationships. I could even say that back in high school. I am a strong  believer in women standing together, not standing alone. I have great  parents who also have helped me along my path. My support system  now would include people I have met through what I do, my modeling  career, my speaking career, the non-profit boards I sit on and even  some long time followers on socials. I have been lucky enough or  courageous enough or maybe crazy enough to be very honest about  my story, and because of that, I have an astounding amount of  people who cheer me on, I am ridiculously grateful for that.  

    Resources for other women? 

    I wish the resources for women going through breast cancer were  more widely known. For example, when I was going through active  chemotherapy in 2012-2013, there was not a support group at the  hospital I was being treated. I think since then, there are, but those are few and far between. I believe socials can help, following  survivors or organizations is important BUT I truly believe we need to  be seen, heard and touched. SO that means in person. I get to speak  to lots of organizations so I meet survivors and become an ear for  others, but one complaint I hear about is this lack of nationwide  support. We need more. The walks and activities around cancer are  great if you are able to participate because you can meet people  there. Doing this type of campaign and sharing real stories is critical for others going through cancer, nobody wants to feel alone in their diagnosis.  

    What society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general?

    I wish I could shout this answer from the rooftops. Society is  mistaken about the perception that when women complete active  treatment, the story and the battle over. Too often, survivors have only  begun. There is what I call-FOR-Fear of Reoccurrence that paralyzes  so many. That alone should be talked about. Next, there are  emotional as well as physical side effects to treatment AFTER  treatment is over, there are too many to list. For me personally, I have  heart damage from one of the chemo’s I endured, I have liver damage  also from the chemo, I had an almost fatal MRSA infection in 2020  from the implant I had put in after my mastectomies, the lists go on  and on. Just two weeks ago, I had PET scan, which is an invasive  test to rule out cancer. So often cancer survivors go through ‘scares’  and tests for years and decades after. Post care, compassion and  connection are crucial. Let's start talking more about this. I heard a  statistic one time about the number of women who take their life  during or after treatment. Cancer can be a very lonely disease. it  doesn’t havre to take money to help someone, it just take awareness.  Check in with someone who has been diagnosed, send a text, give  them a call and if you don’t know what to say, say that. Say, “I don’t  know what to say but I want you to know I care.”  

    Advice for someone newly diagnosed?  

    Be kind and gentle with yourself and your emotions. It is a gigantic roller coaster, the less you try to control the better. Let go of pride, my insecurity and lack of self esteem got me stuck in  a mindset that it was shameful to ask for help. That is pride. Let that  shit go, ask for help-you will need it and people WANT to help. Work on your inner self not just outer self. When we have a low self esteem we make marginal decisions. During my 15 months of  chemotherapy, there were plenty of days I was laying on the bathroom floor in between vomiting, I was on that floor doing  introspective work. I was not meditating on self pity, I was ruminating  on ways to chance negative self talk. There are many moments after  diagnosis that fears can grip you, the more you work on self love and  self care, the less that fear can keep you stuck. Lastly, a diagnosis can be an opportunity, to show courage, to teach others around what it looks like to be brave and scared at the same time. You deserve time, and attention-ask for it and give it to yourself.  

    The last song I listened to……  

    Pachelbels Cannon in D-mostly because I want to get married again. So I am manifesting love. Which is funny because I don’t even have a boyfriend? To be continued…… 

    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠

    On the Chair with Jamie Pleva Nickerson, Commercial Line Account Manager

    On the Chair with Jamie Pleva Nickerson, Commercial Line Account Manager

    Tell us a little about you.

    Hi! I'm a rough around the edges, cuss words for adjectives, sensitive heart that will do anything I can to help someone.  I've been married to my incredible husband for 10 years and am so very lucky to be mommy to our seven year old twin girls.  I’m the youngest of 4 girls who took full advantage of being “the baby of the family” and now I work like hell to move past that title. To most people I seem very outgoing and gregarious but to those that know me best I’m actually painfully shy.  It’s only once that I feel comfortable does the loud, playful, attention grabbing side pop out.  I’m a voracious reader of books and a lover of long bicycle rides.  I love to travel and hate to fly! I love deeply and with my whole self and am incredibly protective of the people I love.  I dream of writing a book about my sister and I that one day becomes a movie.  

