Breast Cancer Isn't A Ribbon

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This is a post to give you a snapshot of some of the women I have known affected by cancer and how your business can make your community a better place.


Lee Bright
I met Lee at a meeting of arts organizations to "better our business." Lee used her trademark phrase, "You need to get over yourself," time and time again when people talked about how they "couldn't" do something. Her take-no-prisoners attitude was just what was needed. Her point, don't care if you are an artist, if no one's coming or supporting it, you better change or you'll be gone.

Every October she would send out her monthly newsletter with marketing tips on purple paper declaring it was also her birthday month with gifts you could give her - including a date with Tom Selleck.

At a strategy meeting I attended at her house one night she treated all of us to Chablis wine and a fancy cheese platter. At the end of the meeting, I got in my car and found I was a bit woozy. Instead I walked home the few blocks and realized when I got home I was drunk. How could that be? I only had one glass.

I found out later that unbeknownst to me, Lee had mischievously been refilling our glasses when we weren't looking.

I became a better marketer because of her direct challenges to conventional thinking. Lee loved life, people and new challenges.

Few people come into our lives like that. When I moved into my historic home in 2003, Lee dropped by to offer congratulations but softly confided to me, she was tired of fighting the breast cancer off. She passed a month later at the age of 54.

Betty Barionuevo
Betty passed from ovarian cancer in her forties and not breast cancer but I include her in this post because she was a model boss; the fun type who dressed up for every holiday from the Easter Bunny to Halloween witch. She loved life, was always thinking of others and sharing her life journey freely.

Here is her last holiday letter that I still cherish from 1993:

A Good News Story

"After a good night's sleep, an expert application of make-up, wearing a smashing outfit and just the right light, at just the right angle I could be called striking.

A beauty I am not. Yet while visiting Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco, a group of Asian tourists swarmed around me and were obviously studying me.

A young spokes-girl came forward to explain, "My mother thinks you are so beautiful." I smiled, "Oh, she is very kind, thank you."

A few minutes passed and she came forward once again, "May we take your picture?" "Of course." I cooperated although a bit bewildered.

You see today I was dressed in a sweatsuit and slacks and a scarf on my head...I had no sequins or pearls...only remnants of a splash of blush and a dab of lipstick faded from the morning application. Once again I thanked the girl for her kindness and told her it had meant a lot to me as I was quite ill.

Little did she know I was on pass from Stanford hospital during my chemotherapy session. Worse yet, just that morning I had lost all my hair and flushed it down the toilet before wrapping my bald head in my little cotton scarf.

What a blessing to receive this random act of of all days."

Heidi Floyd
While both of these great woman passed before they turned my age, treatment options have changed a lot in the past five years - just look at Heidi.

I met Heidi from the Vera Bradley Foundation earlier this week and that chance encounter led me to write this post. Her own struggle about being diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant can be found on this clip showing how much things have changed for the better as a result of the pink ribbon project.

Point For Business Owners

Instead of having a sale to benefit yourself, why not create an event to make a difference to the women in your community who have survived breast cancer as well as to keep the young women you know from having to deal with such health challenges?

Shopping for the cure is really to raise awareness of the scope of the lives affected by breast cancer, so partner with other businesses. Invite a nurse from a cancer center to speak - you'll find you can have a much greater place in your community than just being a source for your particular widgets.

While there are many organizations who are doing important work, only if we take the time to remember those who have been affected by a disease like breast cancer or AIDS do we put a face to the ribbon symbols.

Thanks Heidi for reminding me of these great influencers of mine and sharing your story.

Miss you Lee, and Betty...