We are eager to share our first CINspirational People feature focusing on Amy Scalia, publisher of Cincy Chic. CINspirational People will spotlight a broad range of people in Greater Cincinnati and some of what inspires them. Please read what Amy shared with us.
GTGA: What is an accomplishment you achieved that you are proud of?
Amy: Being a mom is hands-down my greatest accomplishment. Not just because bringing a child into the world is a miracle (which it is and it’s amazing!), but we experienced many issues getting pregnant. I wrote more about that here — but in short, after years of thinking I might not ever be a mom, I was able to and she’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.
Second to that achievement is starting my business, being the proud owner for eight years, and the impact we have on the community. We provide weekly content to 25,000 subscribers, help hundreds of local businesses grow through our services, and we donate nearly $20,000 annually to local charities through our events.
GTGA: Tell us about someone who has been a positive influence in your life.
Amy: My grandma, Mabel Storer, was one of the first female newspaper reporters in Ohio. She had so many amazing stories, and it sparked a life-long fascination with media. She had such a giving heart, too, and that inspired me to add the philanthropy arm of our business where all our event proceeds are donated to select local charities.
GTGA: What is a motto you live by and why or how has it impact you?
Amy: “Go to sleep with a dream and wake up with a purpose.” This is my motto because I think it’s important to not just dream, but also figure out a way to bring those dreams into reality.
GTGA: What is your biggest motivator?
Amy: Life is short. What more motivation do you need?
GTGA: Tell us about an act of kindness you have done, witnessed or been the recipient of and how that made you feel.
Amy: My husband has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis and it’s gotten much worse over the past few years. In fact, he got double hip replacements last year and double knee replacements a few months ago. All of this while I was pregnant and then with a newborn. I’d be writing this from the looney bin if it wasn’t for the kindness of others. They came out of the woodwork for us. Bringing us food, helping us bring in and put together baby furniture, do yard work, you name it. Even just recently, we were at a restaurant after Pete got his new knees and we had the baby with us. The restaurant had a 45 minute wait and someone who already had a seat gave us theirs so we didn’t need to wait and they sat there and waited again for a table. I couldn’t believe it. These past few years have been my most challenging by far, but I’m humbled by and so thankful for all the acts of kindness that got us through it.
GTGA: Tell us about what you do and what are some of the reasons why you enjoy it.
Oh gosh. What don’t I do?! haha! My main responsibility is running Cincy Chic, an online publication in Greater Cincinnati. I also oversee its sister publication in Columbus, which is called Cbus Chic, and its “brother” publication called Cincinnati Profile. In addition to that, I blog for Cincinnati.com and am on-air talent for Star64. What I love is that every day is different, but what remains constant is that everything I do tells the stories of local business owners and helps them grow.
(Guest blog post by Tami Boehmer, author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds)
One thing I love about Lisa’s blog is that it focuses on positivity. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 38, I vowed that I would not sink into self-pity. I continued doing what I loved, including taking care of my then three-year-old daughter, despite going through aggressive chemo. When it came back and spread to other parts of my body in 2008, it became more important than ever to live my life to the fullest and find hope in what seemed as a hopeless situation.
We went to MD Anderson in Houston for a second opinion. The oncologist there told me and my husband that I would die of breast cancer. When we were in the car, my grief turned into anger. “How does she know how long I had to live?” I said out loud. “She didn’t even know me!” At that moment, I affirmed I was going to prove her wrong.
I had always gained strength from other cancer survivors who had overcome the disease to lead flourishing lives. Faced with a dire diagnosis, I needed to talk with other cancer survivors who didn’t accept doctors’ predictions … people who beat the odds. And I was determined to find out how they did it so I could do it myself.
On one of my daily morning walks, an idea popped into my mind. “Why not write a book about other advanced stage cancer patients and how they beat the odds?” I thought it would be therapeutic for me, and more important, help others. I soon began interviewing cancer survivors from around the country for my book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. And I started a blog called Miracle Survivors, where I featured their stories and more, along with ways to heal the body, mind and spirit.