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought? 

    When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer all I could think was, “now is not the time”. My oldest sister was in the hospital dying from the disease and my parents were barely holding on. They were taking turns living in my sister’s hospital room and helping her husband and young son. My next thought was, “how the hell do I tell my parents that I have cancer too?!”  Being told I had cancer wasn’t nearly the sucker punch I thought it would be. Having to tell my family that they now had 2 daughters, sisters with the disease was the most horrible and guilt wrenching feeling.

    Sometimes it’s hard to “thrive,” we all have days where we are just trying to survive. What is something that gets you through on the hardest days?

    Between my survivor's guilt and the fear that my cancer will come back I have days that I slip in a dark, cold hole. These days my pain and even rage have quite literally brought me to my knees and to my bedroom, where I lay in complete darkness and sob. I always allow these moments.  I feel as though I need to honor them and allow myself to really feel each tear that rips me open. And no matter how deep I get in that hole there’s always these 2 sets of little hands that reach for me and pull me out. My miracles. My twin  baby girls who were born 5 years after my sister's death and my diagnosis. Their brilliant lights and all encompassing love brings me back and fills me with so much joy and happiness. And then there’s him.  My husband. The man who walked into my life when I was going through the absolute worst time. He walked in with his eyes wide open and told me he was going to love and support me through it all, forever.  These are my people. They are my whys. 

    Who is another woman you have admired on this journey that has shared a similar experience with breast cancer/cancer (please type what type of cancer you had/have)? 

    I have always admired how my sister lived with breast cancer.  She made sure to never stop living.  She didn’t let cancer take anything away, especially without a fight.   She left in me awe of how she tried to live a “normal” life, despite living with stage 4 cancer. A life that required weekly chemo treatments, numerous surgeries as well as other procedures.  I know she did it for more than herself.  She was married with a young son and she never wanted her disease to affect their lives. Everything she did was for them. 3 months after my diagnosis my sister died of breast cancer.  I know I never took the time to “deal” with my own cancer diagnosis because of how quickly it all happened.  I was diagnosed while she was in the ICU, my mastectomy was while she was in a medically induced coma, I had my egg retrieval surgery hours before her funeral and I started chemo a week later.  In those moments I tapped into my sister. She always  handled her setbacks with such grit and grace and I was going to do everything I could to do the same.  I didn’t want to be the cause of any more pain in my family's life and I wanted to make her proud. 

    We all need a good support system; who makes up yours? 

    I’m so lucky to have a large support system.  So many feel as though they’re alone in their diagnosis but from the beginning I’ve been surrounded with love and support.  My parents and sisters have always been there. From Tracy’s initial diagnosis to my own, we have held and supported one another through all of the tears, the laughter and the anger.  The numerous doctors appointments, surgeries and chemo treatments and hospital stays. My sister and I were NEVER alone.  I also have a niece and 4 nephews who, at incredibly young ages, knew the intricacies of cancer and always had hugs and love to give.  Even giving their own words of support and encouragement. I have a fabulous group of friends as well as my sister's friends who have all showed up for me whenever I’ve needed them.  And of course my husband and daughters, who are my foundations.  The ones who believe, unwaveringly, that we can get through anything together. 

    Through your journey, what are some resources you have found that would be helpful to other women? 

    When I was first told I had the BRCA1 gene mutation I found an organization called Bright Pink.  THeir mission is to accelerate the impact of life saving breast and ovarian health interventions.  Talking with them helped me confidently decide to have a preventive mastectomy with reconstruction.  I refused to “do cancer”. HOwever before my surgery at the pre-surgery tests my doctor found a mass and now my surgery was necessary instead of preventive. However, because of my sister I already knew the exact organization and group of women to lean on. The women of The Young Survival Coalition descended upon me and my family with all the help we could possibly need. The YSC is a premiere non-profit dedicated to educating the medical community and the public that breast cancer can and does happen to young adults.  They have been an absolute force in my life who helped me find my voice and showed me how I could take the power back from cancer.  I found so much support and strength in them and the other young adults I have met through the organization. Another amazing organization is Pink Cans 4 Cancer found by my friends Tony and Robbie.  They are not only environmentally conscious with the recycling of cans and bottles but the money from the recycling is then used to support young women with breast cancer.  From arranging rides to chemo treatments, paying for medical expenses or even the cost of funerals But also to help young women realize their dreams.  Thanks to them they are supporting me and helped arrange the contacts for me to write a book about my sister and I.  I feel so incredibly lucky that I have had such incredible organizations to help and guide me during my diagnosis and beyond.

