INCREDIBLE WOMEN

Top: Mariana Militello, Kirsten Lawley, Emily Tripi; Bottom: Margaret Scherrer, Ann Freer-Carol, Sue Morreale

SURVIVORS.

THRIVERS.

RIVIVORS.

to them throughout their journey. These women and their words inspired the Thriver sweatshirt, a new design in the Rivivor Collection. For each Thriver tie dye sold, a percentage of net proceeds will be donated to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY, to help fund cancer research.

Order your Thriver tie dye HERE

There’s a strong woman and a story behind each of the seven words in our new Thriver tie dye. We asked seven courageous survivors to share one word that symbolized their battle with cancer and meant the most

Ann Freer-Carol, Acceptance

Emily Tripi,  Positivity

Kirsten Lawley,

Strength

Laura Kicinski,  Courage

Margaret Scherrer, Family

Mariana Militello,  Rivive

Sue Morreale,

Grateful

The seven incredible women behind our new Thriver tie dye sit down with THE VIVE to talk about their battles with cancer and the powerful words that kept them going. 

7 INCREDIBLE WOMEN

SHARE 7 POWERFUL

     WORDS TO LIVE BY

INCREDIBLE WOMEN

20

NOV

'20

Ann Freer, Acceptance

1. Introduce yourself.

    I am Ann Freer-Caroll and I grew up in Buffalo NY, Town of Tonawanda.

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

    Breast cancer, I was 45 years old. 

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

    I went in for a routine mammogram and after being there for 2+ hours, I knew something was wrong.  I was definitely       shocked, but I am tough and I was confident that this was just going to be a hiccup for me. 

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did       you overcome what you were feeling?

    As I was walking into church the day before my surgery, I was surprised by many of my friends and family from all             over the country. I really relied on their support and wasn’t afraid to share what I was going through. Strength in               numbers.

5. Where did you go to find strength/what was your outlet?

    Work.Work.Work.

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

    Acceptance- I didn’t choose the diagnosis nor did I ever want it. But I knew that I was not going to let this                            diagnosis control me. 

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

    Like my Doctor told me, take one day at a time and stay off the internet!! Every case is individual.

 
 

Emily Tripi, Positivity

1. Introduce yourself.

   Hi there! My name is Emily Tripi and I am 26 years old. I am from Orchard Park, NY.

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

   I was diagnosed in February 2020 at the age of 25 with stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I went through 12              chemotherapy treatments and I was officially done with treatment and in remission this past August!

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

    When I first heard the news of my diagnosis, I was heartbroken. I knew that my life was going to completely change. My dad actually battled the same cancer diagnosis when I was young, so I knew that it was not going to be easy, but I also knew that I needed to accept it for what it was and do my best to get through it!

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did you overcome what you were feeling?

   Cancer really does put your life on hold. A moment where this hit me was when I was in the shower washing my hair and noticed chunks of it falling out. I had been told that I would lose my hair, but it was almost like I didn’t truly believe it until it became real. Losing my hair made me feel like I was losing myself and my identity. I know it sounds silly, but as a young woman, vanity and the way you perceive yourself is important! When your hair falls out, it takes a long time to grow back and for you to look like yourself again. My hair is now growing back, but it is only about an inch and a half long so far! It’s a work in progress. However, I am lucky enough to wear a wig that makes me feel more like how I did before I was diagnosed.

5. Where did you go to find strength/what was your outlet?

    I was blessed to have an incredible support system through my battle with cancer. I have a wonderful family, boyfriend and friends. When I was feeling down or upset, I could talk with my loved ones and they always just listened to me. Someone listening to me vent so I could let it out and move on meant so much to me. It allowed me to feel my emotions and then let them go. I also tried to keep up with physical activity, like going for walks when the weather was nice, and allowed myself to relax and watch some Netflix. I even started a blog to share different aspects of my journey!

