Friday, March 20, 2020:
- 7:00 AM: Received a call from Laurie Kowalevsky, Chief Marketing Officer of Eli Lilly and company. “Congratulations Whitney! You’re being promoted to COO and Global Marketing Transformation Advisor at Lilly!”
- 9:00 AM: Closed on my new dream home in Baton Rouge
- 5:00 PM: Diagnosed with breast cancer
March 20, 2020 was a very busy day and included the highest of highs and the most difficult moment in my life. My friends and family are familiar with my calls of exciting news of “Whitney’s next great adventure.”
I was supposed to be in Johannesburg, South Africa for work but in late February Eli Lilly and company shut down global travel. Life for me has always been in the fast lane. 100,000+ miles per year spent on airplanes all around the world. I was known as the work-a-holic who would hold productive conference calls in the shower (LOL) and I loved every minute of it.
But on March 20, 2020 everything changed. See when you live life in the fast lane you inevitably miss some things. For more than a year, I missed three tumors growing in my left breast one of which measured nearly 6 cm. The staff and doctors at the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion, a partnership between Woman’s Hospital and Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, have been amazing and especially given the difficult circumstances surrounding COVID.
I represent the 85% of breast cancer patients who have no family history. I’m honest with friends and family when I say “I saw breast cancer as a white woman’s disease” because I only ever heard of breast cancer impacting white women. This is one of the many reasons why I’ve elected to be open and transparent about my experience to increase awareness of premenopausal breast cancer.
I started an awareness campaign called “Day 18” to encourage all women and especially those under 40 to perform a self-exam on the 18th day of each month. Why 18? 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Early detection and self exams are key especially for women under 40.
I’m 32-years-old. I’m a Mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, global business leader, avid LSU Football fan and OrangeTheory addict. And soon I look forward to adding “breast cancer survivor!”
Through the generosity of our community donors, the Foundation for Woman’s supports free mammograms to any woman who cannot pay. We do this on our campus and through our two mammography coaches. Woman’s is also a partner of Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs, that enables us to provide no-cost mammograms and Pap tests patients with barriers to care.