Christine George is a marketing professional, real estate enthusiast, Mom, wife and yogi. She oversees all marketing related activities for Leading Edge Real Estate, and is also responsible for leading the business planning process for agents which includes business planning strategies, coaching and accountability.
Her passion is her yoga practice and her blog, BelieveInBalance in which she shares her experiences and provides tools and resources to help people create a more balanced life.
Adam Walker (00:03):
From Susan G Komen, this is real pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room. People diagnosed with breast cancer, have many unique sources of stress. As we head into mother’s day, we’ll explore some of the challenges that mothers face in particular throughout the process. Moms with breast cancer faced the reality of maintaining a sense of normalcy for themselves and their children while balancing the emotional and physical toll of treatment today’s guests was diagnosed during the COVID pandemic, forcing change upon change here today to share her story and how she is balanced at all is Christine Carlo. George Christine. Welcome to the show.
Christine Carlo George (00:46):
Thanks Adam. Great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Adam Walker (00:50):
Well, I’m excited to chat with you. Let’s start off with your breast cancer story. Tell us about your diagnosis.
Christine Carlo George (00:57):
Sure. it happened on July 21st, last year, right in the middle of the pandemic. I had gone to have my annual mammogram they found something that they wanted to get a second look at. I really wasn’t concerned at all. I have no breast cancer history in any of my family. In fact, I have very little cancer in any of my family. And I’m considered young, even though I was 49 when I was diagnosed, that’s considered young. And I take great care of myself. So I really wasn’t concerned. And I went back, I had an ultrasound and a biopsy and on July 21st it was about noon time. My husband and I have been working from home since March. We went down to the local sandwich store to get a sandwich and we were inside the store and the call came from the hospital and I stepped outside and the radiologist said I’m sorry. To let you know that your your biopsy came back positive for invasive cancer breast cancer, and that’s how it all began.
Adam Walker (02:13):
Wow. Yeah, that is that’s, that’s got to be such a difficult call. And, and so, and I also understand that you are the former chair of the board for the Susan G Komen Massachusetts affiliate. Did you ha did you have any personal experience with breast cancer at that time?
Christine Carlo George (02:30):
I mean, my only experience I served on the board for eight years, my only experience personal experience was the women that I met who were had been diagnosed, treated we’re in the middle of treatment. So let never in my life did I think that I would be the one receiving that diagnosis because it was quite a shock for sure.
Adam Walker (02:55):
Yeah. I can imagine. Yeah. I mean, it’s breast cancer. One of those things that you, you know, the stats about, you know, the, the, all the numbers. And yet I think, I feel like from the people that I’ve spoken with, when you get the call, it’s still always such a shock. Can you talk a little bit about how you, how you dealt with that?
Christine Carlo George (03:14):
Yeah. I mean, I, to be honest I was listening to your podcast last week or the week before, and I think your guests reacted to her diagnosis in a much more graceful way than I did. I, I certainly wasn’t graceful when that core radiology is. I, I, I think I may, I’m not sure if I use an expletive, but I certainly did in my head. And I said, I said to her, are you kidding me? I mean, I just couldn’t, it was an absolute shock. And when I got into the car and my husband was waiting for me in the car and he said, well, and I said, I definitely get an expletive there. And I said, I’ve got cancer. And he thought it was joking. And I said, I’m not joking. I have cancer. And in that moment, as they say, like my whole life flashed before my eyes, because here I was, I have a nine year old son.
Christine Carlo George (04:10):
I’m a, you know, I had, I had him a little bit later in life and all I could think of was, I’m not going to see my son for a while. That was, that was the only thing that just kept coming through my head. And we’re sitting in the car and I, my head was just spinning. And I just remember thinking, Oh my God, I’m not going to seek Gilcrow up. Our entire life has changed. I’m going to be in treatment. I’m going to have to have surgery on what’s going to happen. And how was I like going to change? And what does this mean for my career? And how are people going to look at me and how I’m gonna look at myself and, you know, a lot of selfish, I think a lot of selfish things come into your head when you’re in the debt, when you, when you get the diagnosis, you know, like why me kind of, but but that sort of quickly turned it around. And I immediately thought once, once we had more information and I knew what my diagnosis really bad, and then I thought, Holy cow, like every woman needs to have their mammogram. Absolutely. And then I just really started getting on my soap box around them, around the annual mammogram.
Adam Walker (05:24):
Good. That’s good. We need more people on that soap box. There’s room, there’s room about board, the soapbox for that. So let’s, let’s talk about that. I mean, tell me about the screening during the pandemic and, and since, you know, since that’s, when you were diagnosed.
Christine Carlo George (05:39):
Yeah. So, you know, and I had always been, I take good care of myself and being associated with Coleman for so many years, I really understood the value of early detection. And so I had never skipped my mammogram, but honestly, during the pandemic, I considered it because I thought why expose myself, I would have had to go to the hospital. And I thought, you know, I don’t really want to expose myself. I’ve never had any issues I can skip one year and I decided against it. And thank God I did. Because my diagnosis was caught early. My cancer was caught, caught early and my treatment was extremely manageable. And so it’s critically important to never skip your mammogram ever, ever, ever, ever, because when it’s caught early, it’s manageable for many people and it can save lives without a doubt.