I shy away from news reports and studies that talk about poor survival rates. Statistics are just numbers that lump together a large, diverse group of individuals. They don’t apply to me, and they certainly don’t apply to the people I’ve interviewed for my book and blog. A perfect example is Ann, who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 1999 and has been cancer-free since Sept. 12, 2001. And there’s Dave, who was told 23 years ago he had six months to live and today is running marathons with no evidence of disease.
I’ve heard so many powerful success stories; it seems beating the odds of terminal cancer is more of a norm, rather than an exception. When I struggle, I think of how the people who shared their stories in my book and on my blog never gave up despite setbacks. And almost all of them are thriving today. It gives me hope and purpose, knowing I’m helping others get through their struggles, too.
I participated in an interesting Twitter live chat a few months ago on metastatic breast cancer. This was the first time I had done a live chat and I was interested in hearing other survivors. I and a few other individuals brought up the subject of hope, and I was a little surprised how the conversation turned to impassioned complaints of being pressured to be positive.
Then I read a guest post on a fellow blogger’s site about the same topic. She stated, “Breast cancer has not made me a better person. It has not transformed my life for the better. I have not gotten some insight into a level of spirituality I was hitherto ignorant of. I have not learned to appreciate the little things.” This obviously is a sticking point for many people.
No one should tell anyone how to feel. We all react to things differently, and it can be detrimental to your health to hold in feelings and pretend to be happy when you’re not. But I don’t think this a black- and-white issue.
Do I always feel grateful and happy? Of course not! I’ve had friends die and suffer immeasurably because of this disease. My family and I have suffered, to be sure. But I want people to know there is another side to this – and yes it is … (dare I say it?) positive.
Hi, I’m Tami and I’m a gratefully recovering pessimist. (“Hi Tami,” the group responds.) I have become an optimist because I choose (choice being the operative word) to remain positive despite negative statistics and reports.
The irony is that, although positivity and hope slowly became part of my MO, it was having metastatic cancer that kicked it into full gear. There’s nothing like a strong dose of mortality to make you realize that life is too precious to waste on being miserable.
If I get worried about death or getting sick, I work through it; then get on with living. My lovely daughter has a way of bringing me back into the moment.
Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds, available on her web site, Joseph Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati Good Samaritan Hospital gift shop, New Thought Unity Center, Whatever Works, Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. Through the end of November, Tami is donating 10 percent of her proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Coalition (along with her continual 10 percent to LIVESTRONG). You can visit her at www.MiracleSurvivors.com.
It’s been a few months since I’ve written about Tami. Here is a link to that post.
Tami is someone who has been a huge inspiration to me, always spreading her positive outlook on life. Her husband, Mike, and her daughter, Chrissie, are her pride and joy.
Tami has entered a contest where the prize is a scholarship to a social media conference that is all about training people to empower cancer patients. She wrote this essay below, and to win, she has to receive the most number of votes. Voting is done by first joining the site, then commenting or ‘liking’ her post. I’ve copied it below so you can see it first.
I can’t think of anyone who deserves that scholarship more! Click HERE to vote.
In Feb. 2008, I insisted on seeing my breast surgeon a month earlier than my regular check-up because of a large lump I discovered in my right armpit. I had worried from time to time about some swelling and hardness. Since the swelling would go down, my surgeon thought it was probably hormonal. I was so relieved, I didn’t question it.
She sat me down with the results of the ultrasound, and sadly looked at me. My worst nightmare came true – after five years of being cancer-free, it had come back with a vengeance. The tumor was a very large nine centimeters in diameter. My PET scan report showed spots in lymph nodes in my chest and, most worrisome, my liver. It was stage IV breast cancer.
My first thought was my daughter, then nine years old. I knew I had to do everything I could to be there for her.
