Staring Down the Bear, Again
A story about my friend who turned fear into courage and hopes to help others do the same
My friend Amy is fighting cancer, again. It’s lung cancer and before you wonder (not that it should matter) if she is a smoker, no, she doesn’t smoke. In fact, she’s one of those super healthy people who never even smoked one cigarette. I certainly cannot say the same. But she is now, for the second time, in a fierce battle with a disease that she rightly laments, has a marketing problem. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Do you know which month is lung cancer month? It’s November. Do you know which color represents lung cancer? It’s white.
I didn’t know either until my friend Amy taught me.
Amy Neary is about my age and like me, a mother of three though unlike me, she has girls in that mix. After a few months of feeling like something was off, she had a brain MRI and the news was not good. The lung cancer was back, this time in her brain. Within days, as doctors worked to come up with a plan of action, her vague symptoms became acute, her head started to pound and she struggled to communicate in words. Per doctor’s orders, an ambulance came and she didn’t return home until after a neurosurgeon had performed a craniotomy to remove a nearly two-inch tumor from her brain. She now bears a sizable scar just above her left ear and it’s fitting that the doctor used “a baseball stitch” since Amy was a collegiate softball player and her oldest son was playing in a double-header (with my son) at the time of the surgery.
Amy is, by nature, a very private person but this second unexpected battle — which landed her on an operating table in Boston for emergency brain surgery on a Friday night — has turned out to be the spark she needed to, as she puts it, “shift her own fear to courage” and “launch the business she first envisioned after her initial diagnosis.” She calls it “staring down the bear” and as she stares hers down for the second time, she thinks often about how most of us have at one time or another come face to face with our own bear. On our walks together we have reflected many times on the quiet bravery that surrounds us as people continue to put one foot in front of the other even on the hardest days. For Amy, there is no hierarchy or sense of competition for who has the biggest or most ferocious bear to stare down — instead, it is the acknowledgement and appreciation that we, as people, are fighters and we overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges all the time.
Addiction. Depression. Disease. Grief. Estrangement. Whatever it is, it’s hard and the love and support of other people can make all the difference.
Share the Momentum™ is about more than creating products that focus on hope, strength, and encouragement; it is to help people find community and perhaps a listening ear from someone “who gets it.” The two brands, “Stare Down the Bear” and “Badass Bravery,” are different in tone but similar in that they recognize and honor courage in the face of adversity and fear. Remember that baseball stitch scar I mentioned? Well, it’s pretty “badass” and it became the inspiration for the edgier of the two brands because only a badass comes home from the hospital with a scar like that.
On a special personal note, I got to be with her daughters and husband in Rhode Island while the tremendously skilled surgeon operated on Amy—we did our best at finding some normalcy during a very abnormal moment in time while Amy’s sister stayed with her in Boston. It is an understatement to say that Amy’s children have shown tremendous bravery and grace, far beyond their years, as they too stare down the bear with their mom.