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The Blessing of Breast Cancer|
It takes a pretty special woman to feel blessed after having had breast cancer,
a mastectomy and 6 hard surgeries to save her life and appearance. But it becomes
downright amazing when that same woman puts her pain and experience to work helping
others afflicted by breast cancer. I may simply be a biased husband, but I'd like to tell
you the story of the most inspirational person I've ever met, my amazing wife, Mary,
and why we have built this business.|
In late 1999, after about 8 years of work, Mary and I had finally succeeded with our
partners in creating an 80 million dollar per year call center selling travel. The
fact that we were gone from our 3 children, 10 days per month, was fairly annoying,
but we'd always made it up to them with cruises, extravagant vacations and
the like. Even the fact that running a 24 hour business seemed to cut harshly into
our intimate husband/wife time seemed to be smoothed over by the excitement and
rewards of our success. After 25+ years of programming and technology architecture
for me and 20+ years of business operations architecture for her, we were finally
going where we wanted to. Which, in December of 1999, was our annual Christmas
party for our 500 employees. While getting dressed for the gala, I found a lump
in Mary's right breast. Although we expertly soothed each other's fears, a shadow
hung over both of us that night.
Two days later on a plane flying home, we began discussing the possibilities of
what was going on. Mary never seemed to have had time for a mammogram - it seemed that,
since there were no risk factors in her family, she did not smoke and we lived a
pretty healthy life style, that a mammogram was just not necessary. A couple days
later, Mary got in and had her first mammogram. The person reading her films told
her quietly that we should speak with a surgeon. The surgeon told us that
we needed to perform a biopsy and analysis of some tissue that he "didn't like the
look of." He did his best to reassure us that 80% of these tests come up negative
and there is plenty room for us to be optimistic. Two days later, I took her in for
the biopsy, which was terribly painful and took several hours from start to finish.
She was sedated and still pretty frightened when I took her home, wrapped her in
blankets and put her to bed. I am not one to ask for special favors, but I spent
the rest of that day and night praying for the health of my wife. I really thought
that I heard a message, "She will be alright."|
The next morning our doctor called. He dispassionately told me that she had cancer.|
She must have a mastectomy.
Please call the nurse and schedule it.
What happened to me next I can barely explain - I can only say that I walked about the
room clutching myself and alternately feeling the horrible responsibility of waking
my beautiful wife and telling her what she must do, and crying from utter fear and
confusion. I had asked and prayed for her well-being - what was going on? What would
the surgery do to her? Would they get it all? Would I lose my wife, my children lose
their mother to cancer? How could I walk downstairs, look in those lovely eyes and
tell her the worst thing I could say to anyone, "You have cancer?"
She took it reasonably well, all things considered. She assumed that the mastectomy
would be kind of an "emptying" of her breast tissue and they would just put in some
implants and we'd be good to go. We'd handled tougher problems in our business, right?
Then we spoke to a plastic surgeon friend who explained the magnitude of the mastectomy,
all they were going to take, the rigors of reconstruction and a whole host of terrible
things. Suddenly this didn't look like such a slam-dunk. Mary had Ductal Carcinoma
in-situ, or DCIS, meaning that there was a cancer in the process of becoming a tumor
in her breast. The nature of it was such that if they took her breast, she would not
need chemotherapy, radiation or anything, and the rate of cure is 100%, provided we
got right to it. So we did. Fifteen days later she had a mastectomy
and started the first of 6 nasty surgeries designed to save her life and give her the
best appearance possible. The process of reconstruction took a total of 3 years and we are
told that about every 10 years she will need to go in for "maintenance work."
But I was going to tell you about this business,|
and why she is so amazing.
About 6 months after her first operation, we had a pretty cathartic epiphany regarding
our lives, our relationship with our children and how precious every single moment
together was. We grew steadily more tired of our business and the un-quantifiable
portion of our life that it seemed to effortlessly and tirelessly drain from us. We
sold our interests in the summer of 2000, bought bicycles, started taking our children
to school every day, saw every one of our boy's baseball games, snuggled more, watched
a lot of our favorite movies, you name it.|
But a new passion was growing. Mary had begun talking to other survivors about her
experience, and quickly realized that it was early detection of her cancer that was
the reason that she was alive. In 2001, Mary and I came up with a new business model.
"What if," we thought, "we could build a business that could provide a method to pay
the mortgage while simultaneously bringing money, awareness and resources to the fight
against breast cancer?" More importantly, we considered how we could get people to
be directly involved, to personally feel their contribution - something that other
companies have a hard time doing. How deeply does somebody really feel that they've
made a difference when they eat a yogurt and
IF they save the top and IF they mail it in, then some large company will hopefully make a
donation? What if every time they made a purchase, they were actually the donors and
thanked as such?
And with that, Beaux Tie Designs was born. An eStore where 15% of everything you spend
instantly becomes a donation to the Arizona Institute for Breast Health - an incredible
foundation providing second opinions, treatment options and counseling completely free
of charge to men and women diagnosed with breast cancer. Here's the best part: the 15%
is YOUR donation, not ours. You get the credit, the thank you letter and awareness of the
impact of your donation, even the tax write off
(To learn more about how this works, click here)
Even a $5.00 "Simple Awareness" pin
becomes a seventy-five cent donation to the cause. This foundation is doing such good
work Mary became a board member, we donated their web site
( click here to visit AIBH ) and Mary recently
became president of the board. Both of us work hard with the foundation to keep them as
operationally efficient as possible, so that the absolute minimum of "load" is placed
against donations - we want every penny possible going to work for the people that
need it most.
So, here it is. Mary is still in pain from her operations. She knows when it is going
to rain two days before anyone else because she only has about ½ inch of flesh on top
of her prosthetic and weather affects her mightily. She is afraid of the possibility
of ovarian cancer. She wants to take a genetic test to see how likely it is that our
daughter may get breast cancer.
But even with huge crosses for such a petite frame to
carry, Mary gets up 7 days a week and works to raise money for the board, raise awareness
for women, help those recently diagnosed deal with their anguish, honors and works with
survivors to assist them with their challenges, runs a jewelry business online that is
raising money for the cause, walks in fund raising races and donates to other organizations
all over the world. Amongst all that, she adheres utterly to our newfound family values of
time together, relationship over business and love over success. And yes, the picture at left is her
after reconstruction. Mary and I received the
cruelest of blessings - as violent a wake up call as we required to reestablish what is
really important in our lives, the lives of our children, loved ones and friends. We are
profoundly grateful. Mary is alive because of early detection of her cancer. Our family
is intact because we listened to a little messenger in the form of a lump, that we'd
better take care of business really quickly if we wanted to continue having business
to take care of. Our children have a mommy because she had the strength to do whatever
needed to be done, regardless of pain and fear. And now, thousands of people around the
world have made an impact in the fight as well, because Mary created a way for them to give
gifts that give twice - once to the person they are buying for, and once in the form of a
donation that their purchase created. She does this every day with a smile on her face and
without looking back. She awes and inspires me.|
Thank you for your time reading this. Although telling this story always takes me back to
some of the most painful memories in my life, I am once again reminded of our profound good
fortune. From our family to yours, Mary and I wish you health and peace. Please take a moment
to check on your own health and the health of your loved ones. A few moments of diligence
now can save a whole bunch of tomorrows.
P. S. By the way - I did finally get the message. Mary really was going to be OK, it just
took a little longer and a little more work than we thought it would. Thank you, Amen.