Though I didn’t know it at the time, my liberal arts education at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, meticulously and intentionally laid the foundation for each step of my circuitous personal and professional life, from philanthropy to sales and communications, to health care. My liberal arts education taught me how to think, learn, write, and communicate. During my tenure at Saint Mary’s, I engaged in and cultivated multiple forms of intelligence that, combined together, have enabled me to grow into a woman who is versatile, integrative, and creative.
At Saint Mary’s, I earned a bachelor of arts in history and political science. I was blessed with extraordinary professors. Each and every one generously and wholeheartedly opened their minds, hearts, and offices to their students. Every day, we were encouraged, supported, and challenged to be all that we could be.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, my liberal arts education at Saint Mary’s College meticulously and intentionally laid the foundation for each step of my circuitous personal and professional life, from philanthropy to sales and communications, to health care.
My liberal arts degree prepared me to work in sales and communications at Polo Ralph Lauren, and two years into that job—longing to working in health care—I completed an accelerated bachelors of nursing program at Loyola University Chicago. Ultimately, I found my vocation in pediatric hospice, doing both clinical work and teaching.
My liberal arts degree also instilled in me a lifelong love of learning. My further education includes completing the University of Chicago MacLean Fellowship in 2002, serving as a faculty scholar at Harvard Medical School’s Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice in 2002, and earning a master’s degree in child development at the Erikson Institute in 2004 and a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University in 2005.
Flexibility is another benefit of my liberal arts education. In 2010, I was stunned to be diagnosed with breast cancer. As a clinician, I now found myself in a unique position, moving from the side of the hospital bed into it. Shortly after my diagnosis I started writing a blog, TheSilverPen.com, as a way to keep family and friends informed of my treatment. The blog soon evolved into a daily must-read for thousands of people worldwide because—so I’m told—it gives a hopeful and experienced voice to the cancer experience.
The blog is now being turned into a book, The Silver Lining: A Supportive & Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer, and is being published by the Atria division of Simon & Schuster on March 18, 2014. This is the book that I desperately sought, but could not find, after my cancer diagnosis. What I needed was a lifeline, a point of reference, a source of encouragement that was simultaneously honest and informative, realistic and uplifting, credibly relevant and visually beautiful. No such book existed, until now.
The reason that I am sharing my story is to try to make the cancer experience better for people who have to follow me down this path. I credit my liberal arts education at Saint Mary’s college with providing me with the foundation to do all that I am doing now.