Colleagues, Cancer Survivors Make New Connections

Carrie Mary CHA 2016

Today’s guest post comes from (L-R) Carrie Cagnassola and Mary Marbaugh, two longtime Lilly employees who had never met until cancer connected their paths in 2014. Next week, they will join 18 other people touched by cancer for a first-of-its-kind Connecting Hearts Abroad volunteer program with A Fresh Chapter in Peru.

Here, Carrie and Mary talk candidly about …

… looking good and feeling better

Carrie: I had gone through breast cancer surgery and was in my second round of chemo when I signed up for a Look Good Feel Better workshop. I noticed this woman walk into the room. She was dressed really cute and had it pulled together. So I sat down next to her and we immediately connected. 

Mary: I certainly wasn’t feeling pulled together. My hair had fallen out and I was expecting my eyebrows and lashes to follow. I’m not a vain person, but it’s really hard when suddenly you don’t look like yourself. So I was intrigued when I saw the poster in my doctor’s office for free makeup lessons. It actually cheers you up when you meet people who are going through the same thing. After that seminar, Carrie and I would compare the status of our hair growth. 

… dealing with a life-changing diagnosis

Mary: I was working from home when my phone rang. Unless you’re in labor, your gynecologist generally doesn’t call you at home. It was difficult for him to tell me that I had ovarian cancer. We both were stunned. But, thankfully, it had been caught early. Eighteen days later, I had surgery and then underwent chemotherapy.

Carrie: My experience was almost the opposite, including a misdiagnosis and then a late diagnosis. 

My cancer journey has driven me to help make things different—make them better—for women who come behind me.

… working for a company that’s fighting for patients

Carrie: I work in quality for clinical trials, and we often say “the patient is waiting,” I’m that patient. I see cancer from a patient perspective now and hope that Lilly will continue to move cancer research forward quickly and with quality. I’m also grateful to work for a company that takes care of its employees. During my treatment, I never worried about losing my job. I was supported and given the time to recover and heal.

Mary: I had just started a new job when I was diagnosed. I worked through my treatment as much as I could, but that’s because I wanted to feel as normal as possible. My new team was so supportive. They designated a room just for me so I’d have a germ-free workspace. And they even threw a party for me when my hair started to grow back. 

… writing a new story with A Fresh Chapter

Mary: I’m approaching our Connecting Hearts Abroad trip as a great adventure. I love that we’ll be volunteering in an oncology setting and helping others who are going through what we’ve gone through. Cancer hasn’t affected just me. It’s affected my entire family, including my husband and two sons, who were 9 and 12 when I was diagnosed. I’m looking forward to healing my own emotional wounds and bringing back whatever I can to help them heal, too.  

Carrie: I agree! Two years ago, my dad died. A week later, I was diagnosed with cancer. And last month, my mom passed away. It’s been a tough two years for my family. But you get through it. Now with the support of Lilly and A Fresh Chapter, it will be nice to focus a bit on me, which is hard for me to do, and begin to think about turning the page in my story.


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