Since her first visit to our office in March 2008 she has never ceased to amaze us with her drive, determination, optimism and above all her courage dealing with a life-altering experience at such a young age. Her accomplishments are so many and so valuable we asked Alice to tell us her own story...
Before cancer, I was a workaholic, attached to the accomplishments I could accumulate. I had been an entrepreneur since I was 19-years-old and wanted to be rich and well-known. I woke up at 4 am each morning, was on the phone with the UK or NY by 5am and didn’t stop until my brain stopped functioning. I said yes to everyone and everything so I was involved in a number of charities, had many clients and a great deal of relationships, many of which I hardly ever saw because I was “too busy,” to even answer their phone calls. I was the hamster in the ball, running faster and faster into the future, not living in the present. At the beginning of 2008, I made a vision board with my goals for the year. At the top I wrote: Receive Love. Be a woman of grace, modesty and poise. I had no idea at the time that cancer would catalyze me to achieve exactly what I said I wanted.
In the past, I would have isolated myself from everyone when I was diagnosed. Instead, I became open and vulnerable. I accepted meals, rides, favors and love. For the first time in my life, I felt how loved I am. Every family member, every friend, every old neighbor from my childhood, every colleague sent cards, letters and gifts. I spent my first chemotherapy session writing thank you notes to them, focusing on gratitude rather than my fear of side effects that were soon to follow.
After surgery my mind wanted to do one thing and my body another. I realized that was probably always the case. I have slowed down considerably, dropping my corporate work hours from 80 hour work weeks to 50 hours per month! I am learning to manage my energy and listen to my body’s needs. I tell people when I am at my limit giving up the embarrassment that I am weak or a failure. I spend the rest of my time on the non-profit I started, blogging about my journey on the Huffington Post, playing with my dogs and spending ample time with my loved ones. I am enjoying living in the present like never before!
Cancer brings out the best and worst in people. I stared my worst in the face and accepted that the darkness that stared back was as much a part of me as the best. I could no longer hate the aspects of myself I spent the last 31 years judging and criticizing. I love all of me for the first time. Loving myself has given me a greater capacity to love others. I no longer try to manipulate what others think of me. I took my mask off. And when I did I saw my truth: I am truly on this earth to make a difference for my loved ones and my community as a woman of grace.
I started the My Vision Foundation three weeks into my diagnosis. Cancer made me realize that my life calling was to become a social entrepreneur. The foundation was established to provide progressive programs to help young women heal emotionally from being diagnosed with cancer through nude, partial nude or clothed photography sessions. We also provide fertility scholarships so young women may freeze embryos or eggs to preserve their future as a mom. We held our first fundraiser on April 17, four days before my surgery. 100 people came out to debut our plans, helping us raise our first $25,000. We honored our first cancer recipient of the photography sessions and gave out our first Visionary Award to my fertility specialist for giving hope to so many young women with cancer. In four short months, during which time I had surgery and began chemotherapy, we have raised almost $100,000, was gifted office space, secured four corporate sponsors, have been featured in three publications, held both West and East coast debut events, with three more events in the works. Perhaps the most amazing moment for us was when a team of twenty My Vision supporters crossed the finish line at the Race for the Cure in Washington DC, June 7, just 10 days after my first chemotherapy infusion. Our banner listed my mother and me first as cancer survivors, following us across the finish line as we held hands, forever connected by the same disease. By September, we had a national database of photographers, all who have been prescreened, to provide pre-menopausal cancer patients with life changing photography sessions all over the country. By October, we had raised $1 million to financially aid young women who want to preserve their fertility. Please check out my non-profit organization: fertileaction.org