Last spring we had the pleasure of interviewing Marybeth Cornwell, General Merchandise Manager/Senior Vice President Home at Walmart and a cancer survivor. Maybeth has had a fabulous career as an executive and you can read more about that by clicking HERE. She is also a breast cancer survivor and is currently on the Board of Directors of Hope Cancer Resources. As part of her earlier interview, she answered questions for us about her experience with cancer. Her answers were so comprehensive (she even included a reading list) and so wonderful that we decided to save that part of her interview for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So thank you Marybeth for joining us again!
1. In December 2011, you faced a huge personal challenge when you were diagnosed with breast cancer. How did you prepare to battle it?
Well, first I got my hands on everything I could read about the disease. (I have a “best of / worst of” reading list, included below in this post.) As a next step, I set up a Caring Bridge site. That site is pure genius. Well-meaning friends and family can consume your time with their questions when you should be focused on inhaling/exhaling, researching, and planning.
Then I asked for help. Walmart’s benefits team has a doctor who did an extensive amount of research using facts (“outcomes”) and helped me find the perfect combination of major cancer center + great surgeon + top plastic surgeon – no easy feat. I chose Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD for my mastectomies and reconstruction.
I transferred into my current role (from SVP of Home & Apparel for Sam’s Club to SVP Ladieswear for Walmart US) just two weeks after my diagnosis. Was that an insane time? Yes, but my team and my boss were incredibly supportive. I am so grateful for my company – I had something besides cancer to focus every day, and extra motivation to get well – we had a lot of work to do for our customers!
2. Now that you are a cancer survivor, has your life changed?
Situations that used to make me nervous or unsure just don’t throw me any more. I think to myself “Seriously!? Why are you nervous? You faced down cancer.” It’s a very useful tool for self-empowerment. I am also much less tolerant of negative people or energy-sucking situations. I say “no” more
3. Good for you! We should all be avoiding those energy-sucking situations. After your experience, what is the most important message you can get out to women about cancer?
- Get yourself checked, for goodness sake. Screening guidelines are there to protect you. Just do it.
- Do not compromise on quality of care. Never feel awkward about needing more information, kindness, respect, returned calls, a second opinion, anything. Your mission is not to have your caregivers like you; your mission is to save your life. You must step up and be your own best advocate.
Thank you Marybeth! You’re a hundred percent right about needing to be your own advocate. No one can advocate for you better, and in most cases, no one cares more. Great advice.
Keep reading for Marybeth’s Cancer Book List. To share the list, you can download it here: Marybeth’s Cancer Book List
Mb’s Breast Cancer Book List
First, the #1 most important rule of reading about breast cancer:
NO READING AFTER DARK.
No kidding, no fooling, this is important.
That said, there are several wonderful books depending on what you need…
The Breast Book by Dr. Susan Love. It’s the recognized comprehensive guide to breast cancer. Super helpful. An absolute MUST.
There are several uplifting (sorry, couldn’t resist) books about breast cancer. Search “breast cancer humor”. I especially enjoyed Humor After the Tumor by Patty Gelman
Both of Hoda Kotb’s books (morning talk show anchor, survivor, seriously cool woman)
Hoda: How I survived War Zones, Bad Hair,Cancer and Kathie Lee
Ten Year Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives
You Can Do This: Surviving Breast Cancer With Losing Your Sanity or Your Style by Elisha Daniels and Kelley Tuthill
Dancing With Fear: Tips and Wisdom from Breast Cancer Survivors Leila Peltosaari, Rina Albala and Bev Parker
Most Creative, Sassy Distraction:
Cancer Vixen, A True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto (it’s a cartoon novel – by a NYC survivor. Much of it was published in Glamour magazine during her journey)
Avoid, run away, do NOT read – they will sucker punch you and the cover makes them look cheerful. 😦
Noon at Nordie’s
Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person – A Memoir in Comics
Remember Marybeth’s advice: Don’t read after dark, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This post is particularly meaningful to the nerdy chicks. In the past year, cancer has touched our lives as well. Our hearts go out to all who are affected by cancer.
Marybeth, I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have gone through this experience. Thanks so much for sharing. Very happy to hear that you’re in good health today.
Marybeth, thank you for sharing this invaluable information. Dealing with illness, and certainly one like cancer, takes a lot strength to fight. Thank God you had that strength. It shows in your words, too! Bless you and live long and healthy!