 

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

    One word that had meaning to me was Positivity. I feel like this word truly defined my cancer journey. I tried to find the silver lining in my situation and all aspects of it. Although it was the darkest time of my life, I found things to make me happy and I always had faith in the fact that my situation was temporary. I knew in my heart that if I stayed positive, I would come out stronger on the other side and that my life would eventually go back to normal.

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

Cancer as a young adult is very difficult, especially when you are surrounded by other young people who are not going through what you are and don’t quite understand it. My advice to people like me would be to lean on your loved ones for support, feel your emotions, and keep a positive attitude. My dad always told me that having a positive attitude while he was sick is what got him through it. When you have a positive outlook on life, it can really change your perspective. It’s important to focus on being grateful for all the good in your life rather than the bad. Things will get better, you just need to be patient and believe it. It may not seem like it at the time, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Kirsten Lawley, Strength

1. Introduce yourself.

   My name is Kirsten Lawley and  I grew up in Lewiston, New York. 

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

      I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38. I had just had an early mammogram to get a baseline for an upcoming surgery  and about five months late months later, I discovered a lump on my own.    

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

     I was definitely shocked because I had no family history. I was a fitness instructor and very much into healthy living.   I remember I had just taught a kickboxing class right before I went to get another mammogram after discovering a lump on my breast. After that discovery, I had this gut feeling that I needed another scan. No one said it was necessary, considering I had just had a negative test five months prior.

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did you overcome what you were feeling?

    Getting a cancer diagnosis is very scary and difficult to hear and absorb.  Life as you know it is different; your daily routine is interrupted, your daily thoughts are different, even your physical appearance is different. However, I had four kids at the time, all of whom were under 8, so I could not put my life on hold. I had to be a mom. I had to be normal and act normal. There was no time for me to go into a dark hole, which would have been so easy to do.

 

5. Where did you go to find strength/what was your outlet?

     I think being preoccupied with my children actually helped me get through this difficult time. I had my moments, believe me, which I usually saved for myself  in my bedroom or car.  I’d have some dark thoughts or even a good cry but then I would shake it off and continue on. I had no other choice!

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

    I would choose the word strength. This is a very powerful word. To me, it means you not only have to be physically strong, but also mentally strong. Strength of mind is 90% of getting through any roadblock in life and there will always be roadblocks in life’s journey.  Whether it’s cancer, divorce, other illnesses, work, domestic issues, addiction or other adversities, you need a healthy strong mind. This takes a solid support system and good life choices. Strength of body is also so important to get through cancer or other life challenges. Your body is literally your home. You only get one! It will take care of you if you take care of it. Your body is an amazing gift that needs love, nurturing and physical movement!!

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

    Anyone going through cancer or any other illness is going to have many thoughts marinating in their minds, especially negative ones. It’s easy to do. You often ask why me? Looking back, our lives were rolling; we were going out, spending time with friends, working, going to school and then the carpet was ripped out from underneath us. It’s like our life went from color to black and white, and you begin to look through your old lense and see everyone still living the life you once were a part of. Honestly, it can be gut-wrenching, frustrating and can make you feel just so sad. This will happen; however, you have to keep your thoughts positive even when you don’t want to. You have to try and see friends even when you may not want to be seen. You have to try and be physical even when you may be tired. Cry when you need to, but then dust yourself off and find the strength you know you have to carry on. Talk to someone who is on the other side! Listen to music! Try meditation!  Stay off the internet!  And most importantly, surround yourself with people that make you feel good! You will find out who your true people are when you go through a life threatening experience. 

 

Laura Kicinski, Courage

1. Introduce yourself.

   My name is Laura Kicinski and I am from Williamsville, New York.

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

   I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at the age of 39. I had no signs or symptoms prior.  My son was jumping on the couch and bumped my chin. That started the pain. Shortly after, I went to see a dentist, then an oral surgeon, followed up by a CT scan, and was diagnosed all in a matter four days.  

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

 I was completely blindsided and could not believe the news. I was healthy and did everything right.

