Jennifer Brown of PinnacleCare: “Learn how to graciously receive care”

Learn how to graciously receive care — especially during chemo. You need to let the people you love and who love you the most take care of you — don’t fight it. Accept their love and care because they want to share in your journey. Your friends, parents, husband, and children all feel the pain of a serious cancer […]

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Learn how to graciously receive care — especially during chemo. You need to let the people you love and who love you the most take care of you — don’t fight it. Accept their love and care because they want to share in your journey. Your friends, parents, husband, and children all feel the pain of a serious cancer diagnosis along with you, and you need to let them in so they can grieve and recover, as well.


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 Jennifer Brown.

Jennifer Brown experienced a life-threatening challenge after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer late last February 2020. She is Vice President of Marketing at PinnacleCare, a company that provides compassionate health advisory support to people facing serious medical challenges, and was able to tap into their expertise for assurance throughout her cancer journey. She has never let her cancer diagnosis define her or hold her back from her next great adventure… just stay tuned!


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 grew up in the Baltimore suburbs with a typical childhood tale: lovely family that valued education and encouraged adventure. Post college, I moved to Aspen, CO, to meet a boy from NYC who is my husband of 30 years. After living in Europe and several cities in the US, I found my way back to “Charm City” to raise my family and further my career and life adventures. I’m a mother, wife, sister, daughter, athlete, and executive who intimately understands survival — both as a mother who lost a child and more recently as a cancer survivor.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.” This is by Marshall McLuhan. I’ve never been one to be passive; I’m proactive and engaged in every aspect of my life, and I’m comfortable as my own advocate. I also understand that I’m in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting beyond cancer… it’s up to me to get through and put it behind me.

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?

Sure… I’ve always been a super-fit, healthy person. I’m a marathon runner and cyclist and work out every day — but towards the end of January, I developed a constant cough. I didn’t feel sick, but the cough just wouldn’t go away.

I saw my primary care physician who, suspecting pneumonia, prescribed an antibiotic. I asked for a chest X-ray, but he didn’t feel it was needed. Five days later, I was no better and was seen by another doctor in the practice, who prescribed an inhaler and steroids — but again, no chest X-ray. After a week, my condition hadn’t improved, so I went to urgent care, and this doctor in fact saved my life. She was concerned that there was fluid in my chest, and it could be an issue with my heart, so I went to the local ER where I finally got that chest X-ray plus CT scans. The scans literally showed two liters of fluid in my chest, which after pathology, revealed malignant cells. A full CT scan that followed found a 15 cm mass in my ovaries. I was in shock — I had advanced stage 4 ovarian cancer. I went into the ER with a cough and came out with cancer! I was lucky, though. I had a team of experts behind me and contacted the CEO/Chief medical Officer at PinnacleCare, who confirmed I was seeing the best physician for my cancer diagnosis and on the right treatment path.

What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?

Honestly, the most frightening part was knowing in my heart that something was happening and that I needed to advocate for myself until finally someone recognized that it was serious and recommended the right next steps. Until then, I was not being heard and cancer was not even on my radar. The worst I could imagine was that I had some kind of metabolic deficiency or disorder.

How did you react in the short term?

Practically and strategically, I’m good at “compartmentalizing,” so I was in the moment with each test, procedure, and specialist appointment — they came fast, one after another (amazing how quickly/easily you get answers and access when they know you have the big C and it’s really, really, bad). Within two weeks of the confirmed diagnosis on February 14th, I had had major surgery and was readying myself for the next treatment after recovering: chemo. I was basically on autopilot, and little did I suspect when discharged from the hospital on March 1st that literally two weeks later, the entire world would shut down with COVID-19!

After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?

Coping came easy for me:

  • Physically, I’m a “go-hard” — once I was cleared from surgery, I got back on the bike every day for 15–20 miles. No rest for the weary!
  • Mentally, I’m a marketing professional in the healthcare industry and working full time and being incredibly busy (because we were helping others during COVID) was the fuel for getting me through. Plus, everybody around the world had to work from home to with me. No FOMO here… I was essentially going through treatment and recovery under the camouflage of COVID-19!
  • Emotionally, I’m so lucky to have an incredible family and great friends who surrounded me with 24/7 love and took care of me. It was the first time ever both my husband and son were home working as well, so it was pretty much a lot of togetherness during quarantine… like everyone else.
  • Spiritually, I practiced mindfulness, which was a wonderful way to stay balanced and calm. But you see, I have a unique perspective because I lost my 22-year-old daughter Olivia five years ago. Olivia survived for 19 years after a traumatic brain injury, and watching and caring for her when she was so broken and living through so much pain for almost two decades changed how I synthesized my own discomfort and fear. I was never afraid because I knew she was watching over me. I managed chemo treatment well because I knew she had gone through so much more. And I was not afraid of dying because I knew she was on the other side if my cancer won the war.

Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?

Most of us live for our children, and although there is no specific story to share, I do know that when going through cancer treatment (especially chemo), it became even clearer how important it was for me to get through this “mess” so that I could watch my son grow, mature, and become the wonderful husband and father I know he will be — especially after losing my sweet daughter, I wanted another chance to someday be a grandmother. That was my steadfast goal and that was the motivation for me to cope and heal because my son is truly my hero and champion.

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?

That no matter what you do (I’m very healthy, active, and fit), and even though you’ve chosen to live a “good” life doing decent and kind things, you can’t control an “out of control” circumstance. Sometimes bad things happen to good people — sh&t happens. I believe cancer was telling me, “Here we go again — but remember, you have much to be thankful for.” You need to remember gratitude even when facing cancer.

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?

What I can pull away from the experience is that I now consciously “choose” to be more present. Since you’re not guaranteed a long life, you need to make the most of the time you have — especially when it comes to family and being there for the older loved ones in your life who need you. Being that I’m in the club that nobody wants to join — the club of parents who have lost a child — I want to ensure that I’m present and there to help my parents as they age in place, so they don’t have to face losing a child, as well.

How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?

By being completely open and transparent in sharing my story… at least for anyone interested in listening! Sharing my story is hopefully going to push others to advocate for themselves when they know something is just not right.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

First and foremost, cancer is not a death sentence. Fifteen years ago my stage 4 ovarian cancer most likely would have been a death sentence; yet with innovative genetic testing, treatment, and therapies (I’m BRCA 1 and being treated with PARP Inhibitors), I’m moving beyond the diagnosis, and cancer is now a footnote, no longer a headline in my life story.

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 You Need to Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s never too late to be healthy and in good shape. Being that I’m somewhat of a beast as far as fitness goes, I began my cancer journey physically in good shape, and then picked up my workout routine as soon as I was cleared post-surgery. I’m convinced that my fitness is part of my success in beating cancer.
  2. It was easier to focus on getting through the current treatment du jour, rather than the bigger picture of getting through the entire illness. For me, I set a goal of getting through each chemo session only, so I had a little victory each time. I won by focusing on each battle rather than the whole war.
  3. Losing my hair was nothing short of catastrophic for me. When I looked in a mirror, I felt as if the person I knew had disappeared — this was a stranger. I had a great wig, but hats helped the most — especially because it was during COVID, and I was basically home for 14 months. Wearing hats from my son’s college lacrosse teams somehow seemed more normal. That said, since completing chemo last August, my hair is growing and the wig I have has been awesome as I re-enter the outside world.
  4. Learn how to graciously receive care — especially during chemo. You need to let the people you love and who love you the most take care of you — don’t fight it. Accept their love and care because they want to share in your journey. Your friends, parents, husband, and children all feel the pain of a serious cancer diagnosis along with you, and you need to let them in so they can grieve and recover, as well.
  5. Work was the one great distraction and the great equalizer for me during COVID. If you’re able to dig in deep at work to get your mind off the severity of your illness, it is an enormous help in your day-to-day emotional wellbeing. For me, it served as the great equalizer, too, because going through cancer during COVID meant that everyone else was working from home and collaborating over ZOOM, not just me. I shared my diagnosis with several people in my company, but the workday looked the same for us all and it gave me a huge sense of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic situation. Work is good, and it’s also OK to say no and rest whenever you need it.

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’ve been a longtime caregiver and caretaker, and when it was time for me to be taken care of, I knew enough about it to let my loved ones in. It made everything easier, more graceful. I think people need to prepare for their caregiving roles more thoughtfully and thoroughly because becoming a caregiver sneaks up on you, yet it’s one of the most important and potentially fulfilling jobs you’ll ever have.

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 would love the opportunity to meet and enjoy a conversation with George Noory, who helped me through countless sleepless nights by listening to his syndicated radio program Coast to Coast AM. He’s opened my mind to many “considerations,” as well as expanded my spiritual universe. On his show, I was introduced to James Doty, MD, whose teachings on mindfulness helped me through both the loss of my child, as well as through cancer. I’m eternally grateful.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My LinkedIn profile is www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-brown-4864346 and I would love to connect with your readers!

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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