I did not know at that time that 6 months later I would face breast cancer, I did not know how challenging it would become to juggle working, building a new non-profit and managing breast cancer all at the same time. During the first few months of my diagnosis I took a step back and thankfully Community Navigators was in a good place for me to take a step back for the time being. Goes to show you that even when you think your healthy and have all the time in the world to make your dreams come true; you never really know what the future will bring so YOLO! (You only live once)
Before breast cancer decided to impact my life, I worked a lot but I didn’t mind. I personally have known I wanted to help people with disabilities since I was a young girl. Unlike my friends in college who did not know what they wanted to do when they grew up, I knew what the track was for me.
I attended Southern Connecticut State University to study Therapeutic Recreation with a focus on disability studies. Including people with disabilities within their communities was always something very important to me. After gaining experience in different aspects in the field I knew for me to be truly happy I would probably need to break off and start my own agency to help individuals with disabilities and their families. In 2014, my boss passed away to cancer and I knew it was time to jump and take a risk. By 2015, I gave my notice and announced the beginning of Community Navigators, a non-profit driven to help create inclusive opportunities in individuals own communities.
Now that i’ve been battling breast cancer for over a year its time to try get back into the groove of life and work. CNI means a lot to me and my husband left his trucking business to fill my shoes while I was in treatment. It confuses people why i’m a volunteer CEO, well treatments make you tired, my hip can make it very challenging to help people when its flaring, I am not where I was physically before cancer and I can’t always anticipate when I can assist.
Many of us woman & men with metastatic breast cancer look good and healthy. Many of us put on a phenomenal act to continue to live in the world everyone else lives in. I struggle feeling guilty not being able to do more. I’m learning how to make compromises with life. Life keeps going and its moves very quickly. You see friends and others growing in their professions. You see other thrivers working like they are not sick. All of this makes taking it easy and taking care of yourself very challenging because you don’t want to be left behind. But the biggest reality is I (we) can not rely on generous donations forever and in order to keep a roof over our heads working has to happen. Disability is helpful but it doesn’t pay the bills.
Most people you see lately who get struck with cancer their go-fund me pages help them through the worse part of their journey. All the help we realized definitely helped during the initial part of my journey and couldn’t not be more thankful for all the love and support! But we cannot depend on everyones generosity until my cancer ultimately wins.
Some of my best friends have intellectual disabilities and they stood strongly next to me during the beginning of my journey, so I never stepped away from “work” and i’m lucky I don’t view spending time with people with disabilities as work but as time with my friends. But when I try to jump back into everything the biggest battle working is doctors appointments, fatigue, bone pain, chemo brain and insecurities of cancer; makes it a serious challenge. I rarely work alone, Martin or someone is usually with me. Not because I can’t work alone but it gives me a sense of support. I’m happy my knowledge and years of experience keeps me needed and included. Yes, keeping my mind off cancer and doing something else is wonderful but hard to keep balanced. I’m a go getter so its hard for me to stay on the side lines and my body tells me very loudly to stop and slow down. I’m learning how to listen to my body and not be super woman.
I am very confident but nothing prepares you to explain all the time I don’t feel well there is no way I am get up. Its even harder because you know you look healthy.
Want to know more about the type of work I do? Feel free to check out CNI's website!
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