My full life former attorney, toddler mom and breast cancer patient turns her diagnosis into advocacy live half full endometrial biopsy procedure

If you’re a new reader, My Full Life is my series featuring working moms such as myself. My goal for this series is to ultimately gather together a tribe of women that my readers can go to for advice and feel they are not alone. I’ve got enough women to continue this series through the end of the year and I can’t wait!

We initially met when she reached out to me before B was born to talk about our common struggle to wait until 41 weeks to have our babies. Since then we’ve been through a lot together and I now consider her a friend from a far. Her recent Breast Cancer journey has been awe-inspiring to follow. She’s a true warrior and I am honored she wanted to share her story with us! Tell me a little about yourself- what you do and what your family looks like.

I am 32 and have been married to my husband for five years.

We have a two-year-old son only a couple of weeks younger than Katie’s son. We just moved from New York City to the suburbs and purchased our first house in August 2017. I am an attorney by trade, specializing in elder law.

I never envisioned that I would be a stay-at-home mom, and had been practicing law for almost three years when my son was born. However, due to a number of factors, including my husband’s work travel schedule, the cost of NYC child care, and my work hours at the time, we decided as a family that I would stay home with our baby instead of returning to work.

As someone who thrives on a plan and a to-do list, being at home with a new baby was incredibly challenging. During my time at home, I also maintained my professional credentials. I continued working in a very limited capacity. I continued to network with those in my field as best I could and attended continuing legal education webinars during nap time.

In many ways, it has been wonderful to have the time at home with my son. It is also tremendously intense and challenging. I struggled significantly with the idea that I was no longer contributing financially to our household. I worried that I was “wasting” my legal education. Shifting from days of billable hours, client meetings, accountability and autonomy to having all aspects of your life dictated by your child’s needs was very, very hard. Ultimately, I do not regret my decision to stay home. But, it certainly has not been easy for me. Beyond the Pink Ribbon

At the end of 2017, our family found out that I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic Breast Cancer. I have been sharing my journey on my blog, Beyond the Pink Ribbon. It’s been surreal shifting from the role of case manager to patient. I have been incredibly fortunate that so many of my skills and strengths translate well into managing this diagnosis.

My husband always laughs at the fact that, when we were at the hospital the day I received my diagnosis, I made him run to the drug store to pick me up a notebook before my breast biopsy. Being able to advocate for myself, organizing all of the complex medical documents, insurance papers and effectively outsourcing our household needs during this time has been a direct testament to much of my training as an attorney. What accomplishment are you most proud of professionally? What about as a parent?

One of my most challenging guardianship cases involved an elderly man who had had a massive stroke and was languishing in a hospital bed for nearly a year with no family available and no identification. I was appointed his guardian and determined that he had been in the US for many years without any citizenship. At this point, he had no family either here or back in his home country and was too incapacitated to live on his own. I facilitated his hospital discharge into a long-term care facility that provided special services for people of his culture. In addition, I petitioned US Immigration services to grant him permanent residency under color of law. This allowed him to receive permanent residency status and therefore be eligible for public benefits for the rest of his life.

As a parent, I have never been more proud of my son than when he has small moments of revelation and discovery. When he uses a new word, picks up a new skill, or shows kindness and empathy to his family or little friends, my heart bursts with love and pride for this little boy and the person he is becoming. I have always tried to model a life for him that is rooted in patience, kindness, and love. Seeing him recognize those values as manifested through his actions and now, words, is truly incredible.

Our days are very different now as a cancer family. We still try to wake up and eat breakfast together before my husband goes to work. Then, my son and I will generally go to the gym. He can play in the child care center to work out some energy while I swim, stretch and take time for myself. We then run errands, come home, have lunch, and then my son takes his nap. During nap time, I either take care of some family administrative tasks and manage my medical paperwork, or take a nap myself. In the evenings we usually cook dinner together as a family, and then have lots of stories, snuggles, and an early bedtime. What do your weekends look like?

My biggest struggle – which seems to be a common theme – was a lot of guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t using my education to its fullest potential. Guilt that I wasn’t contributing financially to our family. Feeling that I was not taking enough time to take care of myself. However, after my cancer diagnosis, so many of these things have shifted.

We are so fortunate that I’m not working, so that I have a lot more time to focus on taking care of myself. It allows me to manage my treatments and doctors appointments without losing income. We are so fortunate that I have the background and education that I have so that I can effectively manage all of the administrative tasks afforded with cancer diagnosis and treatment. Lastly, I have found a renewed passion in breast cancer advocacy and education. I am hoping to use my experience and education to pivot and focus my professional life in that direction.

I’m not entirely sure what I would say. I think that each journey affords it’s own wistfulness at the path not taken. In some ways that is inevitable, but each path also affords a lot of opportunities as well. Focus on the benefits, not what you aren’t able to do. Tell me your thoughts on balance. Do you think it truly exists? How do you make time for your family, career, relationships and yourself?

I struggle immensely with trying to find balance. We definitely didn’t have a great balance prior to my diagnosis. It’s only been since we found out that I had cancer that we have started finding a more balanced path. When you’re diagnosed with an incurable disease, you quickly start trimming off the layers of unnecessary stuff in your life, and quickly hone in on the things that matter. It sounds trite, but it’s incredibly true. Thank you so much, Emily! You are a true inspiration and I’m so impressed by you every day.