Adam Walker (06:41):
That’s right. Mammograms absolutely can say save lives and early detection and early treatment is really critical. So, so let’s talk about this timing, you know, in a, in a time that was already profoundly stressful for the entire world, you had this additional stress added to you. How were you able to balance that diagnosis itself, but then also parenting and working and in going through treatment?
Christine Carlo George (07:06):
Well, I mean, they say it takes a village, right. And, and it really does whether you have cancer or you don’t have cancer when you’re raising children. It takes a village. So I, I really, I have an amazing support group starting with my husband. I have friends who stepped up and, you know, really where they’re emotionally and physically. I have a great support group in my, in my parents and my brother and my sister-in-law and my entire family. So it, it, it, it was, you know, for me, I was very fortunate because I had that village to support me. And I have employers who were also extremely supportive of whatever I needed in terms of time or otherwise. They gave me, but I’m also I’m a writer. I you know, there was there’s as much as like, you know, bouncing the physicality of what you have to do day to day is very real. There’s a whole emotional, psychological piece of this. That’s probably more stressful. And I have a blog it’s called believe in balance.net, and I’ve had it for a couple of years and I ha I just used it to document my entire story and my, my entire experience with the cancer. And it was a huge help to basically take all of these emotions that were happening in the side and put them on paper, so to speak and hopefully save some other lives.
Adam Walker (08:45):
Yeah. Wow. That’s fantastic. And I find that when people are willing to share and be vulnerable like that, it really benefits the entire community. So I’m really glad that that you’ve done that. So, so related to, to sort of sharing, speaking to children about cancer is really difficult. How did you approach that with your child and how did they respond to it?
Christine Carlo George (09:07):
Yeah, it was it was probably the hardest part of this whole process. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was wanted to, I’m not somebody who can keep my emotions inside, so I knew we had to handle it quickly. And I had some great coaching from the medical team at mass general, where I was treated. And that coaching was to be completely honest in an, in an age appropriate way and to use the most importantly, to use the word for cancer, because he was going to be hearing the word cancer. And so the Friday I was diagnosed on a Wednesday, I think it was an on Friday. We sat at the dinner table and I told him that that I had a booboo that was not outside, but it was inside and it was called cancer.
Christine Carlo George (10:10):
And I was going to have to have to have an operation. And the doctor was going to take it out and like leading up to that, I was so afraid I was going to cry and break down, but I, I think I just psyched myself up so much. I was able to just deliver it on a very factual basis. And he just looked at me and he was like, okay, can I pull out now? I mean, it was like, at that moment, I thought, Oh my God, like having a nine year old is probably the, you know, the best age for this to happen because he doesn’t have any basis for understanding what cancer is. And then, you know, my job at that point was really to try to maintain as much normalcy as possible. And so, so that, that’s how we handled it.
Adam Walker (11:00):
I don’t know. It sounds like a great way to handle it. And, and, and to your point, I mean, just speaking honestly, in an age appropriate method is just so critical for children to help them process and, and, and cope with the things that are happening in their world. You know, I’ve talked to many guests that have said, you know, kids understand what’s going on, whether you tell them or not, they perceive what’s happening. So it’s better to let them in on it so that they can help to process it, to get through it. So, all right. So, wow, Christine, this is great. I love, I love your approach. I love your enthusiasm. What advice can you give to our listeners particularly about going through this journey as a mom, knowing that as we just said, little eyes are always watching you.
Christine Carlo George (11:42):
Yeah. I mean, the first thing I would say is don’t skip your mammogram, whatever you do do not skip your mammogram. Early detection is the key. And then the other like I mentioned, it’s just try to keep as much of an, you know, much normalcy as you can in your life. Be honest about what’s happening in an age appropriate way. I think in an age appropriate way is really the key. There is, you know, you don’t want to scare them, but you also, you don’t want to hide anything from them. You’re right. But they’re very perceptive. My son in particular is very intuitive. So you know, let them know what’s going on. I remember my son, after my treatments were over, he was at the end of October, he went into school and he told his teacher, man, my mom is all done with cancer.
Christine Carlo George (12:32):
And so her, the teacher told me that. And so, you know, that was just, you know, it was important. You know, we brought him from the very beginning all the way through to the end of my treatment. And you know, also make sure that they can ask any questions, allow them to ask any questions that they have and just be aware of what’s happening with them, you know, be, be aware of any anxiety that maybe, you know, happening with them after they find out, or, you know, just, just talk, leave the lines of communication open
Adam Walker (13:04):
That’s right. That’s right. It’s always best to be, to be open and honest to the best of our ability, you know, with our children. So it’s not easy. And I can only imagine how difficult that was for you at the dinner table that night, but I know that you’re glad that you did it right?
Christine Carlo George (13:18):
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yep.
Adam Walker (13:21):
That’s wonderful. Well, Christina, this has been such an uplifting, encouraging and informative conversation. I really appreciate you joining me on the show today.
Christine Carlo George (13:31):
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Adam Walker (13:38):
Thanks for listening to real pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen for more episodes, visit real pink.com and.org for more on breast cancer. Visit komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter at AGA Walker or on my blog. Adam J walker.com.