Everything hurts during treatment, but the less talked about side effects for young adults include depression, anxiety, infertility and/or early menopause.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Rice.
Amanda Rice is a three-time cancer survivor (all before the age of 40). She is the founder of non-profit The Chick Mission, which advocates for fertility benefits for cancer patients, and provides resources where the system has failed through Hope Scholarships, educational resources and community-building events. Amanda works on Wall Street by day, splitting her time between New York and Texas, and is almost always seen with her adorable pup, Nola, by her side.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in White Plains, NY with two parents who were dedicated to their two daughters, but also to their careers. Growing up with a working mother allowed me a strong motivated female role model that has set the tone for my own career goals. We, unfortunately, lost my father the year I turned 18, which created a sort of tenacity that carried me through all three of my cancer experiences and pushed me to create The Chick Mission.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you found out you were dying, would you be nicer, would you love more, try something new?” Cancer shifts your perspective on everything — particularly your own mortality, as you’re abruptly faced with it. While this motto seems a bit grim, the reality is we’re all dying, whether there’s a specific timeline or not — our time here on Earth is limited. Through this lens, it only makes sense to lead each day with a little more forgiveness, kindness, and empathy — and to not be afraid to take bold action. Who knows what the next day will bring, so why wait?
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
Yes, it’s important to talk about; the only way we learn and heal is through sharing our stories — and I feel so grateful to have shared mine with fellow cancer patients and supporters like Sterling K. Brown through Bristol Myer Squibb’s Survivorship Today, which is a great initiative that’s helping to illuminate the realities of living with cancer. For many people cancer doesn’t end on the last day of treatment, it’s something that you carry with you for life. That’s a big part of my story, actually. The first time I was diagnosed with cancer (breast), I was hitting my stride in my career in NYC. I had an active social life and was healthy — I’d never had an extended stay at the hospital, not even for a broken bone. When I found out I had breast cancer, I was shocked, to say the least, and overwhelmed with emotions and decisions to make. What ended up being one of the most challenging aspects was being told that if I wanted any chance of having a biological family one day, then I needed to freeze my eggs immediately. But this is something insurance wouldn’t cover — despite my not electing to have cancer. I was baffled and overwhelmed; as I was facing my mortality I also had to think about the potential of producing another life. This experience is in large part what led me to go on and create The Chick Mission. I saw there was a gap and a lack of information out there around the topic. There needed to be more resources out there and conversations held so that as the number of people who are surviving cancer continues to grow, people are able to live the lives they’ve dreamt of.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
Being overwhelmed with so many decisions to make — and feeling like I didn’t have the answers to the problems I was being faced with. I’m very action oriented, so as I tried to dig for answers, I was frustrated that more wasn’t laid out for me, despite the staggering number of cancer diagnoses per year and the growing number of cancer survivors. I not only worried about my own condition but my friends and family’s — you need a team to get through cancer, and as much as I knew their support was unwavering, it’s hard to see those you love being put through this pain, too — particularly, with something like cancer, which no one chooses to have.
How did you react in the short term?
I got to work, trying to create a plan. I caught my friends and family up to speed and we committed to be by each other’s sides, through all the ups and downs.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
I feel compelled to share the deep, dark points of cancer that often come after treatment is done. This is part of the reason I agreed to be part of Survivorship Today. You should be celebrating because you “beat” cancer, yet I found myself lost and depressed. I wasn’t actively treating the cancer after I “rang the bell,” and I didn’t feel like myself. I was overwhelmed and felt alone, and I needed to seek treatment for my anxiety and depression, and ultimately used medication to help me through this dark time. This is often something I mention to those in treatment, so that they aren’t shocked by it.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
When I was first diagnosed, a friend connected me with a friend who had gone through cancer a few years before. She was so kind and forthcoming, and put my mind at ease from the very start. Shoshana had no idea how helpful this was for me and that this conversation would lead to hundreds more of those types of conversations to follow. I have spoken to friends, friends of friends, colleagues of friends and complete strangers who reach out through The Chick Mission or my personal Instagram. These types of conversations are incredibly important. Breaking down the opaqueness of a cancer diagnosis can help ease some of the fear.
In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?
I think this goes back to the quote I stand by — cancer amplifies everything, particularly how short life can be. It simultaneously speeds things up and slows them down; it really shows you all of the roller coaster emotions of life.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I’ve learned a lot throughout my cancer journey, but the biggest lesson has been empathy. Many people in this world are suffering, whether it be cancer, infertility, depression, you name it…we have to be more kind to each other. I was being treated in NYC with its hustle and bustle, and I remember looking into these strangers’ eyes and just feeling very drawn to those that were suffering.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
Through creating The Chick Mission! Over the past few years, we’ve been able to provide over 170 cancer patients with full coverage of their fertility treatment, giving them the option to create a future family if they so choose. We’ve been able to touch thousands more cancer survivors and supporters through speaking opportunities and community events and fundraisers. We’re slowly chipping away at shifting the conversation around fertility/cancer treatment from taboo to more mainstream.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
As brilliant as doctors are, nobody knows your body like you do. Your body shares things with you every day, through symptoms, signs or signals and you MUST listen. In my case it was blood coming from my breast, a dark spot on my arm that popped up out of nowhere and a small lump. Each time I saw a change, I sought out a doctor to do further testing. Regular screening and testing are important, but monitoring your body is the MOST important.
As I touched on before, a common misconception is that life goes back to normal once treatment ends. It doesn’t. This is often the most challenging part. You come out of your cancer journey with different views on the world and your own mortality, you may feel anxious or depressed, not jubilant. This is all very normal.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 things I wish I knew about living with cancer”:
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Scars are awesome…and something to be proud of.
- No one knows your body like yourself. Your body communicates with you. Listen to it and speak up!
- Everything hurts during treatment, but the less talked about side effects for young adults include depression, anxiety, infertility and/or early menopause.
- Emotional healing is ongoing; I continue it every day through my work at The Chick Mission helping others through their own journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
I feel pleased that I’ve already started to do some great work with The Chick Mission. Being able to tell people yes, they can have their fertility treatment covered, after the system has told them no, remains incredibly empowering. But as much as we’re doing good work and it’s fulfilling; The Chick Mission’s ultimate mission is to go out of business — for there to be changes at a legal level. Right now, 40 states do not have it mandated that they need to provide fertility benefits for cancer patients. And in the ten states that have passed mandates, there are countless loopholes patients fall through. My team and I won’t stop rallying around legislation, like House Bill 293 in Texas, until all cancer patients are granted fertility benefits. We’re going to keep up our fight, and hope others join us in the process on both a state-by-state and national level.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
I am a huge fan of the power breakfast — if I’m dreaming big, I would pack mine with a fearless foursome.
Kate Ryder — Maven
Natalie Maines — The Chicks
MacKenzie Scott — Philanthropist
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Give us a follow on Instagram: @chickmission — where we share the latest in the cancer/fertility space, inspiring stories from survivors, and exciting upcoming initiatives we’re working on. Also, visit our website: thechickmission.org and sign up for our newsletter!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you for giving me the space and opportunity to do so.
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente helps cancer survivors overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Food Network, WW, Bloomberg, Amazon, and Facebook. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.