When you Don’t Have the Words with Molly Grantham

Many of our listeners here at Real Pink are breast cancer survivors, and they know first-hand the fear, confusion, anxiety of a breast cancer diagnosis.

In this episode, we guest Molly Grantham shares insights on answering the questions: “What can you do to really help? What should you say? Is it better to just listen?”

There are as many ways of being a good support system to someone diagnosed with breast cancer as there are people! The qualifications? A willingness to be yourself and be present.

Molly Grantham is a two-time Emmy award winning journalist who has been named TV News Reporter of the Year for both Carolinas, one of Charlotte’s top “40 under 40” and one of Mecklenburg County’s “50 Most Influential Women”. With over 100,000 followers, she is a leader in social media, anchors WBTV’s 5:30pm and solo-anchors the 11pm show, which is #1 in the market.

About Molly

Anchor. Author. Mom.

Molly Grantham is a two-time Emmy award winning journalist who has been named TV News Reporter of the Year for both Carolinas, one of Charlotte’s top “40 under 40” and one of Mecklenburg County’s “50 Most Influential Women”. With over 100,000 followers, she is a leader in social media, anchors WBTV’s 5:30pm and solo-anchors the 11pm show, which is #1 in the market.

She recently published her first book, Small Victories: The Off-Camera Life of an On-Camera Mom. It sold out on Amazon the first week. It’s a funny, accurate, real-life account of juggling too much, and showing imperfections in relatable ways. A review in the Huffington Post describes the book as, “…honesty twisted with humor. You’ll laugh, cry, then want to tell your friends.”

Molly also took her authenticity to the Tedx stage, to talk about “The Real We Are.” (You can find the Tedx Talk on YouTube.)

Molly graduated college from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her first job out of school was at a TV station in Raleigh-Durham; she later moved to report at a station in Lexington, Kentucky.

Since arriving in Charlotte in 2003, Molly has covered gangs, terrorism and the fight to legalize cannabis oil in North Carolina. She is also well-known for #MollysKids, children with uphill medical battles. Molly follows the battles of over 120 local children a year, networking them together, promoting awareness and helping raise funds for research. (You can find those stories on her active Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WBTVMollyGrantham.)

Community is important to Molly – she helps lead Charlotte’s biggest 5k the first Saturday every October for Komen Charlotte’s Race for the Cure and is a proud almost 10-year spokesperson for the charity. She says it’s her favorite morning in Charlotte every year, as 20,000 people pour into the streets rallying to find a breast cancer cure. She has the largest team of the hundreds registered and says she does it in part for the many fighting warriors whose stories she tells on WBTV, but also for her own family: Her mother died of breast cancer (after getting it twice), her grandmother was a breast cancer Survivor and her great-grandmother also died of the disease.

Various cancers have hit Molly’s family hard. Her grandfather died of pancreatic cancer and her father, who she says is her forever hero, died of colon cancer in 2006.

Molly and her husband, Wes, have an 8-year-old daughter (Parker) and 4-year-old son (Hutch).

She says in her next life, she wants to be a mermaid.


Adam: [00:00] So let me introduce today, Molly Grantham. Molly is a two time Emmy award-winning journalist who has been named TV news reporter of the year for both Carolina’s, one of Charlotte’s top 40 under 40 and one of Mecklenburg County’s fifty most influential women. With over one hundred thousand followers she is a leader in social media, anchors WBTV’s 5:30 PM and solo anchors the 11:00 PM show, which is the number one rated show in the market. Molly, welcome to the show.

Molly: [00:29]  Good morning. How are you?

Adam: [00:31] I’m great, thanks for being here. I’m really excited to chat with you. I know you’ve actually got a lot more that you do just give us a little more background about yourself.

Molly: [00:39] Well, I always say I’m an anchor/author mom so I am a journalist and I am anchoring the shows and reporting and I love doing all of my journalism and I published a book about a year ago. It sold out on Amazon in the first week which was awesome and it’s about real life, real life, the juggle. It’s called The Off-camera Life of an On-Camera Mom, Small Victories and then I am a mom. I’ve got two young kids. My eight-year-old is actually here. This is my morning time. I’m in mom clothes in my own house. It’s a complete disaster so I’m here with my eight-year-old, just got the four-year-old off to preschool and happy to be talking with you.

Adam: [01:12] I can’t wait to check that out.

Molly: [01:14] Oh good, thanks Adam.

