About Our 2016 Honorary Chair, Elizabeth Mannen
I was first diagnosed at age 26 with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer and given 6 months to live and simply sent home. I was living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the time and received my diagnosis in Salt Lake City by the fifth doctor to whom I visited and complained of stomach pain and bloating. I changed doctors, went through radical surgery and two years of chemo before I found remission. My ovarian cancer came back at age 35 and again at age 38. I had breast cancer first at age 42, and again at age 48. I am currently 51, with my fingers and toes all crossed.
Cancer isn’t as much about surviving for me as it is thriving. There are hard fought insights and gifts to be had after the battle through the cure is over. I choose not to focus on the war stories (hair loss, thrush, neuropathy, incompetent insurance companies, chemo brain), but rather the insights of perspective, focus and gratitude.
While I give talks on “the big three” of perspective, focus, and gratitude, I think it can be summed up pretty easily by simply saying that with the clarity of cancer as my fuel, I do my best to use my time in service to others. I’m a catalyst for change. I rock the boat. I get things moving, I follow them through, and I get them done. There is no time to waste! I know this because I’ve had too much time watching chemo drip into my veins thinking, “Will I see the twins make it to high school/college/weddings?” and a stunning number of other more disturbing questions.
So I get what we all get, today, and nothing else. My advantage? I’ve had men and women in white coats stare down at me and tell me my tomorrows are limited. Guess what? So are yours... So I encourage everyone I run into, my clients, all the non-profit boards I work on to answer and live one question: What is your greatness and how will you share it with others? Is it teaching? Engineering? Art? Writing children’s books? Geometry? Taking care of stray animals? Figure it out. Because that’s why you are here and you don’t get a guarantee of how many tomorrows you might have!
I’m also a believer that we “all have cancer.” Your cancer might be raising an autistic child, caring for aging parents, being under employed or unemployed. Maybe you live in an unsafe home or are going through a wretched divorce. The Cancer Cross is no heavier than any other. It is different, that’s for sure, but it is equal! I do spend a lot of time with newly diagnosed patients and their families trying to equalize the experience for them. There is a lot of information that is lacking in the patient experience and if I can help fill in the blanks, I’m happy to do that for women and their families.
But, I am not my cancer. I am the mother of almost-30-year-old boy/girl twins; she is an attorney in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he is an engineer in New Orleans. I am a passionate advocate for my clients as a financial advisor at my own Mannen Financial Group within Wells Fargo Advisors. I sit on the boards of Lydia’s House, St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness, and the St. Louis Symphony, as well as help with numerous fund raisers. I’m a featured speaker at many industry, women’s, motivational and cancer events. I adore fly-fishing, biking, hiking, skiing, hunting, shooting, meditation, and yoga.
Why Sing for Siteman? Because it is joy incarnate! It’s an action packed hour of world class opera singers singing the best of opera, Broadway, pop and who knows what else! The energy is palpable, everyone there is joined by the common thread of cancer, yet it is not the least bit maudlin or morose! Best of all? It funds research right here at Siteman Cancer center. I’m proud to back it with my own dime, fund raise for it, and help bring in the crowds for it! I will make you a promise... go once, and you’ll never miss it again!