I made the decision to not return to a very stressful job and start the new job of getting Tami well. I researched clinical trials and other research online and sought several doctor opinions. I made exercise, prayer, visualization, and affirmations a daily routine. To learn how I could build my immune system, I consulted with holistic physicians, as well as books and websites on the topic. I transformed my diet and used green products to reduce the toxic burden around me. And I focused on serving others in my breast cancer support group, at church and by delivering meals to elderly people in my neighborhood.
But still, I fought off depression and was haunted by the sinking feeling I was going to die. With all the focus on myself and getting well, I felt useless and empty. I was searching for meaning in my life.
I gained strength from hearing success stories of other survivors, especially people like Lance Armstrong who beat stage IV cancer. After more than 20 years as a healthcare public relations specialist, I decided to put my interviewing and writing skills to good use. I soon began interviewing cancer survivors from around the country for my book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odd (released June 2010). I also started a blog, www.MiracleSurvivors.com, where I share stories, cancer resources and my own experiences as a cancer survivor.
My life has been enriched by my incredible social network from my blog, Facebook (personal and fan page), Linked In, Twitter and various online support groups. In less than two years, more than 19,000 people from 123 countries have visited my blog. It was recently named one of the Top 10 Breast Cancer Blogs by Blogs.com. I follow several blogs and have made wonderful connections with other cancer bloggers. One visitor told me that at her one year check-up, her doctor was surprised by her new, upbeat attitude. She told him it was from reading my blog. That’s what makes it worth it to me.
My goal is to give people hope and a different way to see themselves as a survivor and patient. I encourage my followers to be active participants in their healthcare by researching their options, getting additional medical opinions and taking care of themselves in body, mind and spirit. I feel it is detrimental to give patients death sentences. My mantra is: “Statistics are just numbers that lump together a large, diverse group of individuals. You are not a statistic.”
My scans have been stable with only two spots in my armpit. My goal is “no evidence of disease,” and I believe I’ll achieve it. When I struggle, I think of how the people who shared their stories in my book and on my blog never gave up despite setbacks. It gives me hope and purpose, knowing I’m helping others get through their struggles, too.
I hope to contribute my perspective and experiences as a conference participant and share what I learn on my blog and social forums. I would love to meet ePatient Dave, whom I’m featuring in a coming post, and other individuals who are shaping the face of patient empowerment. I want to make a difference for others and my own health. I would be honored to be considered for your generous scholarship.
Sometimes it’s really hard to make sense from the circumstances life throws our way. We have to do some soul searching, questioning. Lots of questions.
What is our purpose here, really? Why were we presented with such mammoth tests of strength that to overcome seems almost surreal at the time?
Everything that we endure, the people with whom our paths intersect alone the way, the challenges, the defeats and the successes, the joy that comes from pure living – they are all part of this huge classroom that teaches us about our destiny.
What we do with those lessons is completely up to us. We can choose to fail in our exams. Or we can use that knowledge as power to triumph. To make our mark on this world. To lift others up from our own courage and wisdom.
Tami Boehmer chose the latter.
Just shy of her 39th birthday Tami felt a lump. She learned she had cancer. Making plans for a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation weren’t exactly what she and her husband, Mike, and daughter, Chrissy, had in mind for celebrating another year older.
But they caught it early. Doctors were optimistic. The Boehmers were optimistic. Early detection is so important in eradicating breast cancer.
“They say after five years you are pretty much home free,” Tami said on a talk show recently.
Maybe that clock got reset along the way. It was in February, 2008 – just months past that mile marker – when Tami found herself staring into the eyes of a forlorn breast surgeon.
The biopsy showed a tumor nine centimeters in diameter and nine out of fifteen lymph nodes tested positive. Subsequent tests reported that it had also spread to lymph nodes in Tami’s chest and liver.
“My world as I knew it ceased to exist,” she wrote in her book, From Incurable To Incredible. “My first thought was Chrissy, my eight year old daughter. I had to do something to make sure I’d be there for her.”
But Tami soon realized her life had an even bigger purpose. She and Mike got to talking and brainstorming. An idea popped into Tami’s head, “Why not write a book about other advanced stage cancer patients and how they beat the odds?”