    What is something society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general? 

    Unfortunately there are those that are still shocked to find that young women are diagnosed with breast cancer.  There are still doctors who will send a young woman home after she points to a lump and tell their doctor it doesn't feel right.  This is what happened to my sister.  Her doctor dismissed her concerns over a lump and it took another 6 months and pressure from my sister before he would agree to a needle biopsy.  Perhaps if her doctor had been better educated on young women with breast cancer, Tracy would have caught her cancer earlier and she would still be here. 

    You come across another woman who has just received her diagnosis. What is one piece of advice you’d have for them at that moment?

    When I speak to young women who are newly diagnosed I always tell them that they must take the time to honor their feelings and emotions.  If they want to sit in their sadness and fear for a short time then they need to.  TOr if they want to go in “fight mode” have it.  But then, no matter their diagnosis, of the stage of their cancer, they must live.  They need to get up and go to their doctor's appointments.  Do not skip that dinner with friends. GOne on the trip, fall in love, start new career, learn to ride a motorcycle. Just live. Rest and take time when you need to and then get out there and live. And no matter what, you will never be alone.

    Because we have to (we love music here) - what’s the last song you listened to? 

    Ed Sheerhan’s Joker and the Queen. We’re MASSIVE Ed Sheerhan fans. Especially my daughter Tessa.

    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠

    On the Chair with Alina Pimkina Mehrle, Co-founder of AMEŌN

    On the Chair with Alina Pimkina Mehrle, Co-founder of AMEŌN

    Tell us a little about you.

    I am a designer from a family of artists who moved to the US for love and became an entrepreneur.  My first company is the NYC-based award-winning architectural design studio Asthetique.  My second company Ameōn is a skincare company born after my recovery from breast cancer.

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought?

    It was so shocking when the doctor called that I was numb and couldn’t process it at first.  Breast cancer isn’t something I thought was even a remote possibility so I hadn’t given it anything thought before my diagnosis and wasn’t ready to understand what it meant.  The cancer was aggressive so we had to start treatment right away which meant there wasn’t much time to overthink things.  Once treatment started I just listened to my doctors, took strength from the support of my husband, and put one foot in front of the other. 

    Sometimes it’s hard to “thrive,” we all have days where we are just trying to survive. What is something that gets you through on the hardest days?

    First and foremost, I am grateful to be alive.  Not many years ago my cancer diagnosis would have been a death sentence.  Willie Nelson has a song with a great lyric that my father-in-law loves to quote, “I woke up still not dead again today.”  Willie’s right!  The gift of life is the most precious gift we have.  That’s why I’m so passionate about supporting breast cancer research.  Also, when I’m feeling down I really look to my husband to cheer me up. He’s my rock. 

    Who is another woman you have admired on this journey that has shared a similar experience with breast cancer/cancer (please type what type of cancer you had/have)?

    I had the great pleasure of meeting Kinga Lampert, Co-chair of the Board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).  Her grace, intelligence, compassion, and dedication just blew me away.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30 and Kinga at 31.  After her recovery, Kinga dedicated her life to working with BCRF.  I found that so inspiring, and BCRF is such a wonderful organization, that my skincare company Ameōn partnered with BCRF to help find a cure.

    We all need a good support system; who makes up yours? 

    My husband, mother and grandmother, in-laws, and our dog Boris are my foundation.  I’m also blessed to have two wonderful business partners, Julien in Asthetique and Roman in Ameōn. 

    Through your journey, what are some resources you have found that would be helpful to other women? 