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did you overcome what you were feeling?

    I remember it really hit me when I was half way through chemo and I asked when I won’t have to worry about cancer and was told, “this is cancer, you will always have to worry about it”... Definitely not the answer I was looking for, but after hearing those words, it really hit me that my life was forever changed. The only thing I could do was accept it and move forward and not go back to the life I had before cancer.

5. Where did you go to find strength/what was your outlet?

    I would find strength through my family, friends and other cancer survivors.  They really helped me through my darkest  days by being there for me. I also felt empowered by other survivors.  I knew if they could do it, so could I.

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

    Courage— This was not how I thought my like would look like at 35 with four four boys and cancer.  I did not want to be in the hospital for months for chemo and surgeries. I hated it all, and I was not a good patient.  I had to find something inside me. And that was courage. 

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

    My advice would be to not give up, and that tough times don’t last forever.  Keep moving forward and there is sunshine at the end.

 

Mariana Militello, Rivive

1. Introduce yourself.

   My name is Mariana Militello but most call me Mari! I am twenty-five years old, and I grew up in Clarence, New York.

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

     In Fall of 2016, I was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a rare cancer that affects one in a million adults. I came home from college for a family party and just happened to squeeze in an MRI that I was supposed to get prior to leaving for school. That scan changed my life forever.

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

“So the procedure will go like this: we will cut down the right side of your cranium, peel the entire skin from your face, and then remove a chunk of your skull,” one of the most prominent neurosurgeons told me. Then he said, “You may have a dent in the side of your face, but you know about that because your dad does concrete!” After hearing this, I am sure you can imagine how I was feeling. This prominent physician had compared my face to a sidewalk. I sat there with no words. 

It was only three hours prior to this consultation that I was told my MRI showed a massive brain tumor on my hypothalamus. It was only three hours prior to this consultation that my parents sat sobbing in front of me. Of course I was filled with every emotion--anger, devastation and fear, but I could not bring myself to react. From that moment on, I knew my life was never going to be the same. I left that room thinking surely my life was over. 

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did you overcome what you were feeling?

​Because of where my tumor was located, my pituitary gland was compromised and I ended up gaining over 150 pounds. The only clothes I could fit into were mens or plus size. I could not walk up the stairs on my own and rarely left the house. It was demoralizing. I was unrecognizable. I sat on my couch and watched all my friends live their lives--trips, birthdays, graduations, I missed it all. 

 

Specifically, I remember Spring of 2017. I had just completed my ninth round of chemotherapy. I woke up with chest pains, and later that day was rushed to the hospital only to discover I had two blood clots in my lungs. The following day, I watched all my friends from college graduate together as I sat there alone in my hospital bed. I was heartbroken. It was really difficult to have such monumental moments ripped away from me. 

 

However, I knew I couldn’t let myself think like that. I had to focus on the positives in my life. For starters, I was going to be alright after my treatments were completed. I also had an incredible support system: family, friends and my community. Being sick made me realize how loved I was and how blessed I was to have so many amazing people by my side. My friends would come to chemo with me and would make it feel like a party every time. People I barely knew would send me gifts and cards, some would even come visit. Truly, their love and prayers gave me the strength to keep going and to keep fighting. 

5. Where did you go to find strength/what was your outlet?

I found strength in my family and friends. My mom was my rock. During chemo week, she would not leave my side and slept with me every night to make sure I was alright. I’d cry and she would be there to cheer me up. My little cousins would call me everyday and chat with me for hours. They would make me laugh, send me surprises, and tell me I was beautiful and that I was the "same Mari" they've always known.  My family and friends truly gave me the strength I needed to overcome my battle. 

