Happy Birthday, Mary Kay Ash!

05-12-2017 9:10 AM

To commemorate this special day of new beginnings, we’re launching Feature Fridays, a new weekly blog highlighting people and organizations dedicated to ending cancers that affect women and domestic violence.

In our first story, 18-year cancer survivor Independent Executive Senior Sales Director Sylvia Boggs—also born on May 12—shares experiences and lessons from her determined journey to help others facing cancer.

Independent Executive Senior Sales Director Sylvia Boggs

May 12 is significant for Independent Executive Senior Sales Director Sylvia Boggs: It’s her birthday! Coincidentally, it’s Mary Kay Ash’s birthday too.

It also marks life-changing milestones for Sylvia: On May 12, 1969, she started her Mary Kay business. Thirty successful years later, she received an unwelcome diagnosis on May 12—breast cancer.

Read about her experiences and 12 things she has learned to help women facing similar situations.

Encouraging Women to Know and Understand Their Bodies

On May 12, 1999, I planned to celebrate my 57th birthday and 30th anniversary of my Mary Kay business! Instead, that was the day my doctor said, "Happy birthday, Sylvia. You have Stage II carcinoma in situ.”

I immediately replied, “Thank you for the birthday wishes. I don’t know what this is, but I do not own it, and it does not belong to me! How fast can you take it out?”

My physician was stunned by my response! But I needed to ask questions urgently and take an active role in learning all I could about this cancer and treatment options. I had learned through my Mary Kay business coaching to move to the next step.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had trusted doctors to take care of everything. Learning from Mary Kay Ash and working my Mary Kay business gave me a backbone and courage to listen to myself, seek answers, learn all I could, and have a strong voice.

I had felt overly fatigued for a while, which my primary physician diagnosed as my "wanting to go at 200%” all the time.

Another doctor gave a second opinion, diagnosing me with depression—without examining me. I knew that was not accurate. Since I was also experiencing unusual breast sensitivity on one side, I scheduled a mammogram, which led to the surprising cancer discovery.

I had to come to grips quickly with many things. I wanted to get this cancer over with and move on. I never thought of being scared. I believed God knew about this before anyone else, so there must be something I needed to learn to help others.

I walked the walk the very best I could to come out on the other side. My overarching thought was that disease may take my body, but it would not take my spirit!

Taking Immediate Action

I took action right away. Three weeks after diagnosis I underwent a radical lumpectomy and removal of 13 lymph nodes. One month after that, I attended Seminar in Dallas, Texas.

Arduous regimes of chemotherapy, radiation and tamoxifen followed. Treatment took me to different places—physically, emotionally and spiritually—than I had ever been. Throughout this trying time, I proactively took as holistic approach as I could, which I continue and advocate today.

I’m extremely grateful the Lord put several women in my life who had already been through varying treatments. They helped me immensely.

My wonderful husband, Ronnie, and my family were all in! My Mary Kay family and friends let me know how much they cared with cards, flowers, telephone calls, notes, food and visits.

Overall, I’m very thankful for the good health I enjoy now as I celebrate 48 solid years of my business.

Each person has an individual experience with cancer--everyone's story is different. Here are 12 things I learned that may help you or someone you love:

  1. Know and understand your body. Tell your doctor what you think is going on.
  2. Do your research. Read, study and learn on your own.
  3. Ask questions so you can make informed decisions.
  4. Have someone attend medical appointments with you to take notes. Take your own notes too.
  5. Talk with other positive people who have walked a similar path.
  6. See your mammogram and other test results. Understand what they show.
  7. Be proactive and solution oriented. Look for answers.
  8. Eat healing foods.
  9. Continue an appropriate long-term exercise program under guidance from your medical team.
  10. Pray for guidance and wisdom to make good decisions.
  11. Ask when assisting another person how you can best help to address their specific needs.
  12. Be mindful that when someone has cancer, they are still the same person as before diagnosis—but now they are fighting the disease.

Since my diagnosis 18 years ago, I often ask myself how God wants me to use my experience. I believe everything is purposeful. As an Ambassador for The Mary Kay Foundation℠, I encourage women to understand their bodies, take care of themselves and know they have a strong voice—and to use that voice to help themselves and others!

Diane Montgomery is a contributing editor for The Mary Kay Foundation℠. She's passionate about supporting the Foundation's mission of ending cancers that affect women and domestic abuse. Write to her at MsDianeM@aol.com.