    It is critically important to have a good connection with your doctors.  That includes your oncologist, surgeon, and plastic surgeon.  The relationship with your oncologist is the most important because you’ll be together for years so find someone who you feel comfortable with and who you know cares deeply about you as a person.  I’ve been blessed to have that and it’s made all the difference in the world.  It also really helps to get involved to make a positive impact.  Supporting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has helped me heal. 

    What is something society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general? 

    There’s an idea that if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer young you must have the BRCA gene.  I was diagnosed at 30 and don’t have it.  1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.  That’s a mind-blowing statistic and it means that every woman needs to take her breast health seriously. Do self-exams regularly and go to the doctor regularly. If something doesn’t feel right always ask a medical professional because the sooner you start treatment the better your prognosis. 

    You come across another woman who has just received her diagnosis. What is one piece of advice you’d have for them at that moment?

    Take a deep breath, bring your loved ones close and take it one step at a time. You can do this.

    Because we have to (we love music here) - what’s the last song you listened to? 

    Sebastien Tellier – Roche

    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠

    On the Chair with Mercedes Wilson, Founder and Executive Director of For Our Daughters, CEO of Sadie's Relish & Co-Host of AM Buffalo (WKBW,ABC)

    On the Chair with Mercedes Wilson, Founder and Executive Director of For Our Daughters, CEO of Sadie's Relish & Co-Host of AM Buffalo (WKBW,ABC)

    Tell us a little about you.

    I'm a wife, mommy, daughter, cousin, friend, advocate, country girl, foodie and so much more.  I am the most calm right after prayer and when listening to music.  I love meeting new people and learning their stories.  I am not a surface person, I love to learn what makes people tick, what makes them happy. 

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought?

    How long do I have to live? Who is going to take care of my children? 

    Sometimes it’s hard to “thrive,” we all have days where we are just trying to survive. What is something that gets you through on the hardest days? 

    Music, I turn on Whitney Houston. Tears have healing power as well.  I also know that you appreciate the good days because bad days exist, so bad days don't last always.

    Who is another woman you have admired on this journey that has shared a similar experience with breast cancer/cancer (please type what type of cancer you had/have)? 

    I had stage 2 estrogen receptor breast  cancer.  Are you really going to make me name one?  I have a whole  tribe here in Buffalo/Western NY!  You will get me in trouble! LOL. They ALL inspire me, seriously, they are unmatched, one text and they all come running.

    We all need a good support system; who makes up yours?

    My friends and family, my husband and children!

    Through your journey, what are some resources you have found that would be helpful to other women?

    Other women, we all need a tribe. The tribe that recognizes when you go quiet and check on you, the ones that bring you meals when you don't feel well or just text I love you when you need it.

    What is something society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general?

    That our strength means we don't need anything. That our first "no I don't need anything" means you should stop trying.

    You come across another woman who has just received her diagnosis. What is one piece of advice you’d have for them at that moment? 

    It's ok to not be ok. You have just gained an amazing sisterhood that you will have for life!

    Because we have to (we love music here) - what’s the last song you listened to? 

    Actually this week I have been listening to the queen Mary J Blige and I just listened to Mary J Blige Just Fine!!!

    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠

    On the Chair with Denise Albert, Award-Winning Journalist, Television Producer & Co-founder of The Moms and Mamarazzi Celebrity Events

    On the Chair with Denise Albert, Award-Winning Journalist, Television Producer & Co-founder of The Moms and Mamarazzi Celebrity Events

    Tell us a little about you.

    "DENISE IS A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR AND ADVOCATE, AS WELL AS AN AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST, TELEVISION PRODUCER, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE MOMS AND MAMARAZZI CELEBRITY EVENTS. SHE IS A PROUD DIVORCED MOM OF TWO INCREDIBLE BOYS AND PASSIONATE ABOUT HELPING OTHERS IN THEIR FIGHT AGAINST CANCER AND CURRENTLY LAUNCHING HER NEW VENTURE, MY CANCER FAMILY (MYCANCERFAMILY)."

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought?

    It was terrifying. I couldn’t believe it and I remember thinking that I may not be around to raise my kids. That was truly horrifying. They were only 6 and 9 at the time. 