Adam: [01:14] I’m really looking forward to that. So well can you tell us a little more about your story and sort of how it relates to Komen and breast cancer?

Molly: [01:21] I definitely can. It’s a cause huge to my heart and people in the Charlotte area I think can know that by now. My mom died of breast cancer a year and a half ago or maybe it’s two years now, which is crazy to think and she had been diagnosed a second time. So my whole life she was a survivor and then my grandmother was a survivor. When I was seven years old I remember her getting a mastectomy. I remember the silver, raw staples on her breast. She lifted her shirt one time to show me and my younger girl cousin even though we were very young, she thought knowledge is power and I’m going to show them it’s part of our history and that was before my mom was diagnosed, her daughter. So my mom had breast cancer, my grandmother had breast cancer and my great grandmother died of breast cancer.

Adam: [01:59] Okay.

Molly: [02:00] And so it runs in my family. I’ve had the Braca test and you know knock on wood, I was negative so it means I’m no more likely to get breast cancer than any other woman in America, but with one in eight it doesn’t necessarily find great comfort to that and when I had my child, my daughter, we didn’t know if it be boy or girl, we never found out the sex. We were that couple.

Adam: [02:21] Wow.

Molly: [02:21] I know, so I just assumed it’d be a boy because I’ve got all brothers, even painted the room blue and she was born and it was a girl, and I remember the nurse saying, “It’s a girl.” And my husband said, “We’re going to have to pay for a wedding,” and that was his first sentence, first sentence. But my first thought legitimately in that moment was, “Oh my gosh, breast cancer,” and so I had always been a part of the fight for and lived through it with my mom and history, but when I had a daughter it really …

Adam: [02:53] Really hit home.

Molly: [02:53] It really got … hmm, and I had become a spokesperson for Komen Charlotte before I had my daughter. It has just taken on a whole new world since. I mean my mission is I want to find a cure in my daughter’s lifetime, period.

Adam: [03:06] Wow. I love that. Man, that’s bold. I love bold too. That’s great, so let’s walk through a little bit of your experience with I assume with your mother about just supporting a loved one that’s diagnosed with breast cancer.

Molly: [03:19] I think it’s different for each person and I think anyone listening to this you can play it out in your own mind about that person and that family and who you are and what you can do and your age and your capabilities and your access to information. But I truly feel like no matter who you are or who the person who is battling might be, the number one thing is having somebody there in doctor’s offices with you. Again, I was twelve when she had it the first time or had a double mastectomy the first time, so she had other support networks than her twelve-year-old daughter. It was more of her protecting me and my brother. So as she was diagnosed, again, six years ago now, and she passed away two years ago, so I was older, my brother was older and she would go to the doctor’s office.

[04:00] When she first got the diagnosis, she didn’t know what it was. It was metastatic breast cancer that had metastasized into her lymph nodes. So she just didn’t feel good, right, and she was getting a checkup and she went and she didn’t know the result was going to be, this is what it is. So the first visit she was there she got information, but she couldn’t relay it to us as her family because it was like, well if this is this and she knew the diagnosis, but she didn’t really know what comes next because a doctor I know had said that. They had said options or they said this is what we’re looking at.

Adam: [04:28] Right, but she just zoned out.

Molly: [04:29] Right, and which makes sense most people do. She didn’t expect to get that news that day so of course she wouldn’t have been there alone, but she was and so it was a really actually good baseline standard for us as we went forward because every moment passed that, every appointment passed that, one of us would go with her and that got more information for the rest of the family. And so I think sometimes support people think like, “Oh, I should make a casserole.” And that’s helpful, although you can also talk to people that say, “I have like twenty-eight casseroles in my refrigerator now because I got sick last week.” But it’s very helpful to do things like that, but there’s also just facts and information that need to be relayed accurately and so if it’s like someone down the street, you obviously wouldn’t be a good neighbor, you wouldn’t be in the doctor’s office with them. But if you ever hear someone who’s diagnosed that doesn’t have a support network and they would never say, “Would you go to the oncologist with me?” They would never say, “Can you go to the doctor?” And that’s the most important thing I think to ever, ever do ever.

Adam: [05:27] And take notes, right, I mean so it’s not just the extra set of ears, but it’s also taking down the notes so that the person that’s actually dealing with it can deal with it in that moment, right?

Molly: [05:38] Absolutely. I mean I am a note-taker by trade. I’m a journalist. I ask questions, I take notes and I listen very, very well. I’m trained to do that and remember, and I forgot tons of things the doctor was saying and had to go back to my notes.

