Everyone has a story. But for those of us who are cancer survivors, the story of who we were before our diagnosis and who we became after makes our stories all the more poignant. That line in the sand of our lives gives us new opportunities that might never have been revealed.
These two lovely ladies are the perfect example. Sharon Crews and Lucy Barlow are the founders of Care Pax & Company, makers of My Chemo Cocktail and Me, a complete chemo management system. Here’s their story, in their words.
Give us a brief sketch of your life the day before your diagnosis and the day after.
Sharon: The day before my diagnosis, I was 34 year-old newlywed. I had just moved into new home and had a job I loved. I was kind of a late bloomer and felt like I had just gotten it all together.I got my diagnosis in two stages. When I received the formal diagnosis of early stage Triple negative breast cancer, I was ready to rock and roll. I had dealt with the fact I was going to have to give up my work as a speech pathologist because I couldn’t risk infection being around children. And my to-do list shifted; things that had been at the bottom of list like my family, parents, recreation, suddenly rose to top. The stuff that drove me was gone. I guess that means maybe it wasn’t as important as I thought it was.
Lucy: The day before my diagnosis can be described in one word: busy. I was involved with work, community service, family and friends. My diagnosis was missed; there was a tumor hiding behind a cyst. My practitioner wasn’t comfortable with diagnosis and wanted a second opinion. I was in denial and wanted no part of a second opinion. I had speech pathology clinic. The day after my diagnosis, I was fearful of how I was going to function, juggling my life along with my treatment. I went on to have two separate lumpectomies.
What was the A Ha! moment that caused you two to create Care Pax and My Chemo Cocktail?
Sharon: A lady in my community named Amy was starting chemo. I woke up one night with a bizarre “chemo ache,” and began to think about Amy and what she would need. The next morning, I went to store and found a pink backpack. I filled with everything she could think of and took it to the oncology unit where Amy was being treated. Another acquaintance, named Michelle, was diagnosed a short time later. When I went to visit Michelle, she showed me how Amy had repacked the back pack and regifted it. It was Lucy who encouraged me to make it into a business.
Lucy: I was in my car after my first lumpectomy and heard God speak into my spirit. “This is happening for a reason.” I heard it twice but couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of it all. A short time later, I was waiting for my treatment one day. A woman came in and our eyes met. I saw her loneliness and despair. As soon as I could, I called Sharon and said, Let’s partner on this. And the rest is history!
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened during the creation and operation of My Chemo Cocktail?
Lucy: We felt we needed to add stickers to the backpacks, the kinds with statements and emotions on them that women in treatment could wear on their clothing. So we went to to the beach to work. Why not? We had so much fun writing them. My favorite is: “This is my best Kojack impression.”
Sharon: My favorite is “I’m smelling the roses, not pushing up daisies.”
Besides the women of the Women Survivors Alliance (of course!), tell me about the person or people you’ve met through your work who has/have changed your life.
Lucy: Oh, there are so many wonderful people, so many of whom we met at the 2013 National Women’s Survivors Convention like Peter Coppola and Scott Hamilton. And then Les Brown. It’s been an honor and privilege to meet. They have been very inspirational to us.
Sharon: And of course the women we present the packs to. Sometimes we have the opportunity to deliver the packs in person. I want the recipient to feel like, at that moment, she’s the only woman on earth who has cancer. Sometimes they’re frightened, sometimes they cry. But at the end, they feel empowered. One woman even referred to her pack “her,” as if it was a friend she was bringing along to chemo!
One hundred years from now, how do you hope you’ll be remembered?
Sharon: A strong light in the darkness.
Lucy: That I was able to make someone’s life easier. It’s a very humbling achievement.