    Sometimes it’s hard to “thrive,” we all have days where we are just trying to survive. What is something that gets you through on the hardest days?

    I’ve always gotten through hard times by planning things to look forward to.  It can be anything from a trip with my kids, a birthday party or celebration for any and all occasions, a date, a drink with a friend, or a girl's getaway!  

    Who is another woman you have admired on this journey that has shared a similar experience with breast cancer/cancer (please type what type of cancer you had/have)? 

    There are so many!  My friend Gwen was diagnosed a few months after I was and our treatment was the same so we “went through it” together.  My friend Ashley was also diagnosed a few months after I was but we had different kinds and very different treatments and I almost feel like it’s a different disease but I admire how she went through it too.  There are a lot of women I’ve met through social media I admire all of them for sharing their stories and being open about their own journeys.  Sharing helps others in ways you can’t even imagine. 

    We all need a good support system; who makes up yours? 

    I have a great family that is led by my mom.  She’s my best friend and my biggest supporter.  My dad and my sister-in-law are also part of my support system along with many close friends.  I have a large family and really incredible friends.  My boys are also great support for me now -  especially because they’re older (17 and almost 14).  We are extremely close and open and honest and talk about everything!

    Through your journey, what are some resources you have found that would be helpful to other women? 

    I really pieced it all together…and found everything overwhelming and really wanted everything in 1 place.  Doctors tell you not to google, and I tried to listen but it’s so hard not to.  All of my experience led me to where I am today, which is launching a new venture called My Cancer Family.   I want to help others diagnosed with Cancer with resources and information and community in one place.

    What is something society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general? 

    Interesting question.  The most important thing is early detection.  Every single doctor should make sure women get screened.  I think there also should be screenings earlier and also more accessible no matter what your health insurance may be.  It’s also important for children of breast cancer patients to start their screening young — even if you don’t have the BRCA gene, family members often should be screened at 25.  There’s very little information “out there” about this.  My nieces, for instance, along with my boys are supposed to get checked starting at 25.  I don’t want to alarm anyone, but if we want to do better, screenings and early detection is EVERYTHING!

    You come across another woman who has just received her diagnosis. What is one piece of advice you’d have for them at that moment?

    The first thing I always tell every single person who calls or messages me is “this is the hardest time.  The unknown.  The tests.  The appointments.  The unknown path”.  Hopefully, once you have a plan for treatment, the mental and emotional part will slightly ease up.  

    Because we have to (we love music here) - what’s the last song you listened to? 

    My son’s new song. He’s an aspiring artist and went to the studio this weekend and woke up excited to tell me and share it with me, and said it’s his best one yet. Watch out for him!

    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠

    On the Chair with Amri Kibbler, Co-founder & Chief Community Officer @heymamaco

    On the Chair with Amri Kibbler, Co-founder & Chief Community Officer @heymamaco

    Tell us a little about you.

    I’m the co-founder and Chief Community Officer of a mission-driven tech start-up in the motherhood community space, HeyMama. I have two girls aged 6 + 10 and I live in the Lower Hudson Valley with my husband, 2 daughter, dog Sparkles and by the time this comes out we’ll have a new puppy, and 10 chickens. We like to garden and grow loads of veggies to jar and enjoy doing all the outdoor activities. 

    "For the past eight years, she has led the community focus by spearheading the membership team and all event programming. A born connector, Amri has used her innate talents for creativity and curation to bring together an energetic team dedicated to building meaningful connections and collaborations with mothers at every stage of their personal and professional lives. Prior to founding HeyMama, she spent more than ten years creating content for major publications like Glamour Magazine and Cosmopolitan as an editor and stylist. The AdWeek Trailblazer has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Entrepreneur, on the Today Show, and she has graced the cover of Parents Magazine. Throughout all her innovative endeavors, Amri seeks to use empathy and spirituality to spread happiness and joy by helping other mothers develop their self-worth."

    Upon diagnosis, what was your first thought?