[05:52] Right, the human brain can only accept so many details at once, let’s just accept that limitation and take notes or record it I guess if the doctor’s cool with an audio recording, you could do that too, but definitely some kind of note-taking, some way to capture that data I think is critical.

Molly: [06:07] And when you take notes too, again by trade, have learned to take notes, so if I’m in a court case or I’m in a trial, I’m not just taking down what people say, I say how they looked or the emotion on a face or what the tone of voice sounded like and I did that naturally years ago with my mom’s second diagnosis. And I remember going back looking at those notes, I mean, I still have them. It’s an odd thing to have a sentiment, but it’s a journal of sorts and you know taking notes on emotion too and tone is not a bad idea.

Adam: [06:37] Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really helpful. So let’s talk a little bit about tough subjects. You know, dealing with breast cancer, there are many tough subjects that have to be broached. When it’s hard for both people to talk about them do you have any advice on sort of how to get that conversation going?

Molly: [06:53] I don’t like saying, “How do you feel?” Because everybody asks that and it’s very easy for someone to be like, “I feel good.”

Adam: [07:00] Right, when the obvious answer is terrible.

Molly: [07:02] Yeah, right, and I think letting someone know it’s okay to feel gross, to feel ugly, be yourself, to say I feel sick, those are really important things. I never ask anybody yes or no questions because the answer you get is yes or no.

Adam: [07:19] Yes or no.

Molly: [07:21] So always try to have open-ended questions like “Is there something today you’re thinking about that you’d rather talk about or is there something today you’re craving for food. Or your kids today, is there a way you need them to get picked up for this or that?” I mean they’re just thinking specifics, right, like think past the easy cocktail conversation. Think five minutes down the road of that conversation and start there because when you’re sick you don’t feel like being nice. There’s just so many other ways to ask questions besides yes or no, or how are you feeling?

Adam: [07:50] Yeah. Well, I like to ask the question just sort of in general, if you could wave a magic wand and have something done, what would it be and why? And that’s an interesting question to ask and think, “Oh well I’d love my bathrooms cleaned,” and you go, “Well, I can do that. I can clean bathrooms, no problem.” I got kids that can clean bathrooms so …

Molly: [08:09] Right, absolutely.

Adam: [08:10] Yeah, that’s great.

Molly: [08:11] No, it’s true. It’s really good and so I think supporting and just talking and letting people feel comfortable. If you have lost your hair and you have on no makeup and you have tubes coming out of your breasts and you just don’t feel like yourself or like a woman, it’s very nice to talk to someone who also looks messy. Let yourself, if you are the support network, not come over looking prim and proper. If you’re vulnerable, someone else feels more comfortable being vulnerable, especially with women.

Adam: [08:42] I would have never thought of that, but that’s brilliant.

Molly: [08:45] So I think putting yourself in the shoes of whoever it is you’re trying to support, just be real.

Adam: [08:50] I mean let’s explore that just for a moment. In terms of flexibility, it seems to me that if you are someone’s support network, the ability to be flexible and make adjustments and deal with changes is critical and so can you just talk a little bit about the mindset that it takes to do that well.

Molly: [09:08] I mean to be very honest with my mom I was flexible in my schedule and I made the machine of life work to be there for her and I was certainly comforting I think in my tone to her, but I don’t know if almost it’s easier to be softer and more flexible in the conversation and the flow of things with a stranger, at least for me, than it is with someone you know really well. And so you know it’s my mom and I love her and she loved me and I’m her only daughter and so it was almost easier to be like, “Just mom, come on get it together.” Or Mom, be quiet. I’m talking to the hospice nurse right now.” Whereas I would never say, “Please be quiet, I’m talking to the hospice nurse,” to any stranger so I think the flexibility sometimes in your own mind you have to check yourself a little more when it is someone you love.

Adam: [09:58] Yeah, well I think that’s absolutely true for everybody. We tend to be more abrupt with those that we’re the most comfortable with and that’s not always the best thing, and you mentioned sort of open and honesty. What are some of the best ways to stay open and honest with each other about feelings and expectations?

Molly: [10:15] I just think it depends on the person and I’m not just basing this on my personal family experience. A lot of women in the Charlotte area, I’ve sort of known with being the spokesperson for Komen Charlotte and we do a race for the cure with twenty thousand people in Uptown Charlotte the first Saturday in October.

