My 2nd Act feature essay – ovarian cancer solo survivor

[caption id="attachment_2339" align="alignleft" width="224"] Tracy Maxwell[/caption] When I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer at age 36, I was the CEO of a three-million dollar company, a part-time river guide, an active volunteer


Tracy Maxwell

When I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer at age 36, I was the CEO of a three-million dollar company, a part-time river guide, an active volunteer in my community, and I was single and living alone. That last piece became the sticking point for me. “How am I am going to do this on my own,” I wondered? With my family far away, a company to run with employees who are counting on me and not even a boyfriend by my side, I was concerned. I had never felt more alone in my life.

Cancer quickly helped me see how connected I truly was, how many people loved me and how much support I had. I received cards, letters and gifts from hundreds of people, rides to doctor appointments, and so much love from the people in my life. Nearly $10,000 was raised in my name to support ovarian cancer research, and another $25,000 for my treatment during two subsequent recurrences. Someone flew out to Colorado to be with me during each Wednesday chemo session and through the weekend after, friends and family members took care of me during recovery from four surgeries, and I was supported in numerous other ways I couldn’t even imagine.

There were many valuable lessons from my cancer experience, the biggest of which was learning how to ask for help and graciously receiving the support of others. Before being diagnosed, I prided myself on my independence, on my strength, and on my contributions to others. I got my value from serving, and was uncomfortable being on the receiving end. Since surviving cancer three times, I recognize that my value comes just from being me, and I don’t have to do anything to earn my place in the world. It feels good to allow myself to be supported and taken care of by others.

On my one-year cancerversary (anniversary of my diagnosis), I started writing a blog called A Single Cell about my experiences as a solo survivor. Nearly every month since then, I have posted my thoughts on navigating this experience as a singleton, and my message resonated with others in the same boat. A few years ago, a publisher came across my blog and offered me a book deal. Being Single, With Cancer: A Solo Survivor’s Guide to Life, Love, Health & Happiness was published in August of 2014, and my new career as a healing coach and speaker began. I lead healing trips and retreats, coach singles and survivors on how to find the silver linings and lessons in whatever they are dealing with and share lessons from my own experience and others’ in my book.

More than half the U.S. population is single and 31 million of us live alone. As the World Health Organization predicts cancer rates will rise by more than 57% over the next 20 years, more and more of us will likely be dealing with serious illnesses as single people. While this bodes well for my book sales, it demonstrates the very real need for more support, services and resources for the single set. My organization, Solo Survivors, was founded for that purpose, and serving single survivors is my second act.

Tracy Maxwell


Cindy Chafin
Cindy Chafin, M.Ed., MCHES® serves as editor-in-chief of Unconditionally Her. Through her many years as a masters-level certified health educator and 18-year employment in a higher education setting – as well as several years as a graduate and doctoral student – she has written countless articles, essays, publications, grant applications, proposals, reports, and other technical and creative writing documents. In addition to her training and professional work experience, she spent four years as volunteer editor of New Focus Daily, a publication of the Women Survivors Alliance, a national women cancer survivors-focused organization based in Nashville, Tennessee.
While serving as editor of Unconditionally Her, a women-focused magazine which provides content on anything from recipes, travel, books, and everything in between, she has a special interest in fitness, health, and well-being. She is certified by the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and was part of the first cohort to receive master's level designation. NCHEC certifies health education specialists, promotes professional development, and strengthens professional preparation and practice. She is proud to be a CHES® and has been a public health professional for many years after receiving her graduate degree in health promotion and education from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She was a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for many years and looks forward to re-engaging with women one-on-one as a health coach pending completion of her certification and doctoral degree to supplement her public health and academic work.

She currently is the Associate Director for Community Programs for the Center for Health and Human Services at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, located just outside of Nashville, where she has been a project director of multiple grants since 2002 and served as interim director from 2015-2018. Cindy offers her consulting services and volunteer hours under the umbrella of Community Health Collaboratives, LLC which she founded in 2002 for organizations such as Unconditionally Her and other non-profit and charity organizations. She is pleased to promote empowerment and confidence of women readers across the globe, and to provide inspiration, motivation, and voice for social change through her role as editor-in-chief of Unconditionally Her.

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