    A tiny voice inside me said we knew it all along…over the course of the last year 2020 during Covid I have struggled with so many symptoms and had been through test after test changing doctors until finally one of them recommended that I get a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer. I had googled my symptoms (ugh) over and over again during the year and even though cancer was a total match I allowed myself to be persuaded by the doctor that continued to downplay what I as going through and site the pandemic and the stress that women were under as a major cause of my symptoms. It went so far as for me to be sent to a GI specialist who without examining me said “I looked fine” and wasn’t in need of a colonoscopy even though it stands to recommend the test for every woman over the age of 45 and I was 45.

    Sometimes it’s hard to “thrive,” we all have days where we are just trying to survive. What is something that gets you through on the hardest days?

    That is very true, there are hard days. I found it really hard to acclimate back to reality after treatment and the pandemic and deal with other stressor of day to day life - like kids screaming at each other or conflicts that came up at work. My reservoir of whatever you have that allows you to handle stress was completely empty. For a while I could kind of do nothing but survive, definitely not thrive. I also found it challenging as the founder of a mission driven organization where lots of people didn’t realize I was sick of shouldering the expectation that people had for what I should be doing during this time. I was truly exhausted. I just wanted to curl up on a ball. The thing that has really helped me to reset was developing a meditation practice. I work with an incredible coach. He’s part healer, part spiritual guide, part meditation teacher and he taught me to bring myself to a place of peace. Outside of that I do have a lot of mindfulness practice. I do find that just getting outside and really looking at nature plants - the sky is super helpful. It helps me to track the bigness that's out there in a good way..

    Who is another woman you have admired on this journey that has shared a similar experience with breast cancer/cancer (please type what type of cancer you had/have)? 

    I had rectal cancer and I actually didn’t have another woman to lean on who had the same type of cancer so I really try to give advice and support as much as possible to anyone that reaches out to me. The journey was really isolating for me. I did connect with a few men that had been through the experience but I would have really appreciated having a woman to talk to.

    We all need a good support system; who makes up yours? 

    My husband is my ace of spades. I was sick at the height of covid so there was no physical support during that time. He really had to do everything. No one could help watch our kids, babysit, drop off food, help drive me to my appointments etc. We were really in it together and the experience made us even closer.

    I had a lot of moral support from my family and friends. My parents are incredible and as soon as the lockdown was lifted a bit, they  have been taking the girls for some 1:1 time where they live down in Florida

    My HeyMama community is always my go to for support on anything. I know I can rely on this incredible support system for anything from business to health to parenting through thick and thin.

    Through your journey, what are some resources you have found that would be helpful to other women? 

    I was treated at MSK and they have great resources both for patients and for just anyone on their website.

    I met the founder of Alula which make the best recommendations for products you might need in a chic lifestyle way that’s appealing. Everything they list is a highly recommended product.

    What is something society gets wrong about young women battling breast cancer and cancer in general? 

    Breast cancer is much more common and in the public eye than colorectal cancer in younger patients but the numbers of colorectal cancer in those without any risk factor and at a younger age is skyrocketing. People think colorectal cancer is older than older people.  I never considered this type of cancer to be a danger to me until I was diagnosed and I was shocked but the numbers! I would encourage any woman over 45 to get a colonoscopy as this is the recommended age and it's covered by insurance. It's actually super easy you just take a nap and wake up and it's done.

    You come across another woman who has just received her diagnosis. What is one piece of advice you’d have for them at that moment?

    People want to help but they really don’t know what to do so if you have a list of the things you actually need help with, the ready friends will appreciate being able to support and you will get actual help. If you can, before you start treatment, assign specific tasks to your support system so you don’t have to worry about who is taking the kids to dance or soccer practice.  Try not to make plans you will feel guilty canceling but give yourself the option to join when you are feeling good. I found I struggled emotionally because I felt like I was letting my kids down all the time. I was so zapped for energy and would try to stretch myself to do things and then wind up feeling terrible.

    Because we have to (we love music here) - what’s the last song you listened to? 

    Marshmallow and Khalid “Numb” because it seems to be the song of the summer and my kids have it on repeat over and over again.

    Photographer @sophieelgort

    Creative Director @stacyigel

    Chair Creator @thevaleriestarart ⁠

    Hair & Makeup @thevaleriestar

    Location c/o @jimmycrystalny ⁠