Adam: [10:29] Wow.

Molly: [10:29] Yeah, it’s the biggest 5K in Charlotte, every year, always is. Team Molly is the biggest team, we’re very proud of it, but there’s hundreds and hundreds of teams. Small groups, big groups, it’s just an awesome experience and through that and being a part of that, I think for eleven years now, I’ve met a ton of fighters and not all women, actually it’s easy to say women, but you know one in one thousand men are diagnosed and one in eight women so there are male breast cancer fighters and warriors and survivors as well.

Adam: [10:55] That’s right.

Molly: [10:56] So I’ve met a lot of people who battle this and some are like an open book, right, so my mom was an open book, but I’m not just basing this on my mom. There are many others who are guarded and I have found there’s actually quite a disparity of breast cancer. This is an anecdotal thing that I’m saying and I say this based on interviewing big groups of people. It’s not just like a Molly thinks it, but I’ve interviewed big groups of people, white women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, black women, Hispanic women, and there is a real struggle that black women will say to not air their dirty laundry. Again, generally speaking, but the support networks for white women that I meet are big because they’ll talk about it and it’s harder for women of color to talk about, I have found, and again this is from what they say because they’ve been raised to not air your dirty laundry, take care of other people.

[11:45] And a problem that all women have is, take care of other people. Don’t worry about yourself, but very much so when there’s just not as much education in that community or insurance issues in that community or medical like mammogram mobiles going into those communities. It’s just a different sort of mindset and so what I have found through talking to all different ages of women, all different walks of life is it’s that person. So you could be an open book and give you too many details on exactly how it felt when things are dripping out and how you feel this way or other women that are like, “It’s fine,” and they’re at stage four and they wouldn’t say a peep because they don’t want to put their problem on you.

[12:28] And so there’s depending on the community and the person and the woman or man as it might be, it’s very important to just sort of try and get them to talk about because someone’s testimony could help save someone else’s life. It’s a beautiful thing. I did this just two months ago, big awesome, beautiful church outside of Charlotte in Matthews, a pastor’s wife has been diagnosed and she told her whole story on the pulpit and so many people, hundreds of women afterward were like,” “I’m going to go get checked.

Adam: [12:56] Yeah, that’s critical.

Molly: [12:58] Right, if you have a platform and you can talk about it and you want to talk about it in ways you feel comfortable, I think that can really help others.

Adam: [13:04] Yeah, and really several times you’ve said in this conversation it depends on the person and that goes back to that flexibility. I think as people that want to support in these situations we have to be flexible and understand the person that’s been diagnosed and understand what their needs are and look to them to sort of guide us in how we can help them. Is that kind of what I’m hearing you say?

Molly: [13:25] Yes, absolutely. I do want to go back to though the different communities of women because yes some of what I was saying is anecdotal based on women, but there are studies now and you might have seen these Adam, but with the disparity of breast cancer and the headline of those studies and these are fact-based, science-based studies, is that white women are more likely to get breast cancer, non white women are more likely to die from it.

Adam: [13:50] Yes, right.

Molly: [13:51] You know a lot of that could be DNA and genetics and they’re looking at different things about education, but a lot of that can also just be talking, sharing, encouraging others to get mammograms and get checked.

Adam: [14:03] Right, I think some of the evidence on that has gone back to where white women tend to go to the doctor sooner and therefore they’d get on a treatment plan more quickly and have better survival rates versus non white women, that’s a really important fact for us to be aware of. Molly, do you have any final thoughts to either people that are dealing with breast cancer or have loved ones dealing with breast cancer, any final thoughts you want to share?

Molly: [14:28] Just follow your gut. It’s a nasty disease. There’s different levels and there’s going to be different cures. There’s so many different types of breast cancer. My mom died of breast cancer in her lymph nodes, it wasn’t even in her breasts anymore. She’d had those removed twenty years prior so we all know someone.

Adam: [14:43] Yeah.

Molly: [14:43] We all do and you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody in this country that doesn’t know somebody that has had breast cancer. You know do what you think is best because your gut on that is probably going to be right.

Adam: [14:53] I love that. Well, Molly, this has been super amazing. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us and for anybody that’s listening right now that wants more information about breast cancer or how you can help and get involved, please make sure to check out komen.org, for all kinds of resources and information. Molly, thanks so much for being on the show.

Molly: [15:11] Good talking to you, Adam.


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