 

​Being sick almost made me feel as if I was seven years old again. I was dependent on my parents to help me with everything. It seemed like I had more in common with my eight and twelve-year-old cousin than I did with my own friends! I did puzzles, crafts, basically anything that distracted me. I became a crafting junky. Then one day I decided to buy a tie-dye kit. I came home, grabbed an old shirt that had a stain on it and began to tie-dye. It became my healthy drug and saving grace. It was fun and bright, and it made me happy. Most of all, it was rewarding, creating something beautiful out of nothing. I wanted to translate that feeling to people who could not only see my creations, but also wear my tie-dyes. 

 

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

​Rivive. I incorporated the “ri” from Mari, my name, into the word “revive,” which means restored life and new strength.Throughout my journey I definitely hit rock bottom, but I found the strength to revive myself, and tie-dying was a huge part of that. I began to eat healthier, exercise more, and think positively. I changed my perspective on life. I learned to be grateful for my diagnosis, which may sound strange, but I know I would not be where I am today without it. Each day is a new day and ultimately, you determine how you want your day to go. 

 

With that in mind, I tried to wake up every day striving to make it the best that I possibly could. Because of  this mentality, I am now in a place in my life where I am happy, surrounded by family and friends, and I get to do what I love. I currently work for an amazing company, I created my OWN company, Rivive, and I bought a house! But most importantly, I am healthy!

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

The best advice I can give is not to lose hope and not to give up. A  healthy mind and a positive perspective are more powerful than you think. I know in the moment it sucks to be sick and you just want to feel normal again, but you have to be patient. Let your body heal, lean on your family and friends for support, and keep fighting. I often found myself comparing chemo week to a swim practice. I swam all through high school and the practices were rarely fun or easy but the hard work always paid off. Chemo was like swim practice. It was hard and painful. There were many moments where I shed tears, but I found the strength to get through it. And in the end it paid off. 

 

If you can find the strength to push through and not give up, the end results are well worth it. You feel accomplished and are grateful that you put in the effort. Of course chemo was hard and painful, but the end result was worth it. I am healthy and I am living my life again. Perspective controls everything, so keep it positive.  

 

Margaret Scherrer, Family

1. Introduce yourself.

   Hi! I am Margaret Scherrer. I am 16 years old and live in Buffalo, New York.

 

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 4. I discovered that I had cancer after I fell off my bike and had an x-ray that showed I had cancer.

 

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

    I was so young so I really don’t remember how I felt but I remember being so excited to be in the hospital as I didn’t know why I was there. 

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did you overcome what you were feeling?

Having a normal childhood was a difficult obstacle to overcome. Missing school, not being able to see and be with my friends, and not being able to do most of the things I saw other kids doing was really hard at times. But, my amazing family, made every moment in the hospital and at home as memorable as they could. My mom was my rock during my treatment and always made every trip to the hospital enjoyable. She would do anything for me and would go above and beyond to just see a smile on my face. My friends, neighbors, and family also loved and supported me during my treatment and I am forever grateful for each and everyone one of them. 

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

I chose the word family as I don’t really remember going through treatment but I do remember all the doctors, nurses, friends, and family that helped me survive. If I didn’t have the amazing support system that I did, I don’t know if I would be alive right now. I am so thankful for everyone who has impacted my life during and after treatment as I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. I am so lucky to have met other kids and adults with cancer as they have made me more blessed for the life I have, and for the life that having cancer has given me. I am grateful that I had cancer; not because of the grief and pain it caused me and my family, but for the people and opportunities it created for me. I have met some of the most amazing people from organizations like Camp Good Days, went on an amazing Make- A-Wish trip, been the ambassador for the Light theNight Walk, and have been a part of so many other amazing fundraisers and events. My family isn’t just my mom, dad, sister, and relatives, it’s everyone who impacted my life during and after my treatment.

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

My advice is that everything happens for a reason. God gave you this awful illness because he knew you could fight and survive. He knows that instead of letting cancer beat you, you would beat cancer and not let it define who you are. Also, surrounding yourself with friends and family is the most important thing as they will always be there for you, and take care of you when you cannot. The treatment is the worst part, but the opportunities, memories, and people you meet will make the pain and fighting worth it.