“I knew from experience that people needed to hear success stories and the importance of hope in fighting cancer. The empty hole I was feeling started to dissipate. That was the sense of purpose I was seeking,” she wrote in the book.
From Incurable To Incredible was released in 2010. It features 27 cancer survivors who were given a terminal diagnosis but surprised everyone by thriving years past their prognoses. What they share is an incredible drive to stay in the battle.
“These miracle survivors taught me cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. From them, I learned cancer was the beginning of a new way of life filled with appreciation, hope and discovering my potential,” Tami wrote.
And now Tami’s potential and inspiration is permeating lives across the country through her talks and interviews. We can all learn from her life experience.
To learn more about Tami Boehmer and her book, From Incurable To Incredible, please visit her blog http://www.tamiboehmer.com
From the words of a dying man, Kyle Nienaber learned about never giving up. From the undaunting spirit of a people crowded into one room shanties – makeshift homes without running water, sanitation or electricity – the 18 year old learned about hope and appreciation.
These are the lessons that can’t be taught in any textbook or school classroom. They are the life affirming consequences that occur when people reach out to one another with their hearts, their hands and their souls.
It’s a beautiful thing to see such education at an early age. Kids and teenagers are not just performing acts of kindness, but really understanding the bigger meaning. They’re learning about caring and respect and responsibility. They’re becoming a generation of people with compassion and deep rooted interest in making their world a better place.
Hospice of Cincinnati strikes me as a difficult place for a young person to choose to volunteer. But it’s become a sort of family tradition for the Nienaber’s, first with Kyle’s mom and sister and then Kyle filling his sister’s role after she graduated.
“It’s something that you can look back on and say you helped someone in their last moments on earth and it puts perspective on life,” he told me.
Especially when that perspective comes from someone with a finite time to experience life’s pleasures.
A huge sports fan, John was given six month to live when he moved into Hospice. It was Kyle’s job to bring him breakfast on weekends, which usually meant having to save the food and bring it back later – when John would finally wake up. The reason? Well, if the game happened to go long John would stay up until the last out was made or the last second ticked from the clock.
“He was always very happy and thankful to have had another night to enjoy his life and the sports he loved to watch,” Kyle said. “He very much enjoyed talking with someone about the games and I was lucky enough to be that someone on many mornings.”
But John shared so much more. His thoughts taught Kyle not just about sports but about living.
From his friend, Kyle wrote in an essay, “I learned that a person’s attitude about life can help extend it. John believed that staying with something until the very end was the best way to appreciate it. Sometimes things don’t end the way you expect. ‘That’s why they play the game,’ he used to say. Most important he used to tell me to never give up.”
In 2008, through Hospice Kyle traveled to South Africa where he helped its sister organization, built shanties and delivered supplies to AIDS patients. “I was one of those unappreciative Americans until I stood in that shanty town village and realized how lucky I am,” Kyle wrote about that journey.
And there, in the impoverished town in Mamelodi where hundreds of children and adults live on each acre, Kyle observed an incredible kindness and thankfulness. “The unbelievable spirit of these people makes me believe that hope is in their future and they can make progress on the very difficult issues they face as a nation.
“They taught me that compassion and caring for others knows no bounds in terms of nations, cultures and socioeconomic status.”
At home Kyle takes what he’s learned to heart, volunteering around Cincinnati. He was secretary of Beechwood High School’s Honor Society where he maintained a 4.27 GPA. And he was honored three times – with the Hospice of Cincinnati Terrific Teen Service Award, as a finalist for the Simon Lazarus Jr. Human Relations Award by American Jewish Committee, and as a YMCA Character Award recipient. He will be attending Notre Dame University this coming school year and chose it because of its focus on service.
And, as for those lessons?
“I’ve used John’s advice on many occasions since he died last year. I always try to keep a positive attitude about everything. Most recently I was inspired during a tennis match. After losing the first set, I remembered John’s words and stayed focused until the end and was able to win the match in three sets…I wish I could have told John all about it.”