October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for our Smart City Spotlight, we wanted to highlight a few incredible women within our organization who are cancer survivors. We thank them immensely for their decision to be interviewed and for sharing their incredible stories of hope and encouragement.
Today’s interview is with Christy Hogan, our Customer Sales & Service Manager. Read on to hear about Christy’s journey with Breast Cancer and how the strength of her faith, her family and her team helped her during the impossibly difficult times. It’s an illuminating conversation and we hope everyone takes the chance to read it!
Just to begin, could you tell us a bit about your background and your current role with Smart City Networks?
C: I have over 24 years Customer Service experience. I am a mother of (2). I have a degree in Criminal Justice. I am obsessed with organizing, crafting, and an avid reader.
I currently oversee the Corporate Customer Service / AES Department, and the day-to-day operations. A lot of my day consists of focusing on my team’s growth collectively and individually. Working with the field and my team to find new ways to improve our work flow and overall communication with one another. I take pride in being able to assist the field and our external customers and provide them with exceptional customer service.
When you were first diagnosed with Breast Cancer, what was that experience like for you?
C: To be honest, my first thought was I am going to lose my hair, everyone will know I am sick, this was not a vanity thing, for me being sick makes you vulnerable, and there are a lot of uncertainties and fears. After the initial shock, I immediately investigated what was the best course of action for me. What I was going to need while I went through the process. What my family needed. What my job and team needed and what I needed from them. Who were the key players that would go along with me on the journey.
How did your diagnosis impact your life and work?
C: Being diagnosed with Cancer a 2nd time was a blow in itself but being diagnosed with a totally different cancer that did not originate from the first one, took a moment to grasp. Think about it they say after 5 years of no reoccurrence your chances go down. So, I had been NED (No Evidence of Disease) free for almost 7 years. My original oncologist apologized and said I should have sent you for “gene” testing BRACA1 back in 2013. My reply was simple, how could you have known? For me this new diagnosis meant I had to slow down and could not go a thousand miles a minute. I would have to rely on others to take me to chemo, or appointments, I was no longer in control, and for those who know me, well not having control is a real struggle for me. The cancer was in control, and I was along for the ride, no question about it and I had to accept it.
How did work change? Honestly it really did not change, it was a welcome distraction. What did change is I had to be vulnerable and take breaks the further along I got in my treatment, and my team really helped me and let me know it was ok, they had my back.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your cancer journey, and how did you overcome them?
C: One of the biggest challenges I faced was, coming to terms with the fact, I did not have a choice “Double Mastectomy” was going to happen & I was adamant no reconstruction. If I am being honest, I struggled all the way up to the day of surgery. In my mind I downplayed it, and said I have done a lot of research, I am making an informed decision to not do reconstruction. But after it was done and seeing it for the first time, I dang near passed out. I had no idea how much of a loss I would feel. But after the initial shock wore off, and I had my moment to cry, I told myself every day, you made the right choice, you are not defined by your breast. And there are others in this world who are struggling with harder things in life than this small blip on the screen.
Who or what provided you with the most significant support and encouragement during your treatment and recovery?
C: To be honest, My Corp Customer Support team, gave me so much support. They let me know we got this, and it is ok to take care of you. Team members in the field and in the office, calling me to check on me and giving me tips on how not to get a sun burn on my bald head 😊 My mother who came to live with me for a year, to ensure I got to every appointment/treatment. My Daughter who moved back home, to ensure that my son got to and from school every day and made sure everything for him remained as normal as possible. My other half, who made sure as a family we were good, and that I only needed to focus on me, that everything was handled. And most definitely not last, but my faith and the outpouring of encouragement, I received from strangers. Every day I had a card in the mail. I can’t tell you how many times those small gestures helped me through a treatment or test.
Could you share some advice for anyone who may be going through a similar situation?
C: Remember it is ok to allow yourself to feel in the moment, but that is all it is, is a moment. Look in the mirror you got this. And remain positive, even when the news at times is not. Your mind is powerful, and if you dwell too much in what is going to happen, you will miss the right now.
In what ways have your experience with breast cancer changed your perspective on life and work?
C: Going through this experience has taught me, that you will lose some friends/family along the journey. It does not make them bad; they just don’t know what to do or say, and that is ok. Continue to love them anyway. Work will always be just that work, but when it is time for me to be off, I need to disconnect and unwind, and enjoy the moments with family and friends.
Are there any lessons or insights you gained from your journey that you’d like to share with your colleagues at Smart City?
C: We never know what anyone is going through, remember to have grace. Sometimes that kind word, or smile can make all the difference. Many of you have no idea that you helped me get through some of the toughest treatments. For that I say Thank You.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, is there any specific message or cause related to breast cancer that you’d like to emphasize or promote to our team and the broader community?
C: Get to know your family history, get Gene tested- Know your options regarding treatment, play an active role in your healthcare/plan- course of treatment.
As someone who faced an incredibly challenging health issue, what words of inspiration or motivation would you offer to your fellow employees?
C: Some quotes I have on my mirror:
You must be willing to give up the life you planned and instead, welcome the life that is waiting for you.
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. E have only today, let us begin.
Faith is the bird that sings when dawn is still dark.
Thank you again Christy for sharing your powerful story! For more Smart City Spotlights, click the link!