MEET SURVIVOR HEIDI FLOYD
This past May, we had the privilege of hearing Heidi Floyd speak at an event for Susan G. Komen Greater NYC. Heidi is a breast cancer survivor, advocate, and all-around inspirational woman who had the entire room hanging on her every word right from the start.
We wanted to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month by sharing her incredible story with you, we have a feeling you will be just as touched and inspired to get involved as we were.
1. How/when was your cancer initially detected?
I found it myself - well, I found a lump myself. I was changing my daughter’s crib sheet and it was so hard it snagged on the bed. While that lump was discovered to be non-cancerous, the mass of tumors just underneath were, in fact, breast cancer. I was pregnant, so assumed initially that the lump might be attributable to the pregnancy.
2. What did friends or family members do or say that meant the most to you?
I heard a great deal of ‘you can do it’ and ‘you are a fighter’ kind of talk. I find this disconcerting, as I am neither a boxer nor a hero. My daughter said ‘don’t leave me, mama’ - and that moment is always on my heart. It wasn’t really in my control, my staying or leaving, but I would do all I could to stay! There was a photoshoot shortly after my hair had returned but my eyelashes and eyebrows weren’t quite the way they used to be. The artist who did my makeup (now my dear friend, Jan Ping) was so gentle and kind. She looked at me and said ‘ooooh, these are getting there...we will make them perfect. You are beautiful!’ Beautiful, she said - when clearly, that wasn’t the case. She spoke with great wisdom, as she is a fellow survivor.
3. How did you find positivity and humor in the face of so much adversity?
Both were pretty easy, to be honest. I’m a person of faith, so I chatted with God every single day. That kept me positive - but the humor? That came from everyday situations. I mean come ON! I found that watching The Birdcage on repeat was a great tutorial in makeup AND dressing with prosthetics. And who wouldn’t laugh watching that all the time?
4. Who are the women in your life that inspire you?
She’s not here any longer, but my mom for sure. She had incandescent joy, and kindness for everyone she ever met. Never an unkind word, truly. I also look to women like Olufunmilayo Olopade, Molly MacDonald, Maimah Karmo, Sue Desmond-Hellmann...I really have a long list. While they are not all in my life, I admire all of them. They are so strong, so resilient - and working to make the world a much better place.
5. How do you support and empower the women in your life?
Ah, that's a much easier question. I have daughters, and they hear me tell them every day that they are brimming with intelligence, fire, beauty and strength. More often than not, I will add sass to that list as well. Their voices are so important, as are all children’s. They need to know that their bodies are their responsibility, but that we are here to help. They know that they are to know themselves well enough (and without embarrassment!) so that if a freckle gets larger, or if an unusual lump is found, a doctor is told immediately.
6. What advice would you give to women who are, or will be, going through a similar journey that you have?
Ask. Ask everyone everything you want to know, and write it down. If you don’t like what your doctor is telling you, ask another doctor. If you don’t understand the word the nurse just used, ask - and write. Ask other patients what your family should do to help you (because you won’t know until you’re in the thick of it!), ask your community to help you with bills and mowing the lawn and walking the dog, ask your friends to help watch your kids and change the oil in the car, ask your husband to get you the extra blanket, ask your grumpy aunt to back off. This is a rare time that you have to focus on healing and, in many cases, working while in treatment. Ask for help; you can go back to your regularly scheduled superwoman life when your hair grows back.
7. What advice would you give to the families and friends of those who are battling this disease?
She won’t know everything, and it’s ridiculously scary sometimes. DO NOT become selfish at this point, dear family. If you are already selfish, knock that crap off. This won’t be a 2 month situation, this could last for years. Not the chemo, but the side effects, the continuing medication, the fear. This person that you love is scared, and just by helping pick up the pieces you are doing more than you know. Find the thing that she needs the most, and try to make sure she can have it. If she’s afraid of finances, reach out to the groups that will help pay bills for her. If she’s concerned about the kiddos, get a schedule together for people she trusts to make movie/dinner nights with the kids. There is even a kids camp that is created exclusively for little ones whose parents have cancer, and another group that offers free family vacations, too! She can rest when she knows they are in good hands. Get her online; there are myriad social media avenues that can offer support for both patient and caregiver!
8. Tell us a little about the Pink Power Mom Movement?
It was originally an award created by the Kids II organization, meant to honor women fighting breast cancer and helping the community. I’m delighted to say that it has grown to a network - a sisterhood - of amazing women who are not only patients/survivors, but fierce activists and many are CEOs of their own cancer nonprofits!
