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.