Many of our guests on Real Pink are have been diagnosed with breast cancer so our audience has learned about the fear, confusion, anxiety of a breast cancer diagnosis. But, our audience has also told us that they have been helped by hearing real-life stories from other survivors and sharing in their experience. And, I know that I have learned many important lessons as the host of Real Pink.
Melissa Berry is a 6 year Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor and Founder of CancerFashionista.com. She is a breast cancer thriver, recipient of the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation’s 2016 Courage Award, veteran fashion/beauty publicist, professional speaker and consultant. Melissa has moderated and participated on various panels, addressed pharmaceutical leaders, and has been featured in numerous publications as a source of inspiration. She currently leads #WeThrive, a breast cancer support group for WeWork in NYC. Melissa is now offering corporate breast cancer workshops to organizations nationwide, a source of breast cancer education and inspiration for women across the country. Melissa was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 42.
Adam: [00:01] Many of our guests on Real Pink have been diagnosed with breast cancer so our audience has learned about the fear, confusion, anxiety of breast cancer diagnosis. But our audience has also told us that they have been helped by hearing the real-life stories from survivors and sharing in their experience and I know that I’ve learned many important lessons as the host for Real Pink.
[00:21] To share her personal story of her journey through breast cancer with us today I have Melissa Berry. Melissa is a six-year triple-negative breast cancer survivor and founder of cancerfashionista.com. She is a breast cancer thriver, recipient of the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation’s 2016 Courage Award, veteran fashion beauty publicist, professional speaker, and consultant. Melissa has moderated and participated on various panels, addressed pharmaceutical leaders and has been featured in numerous publications as a source of inspiration.
[00:56] She currently leads #wethrive, a breast cancer support group for We Work in New York City. Melissa is now offering corporate breast cancer workshops to organizations nationwide, a source of breast cancer education and inspiration for women across the country. Melissa was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of forty-two. Melissa, welcome to the show.
Melissa: [01:17] Thank you so much, Adam. Thank you for having me.
Adam: [01:20] I’m really excited to chat with you and I love the entrepreneurial spirit that you have and I really can’t wait to hear what you have to share this. So before we dig into that, is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your story?
Melissa: [01:32] No, I got to tell you, Adam, on days like this when I’m sitting here talking to someone like you to such an incredible audience, I kind of can’t believe that it’s brought to this place. I would not wish breast cancer on my worst enemy, but I’m grateful to have opportunities and days like this. I really am so thank you.
Adam: [01:50] Well, that’s fantastic. Well, let’s talk a little bit about your journey. What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to overcome during your breast cancer journey?
Melissa: [01:59] You know I would say one of the biggest challenges of my experience as a breast cancer survivor is the emotional stress and damage. I mean there’s the diagnosis initially, but the one thing I feel like the doctors didn’t really warn me about and look they don’t want to send you out of the hospital more hysterical than you already are, but I think it was the emotional and mental side effects of the drugs, of the chemotherapy drugs, that no one really told me about. I thought I was going crazy, so did family and that was really scary and it was unexpected.
Adam: [02:42] Right. I would imagine just the emotional roller coaster of the entire thing alone is very unnerving and so add to that, the therapy and everything else going on it’s got to be very difficult to overcome, right.
Melissa: [02:55] Exactly, exactly. I mean I learned so much about myself throughout that process and I tried modalities that I never tried before like meditation. You’re willing to pretty much try anything to feel better so it was scary, but it also opened up my world to many things that I still practice today.
Adam: [03:18] Well, let’s talk about some of those things. So how did you find help for some of those challenges?
Melissa: [03:23] My friends, my family, and I would say the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s website is incredibly robust and not only do they have information but they have a community. And similarly because I had triple-negative breast cancer, I also found a very similar type of support on their website, in The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation’s website, and both of them have tons of information and also community, which I think is just so important.
[03:53] And I got to tell you before I had breast cancer I wasn’t much of a joiner rah-rah, like let me go to this group kind of thing. I mean I have a healthy, active social life, but I was not like a group joiner, but you need a sisterhood. You need a family. You need women that have walked the walk maybe just a few months before or a year out from you so that they can relate.
Adam: [04:14] Right and you mentioned a couple of websites that you used to educate yourself that sounds fantastic. You also mentioned that you became maybe more of a group joiner. Are there any other support resources that you’d recommend from that journey?
Melissa: [04:27] Yes, in addition to the Susan G Komen website and The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation’s website, I absolutely love Living Beyond Breast Cancer. They have a wonderful community and they do conventions every year and I’ve also become an active part of their voice and what they’re trying to do.
Adam: [04:45] Okay, that’s fantastic. Let’s talk for just a moment about the loved ones of someone who’s been affected by breast cancer. So let’s say you’re speaking to the loved ones of someone that’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, what is some advice that you have for them?
Melissa: [04:59] I say let that person lead. Some women don’t necessarily want to share everything and some women don’t want to know everything off the bat. Like I was just speaking with it was a friend of a friend and she was just diagnosed and she wasn’t ready to hear about the wigs and the lashes yet. She was not there, she was still pretty freaked out about her diagnosis. My biggest piece of advice I would say is to let that friend or family member lead and if she’s looking for tons of information you can help her. If she wants to step into it slowly I would just say follow her pace.
Adam: [05:35] Right and then let’s speak to a moment for someone that’s just been diagnosed, what’s your advice for them?
Melissa: [05:43] I’m not going to lie. It’s really scary and look there are so many different types of breast cancers and so many different stages and everyone’s experience is different, but I think for someone that’s been newly diagnosed, the one thing I would say is don’t use Dr. Google. It’s so tempting, but that is going down a path that is hard to get yourself out of because then you start seeing things and it could be really, really scary. And because every case is different, I would say and it sounds so elementary, but listen to your doctor because every case really is different and it’s just too easy to go down that rabbit hole.
Adam: [06:22] And every journey’s unique.
Melissa: [06:24] Exactly, exactly it truly is.
Adam: [06:27] And so final thoughts, if someone is searching for information Dr. Google’s not a good option.
Melissa: [06:33] No.
Adam: [06:33] You did mention the Komen site, you mentioned The Triple Negative Breast Cancer site. Are there any other resources or any other places to seek information that you’d recommend?
Melissa: [06:41] Living Beyond Breast Cancer as I mentioned, and for my metastatic sisters, METAvivor is an incredible resource and I always really try and include the metastatic community because they’re always in treatment and they’re always looking for information.
Adam: [06:55] That’s right, that’s right. I get that. Well, Melissa, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate your entrepreneurial spirit. I love your attitude towards life and I really appreciate you sharing your time with us today.
Melissa: [07:08] Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure and I hope I get to come back one day.
Adam: [07:12] I love that. let’s plan, it sounds great.
Intro and outro music is City Sunshine by Kevin MacLeod. Ad music is Blue Skies by Silent Partner. The Real Pink podcast is hosted by Adam Walker, produced by Shannon Evanchec and owned by Susan G. Komen.