9. What are three tips for balancing a family, career, and an illness?
Every day: I pray, I laugh and I hug my people.
10. What is your mantra?
Try to be the nicest girl in the room.
11. How do you start your day?
I make sure my dog gets to go potty, then I shower. I have lots of kids, so I multi task and pray whilst I shower. God doesn’t mind, I asked. He’s ok with it.
12. To me being healthy means…
Appreciating the potential you can bring to each day. A fit person can be utterly unhealthy, but someone on their deathbed might change the world.
13. The happiest moment I’ve had in the last year was…
I had 4 - I was able to see each one of my children have a birthday.
14. My proudest moment…
Perhaps not proudest, but my moment of greatest realization.
I had a speaking engagement that I thought had bombed. Courtesy applause, no questions afterward. Blah blah blah. Then, 3 months later, I received a phone call from a woman who says ‘please help me and talk to my daughter. She has cancer, and is pregnant, and terrified - can you help? I saw you speak at the restaurant in ….’ I told her that wasn’t possible, I remember that event. Not only was it a pithy speech, but the audience was comprised of men, exclusively. She replied ‘oh, I know. I was your waitress. When you started to speak, I took the coffee pot and hid behind the pillar so no one would see me. I heard the whole thing, and it moved me. I knew I needed to hear, even before I knew why.’ That was it for me. The realization is it isn’t ours to know everything, just go out there and try to help people. The one who needs to hear it and be helped, will.
15. Why do you think it’s important for companies to get involved with BCA and breast cancer advocacy in general?
Because we can’t do this alone. We need help, we who have cancer in our lives. Companies do not have to donate money if they don’t want to - in kind products help, too! Yes, research needs money - that is vital. But the smaller non-profits out there are doing all they can to provide services. They make sure we have meals, scarves, rides to treatment, mortgage payments and babysitters. They do fundraisers constantly, and the silent auction is the standard fare. GIVE THEM THINGS. Don’t have things? Just give them a call and see how you can help - make them be creative and give you an answer. Larger companies, call me! I have spoken to some great corporations and explored ideas on partnerships that have really changed the trajectory for patients around the world.
16. Why is BCA month important and what ways do you think it makes a difference in the larger picture for the cause?
Because we are dying. Lots of us, every day. We have what is referred to as an abbreviated life span, and we don’t have time to mess around anymore. We want to get that next promotion, want to finish up that degree, want to get the house, the dog, the car, the trip to Italy. We want to be able to take our kids to Walt Disney World AND Universal for that Harry Potter thing, we want to watch them mess up their rooms, spill their milk, get great grades, bad grades, the science prize and the black belt. Proms, hikes, bicycles, potty-training, heartache, braces and falling in love. We want to go to the Chicago Blackhawks games and scream the National Anthem. We want to see our spouses get gray hair, and hold hands with them when we can’t walk anymore.
Some of us just want to see Christmas. This Christmas. And we won’t make it.
That’s why it matters. Because we matter, my dear fellow humans. We each matter.
17. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and story. As you know, 20% of the net proceeds from our pink Travel Wraps are going to Susan G. Komen Greater NYC this October. We know you’re a big fan… care to share why?
OH HONEY. We don’t have enough paper for this question. ;) It is the perfect length, it never ever wrinkles, the softest thing I’ve ever felt that isn’t a baby, it keeps you warm when you need it and sassy stylish when you want to look splendid. I’ve worn it while speaking to members of the Senate and also when getting my favorite pizza. I’ve had so many people ask me where I got it and it’s the one thing I won’t let my girls take out of my closet. I have a friend at work who wants (needs!) one, and he would like it in black, please. It’s a perfectly genderless garment.
18. When do you wear your Travel Wrap?
Traveling, first, but then everything in between. Yes, of course on the plane and train, but then walking around the city, too. I use it as a headscarf when it’s too chilly for my ears, and I get compliments all the time! For the record, if you go to church and you have 4 children with cold legs, it can cover ¾ of them without issue. The last kid is on his own.
19. When I wear my Travel Wrap…
Everyone wants to touch it. It attracts attention, you know what I mean? That’s a little creepy, but hey, it's gorgeous so I don’t blame them! Typically, they say ‘ooooooooooh what IS that? ooooooooohhhh’ so I just let them and then direct them to the website. It’s a luxury, and it makes me feel like someone made this amazing thing just for me.
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SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
We are proud to continue our partnership with Susan G. Komen Greater NYC for Breast Cancer Awareness Month by donating 20% of the net proceeds from our Pink Collection to this life-changing cause throughout October.We hope that you will join us in the fight for a cure.