 

Sue Morreale, Grateful

1. Introduce yourself.

   My name is Susan Morreale and I’m 55 years old. I grew up in the country near Lewiston in a town called Sanborn, New    York.

2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when did you receive your diagnosis?

   I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41.

3. How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?

   I felt shock, disbelief, fear, anger, every emotion possible. I was feeling it. How could this have happened to me? I thought I take such good care of myself, I don’t smoke, I’m not overweight, I eat healthy, I breast-fed my daughter, I exercise. I’m a nurse for God's sake! I think I know how to take care of myself. I didn’t have any of the so-called high risk factors so why? My emotions bounced back-and-forth from anger to fear in the days ahead of me so I was trying to sort through this nightmare that was in front of me and It didn’t feel real. My mind was filled with the unknown and would race from one thought to another of what I was supposed to do next. So many decisions to make and so many unanswered questions.

Feeling the fear was paralyzing. I asked myself, "what if I die? Is my daughter Ciara really going to have to go the rest of her life without her mom…?" I was being faced with my mortality and could barely find the words to express what I was feeling. All I kept thinking of was how my beautiful Ciara, who was seventeen years old at the time, still needed her mom. With that being said, my job raising her into a strong woman was not complete. I had too much to live for, too much life ahead of me.

4. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization? How did you overcome what you were feeling?

     I was afraid, but determined. After a couple of days of overwhelming fear, anxiety and anger, I knew that making a plan was what I needed to put my energy. I educated myself, and I explored what my options wereIt’s time to educate myself and gather information what are my options I need to formulate a plan to kick the shit out of this disease now. I decided I was going to be the one who’s going to figure this out with my family by my side. I needed to take charge. After all this was my life we were talking about. I was going to educate myself on everything I needed to know to make the best informed decisions that were best for me to fight and heal from this horrible disease I was now faced with. I needed to let go of the things that I couldn’t control and begin to look at the things that I could control.

5. Where did you go to find strength/what was your outlet?

     I was so lucky to have an amazing support system. My family was there for me every step of the way. Many days when I felt I couldn’t do it, my family was there to say, "Yes, you can Suzy! You can get through this". I also thought back on my childhood memories and how much I loved being in nature and how it gave me such a feeling of peace and serenity, so I spent many of my days out in nature just being present. Listening to the birds, watching a butterfly fly by, going to the water and feeling the peace from the sounds of the waves rushing up against the rocks. I began to truly think about how grateful I was that I was getting through this, my family was here to support me and the very simple things in life began to mean so much more.

Additionally, I found strength in strong women. I can’t say enough about the women that surrounded me throughout my life. My grandmother, my mother , my sisters, my girlfriends! I was surrounded by women of such incredible strength who inspired me daily.

6. If you could choose one word that had meaning to you through your journey, what would it be?

    One word that I can take from all this is definitely gratitude. I believe gratitude is essential for living a good life… And I am grateful for the life I lead. What started as a journey of disbelief, fear, uncertainty, anger and helplessness, evolved into one of hope, courage, support, faith and trust in soul. Today it continues for me as a journey of strength, inspiration, encouragement, awareness, learning and giving back.

 I am so grateful that I get to still be here and that I was taught so much about being present. During treatment I started my days with gratitude. Gratitude was something that I did throughout my year-long treatment every time I got through something I was so grateful and the benefits of practicing were so beneficial for my health from helping me to sleep better, boosting my immune system, and helping me with the fear. I began a gratitude journal that I would write on even on the days when I didn’t feel that I might have something be grateful for I always found something. I would write down three things that I was grateful for in the morning and then I would end my night with the same. I still continue journaling in my gratitude journal every day. 

7. What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing cancer or another life-threatening illness?

“ It is our soul that provides us with an inner voice, inner sense and direction. It reminds us of who we are and what we can become. We just need to appreciate, honor and nurture it which in turn will show us our lives meaning and purpose” -Sue 

 

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