Breast Cancer: It affects us all in some way or another – threatening to take away friends. Sisters. Mothers.
For those living with cancer, grocery shopping is often a challenge; some cancer patients use Shipt as a way to get fresh foods, to feel normal, without burdening friends and family. Others send groceries to sick family members they love and support, even when their physical presence isn’t possible.
We hear their stories everyday. We feel it, and we’re asking our communities to get involved.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. At Shipt, we’re not only focused on remembering those we’ve lost – but also the family we’ve gained because of advancements made in the fight against cancer.
During the month of October, your Shipt shopper might deliver your groceries in a pink shirt instead of the traditional green shirt. These pink shirts are not just a symbol of support; our shoppers are raising money to fight breast cancer. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer education and research efforts.
For many of us, breast cancer has a face. October reminds us of someone who has fought or is fighting. One of these faces for us is our amazing shopper, Linda Nelson, in Tampa, FL. It’s our hope that her inspiring story will impact you and remind you to love those around you today!
Without further ado…..Linda!
First, tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I am a wife, mother, friend and Shipt Shopper. Our home is in St. Petersburg, FL but up until 2008 our son was the only American in our family. My husband and I proudly became American Citizens on December 12th, 2008. I’m originally from Toronto, Ontario and my husband is from Leicester, England. We are a family of five. My husband, Nick, our beautiful son, Brock and our two Australian Shepherds, Cooper and Ellee. We enjoy roaming around our incredible and ever-evolving city. We can bike together down big fatty sidewalks from our front door for four miles right into the city! When I’m not Shipt Shopping or hanging with family and friends, I volunteer as a mentor and support a variety of charities.
Tell us a bit about your life as a Shipt Shopper – when did you start, why, what’s your favorite part, etc.
I started as a shopper for Shipt in September of 2015. I saw an ad on FB about Shipt and was instantly excited. I had been a stay-at-home-mom for over a decade. Everyone told me it would be different as soon as our only child went to middle school. Previously I had been heavily immersed in his elementary school, (GO EAGLES!) as their PTA President. My volunteering took up more hours than a full-time job. I sort of went from 60 to 0 in a few short months.
I’ve always enjoyed grocery shopping! I know…weird, right? I had been self-employed in my BC (before child) life. I remembered how I enjoyed getting out of it what I put into it. Being my own boss in a way. As an independent contractor for Shipt, it would afford me the ability to volunteer and make my own schedule. I remember telling my husband years ago that I never wanted to work for the man again!
This job satisfies my altruistic side. When a member gives off a vibe of needing a human connection I’m more than happy to oblige and will often structure my schedule to allow for extra time with them. I am fascinated by the life stories that have been shared with me! People, all people, have a story! I’ve met a former judge, broadway dancer, psychologist, and General in rehabilitation homes. I have watched families grow in beautiful bellies and now see them sitting in high chairs eating food by themselves. I’ve been to a funeral too. Sadly I will go to a few more. For some reason, I’ve become like an extended family member to a lot of these members. Personally, I’ve grown very fond of them too!
Your personal journey wasn’t your first exposure to breast cancer – tell us a little bit about breast cancer’s effect on your family.
Cancer. I hate cancer! In my immediate family, my mother was the first to be touched by cancer. At age 23 it started with kidney cancer. I would be the next one. I had a lumpectomy and chemotherapy as a young woman. I’m 53 now and it seems like a lifetime ago but I have the reminder each day from the scar and the yearly check-ups I do that have involved more than a few biopsy scares! I’m a survivor! My mother was not. I believe her breast cancer led to her lung cancer which then led to her brain cancer. Have I mentioned, I HATE CANCER?! My father died from lymphatic/pancreatic cancer at 54 and my mother died at the age of 52. I would say their passing so young taught me to live life more fully in pumped up technicolor! I have lived longer than my mother. I will not lie, with each and every mammogram my husband and I wait with bated breath for results and go out to dinner to celebrate when I get the all clear. It’s not unusual for oncology to visit me right after a mammogram. I’ve had three biopsies in the in past two decades. All clear. Heavy sigh. It sucks to have this over my shoulder but it’s my story.
What was it like to watch someone close to you battling such a terrible disease?
I know what’s in store for them. One of the first questions I ask is “what stage?” Sadly I’ve heard the answer “Stage 4” too often. Happily, I’ve known more survivors in my lifetime! It opens a wound to look into the face of someone going through breast cancer. There’s a fear in their eyes even though the words out of their mouth is “I’m going to beat this!” My mother coped much like myself, handling the life-changing event with levity. She joked that she would finally get the boobs she always wanted!
Describe your reaction and your feelings when you first heard the words, “you have cancer.”
As in most cases, I inappropriately insert humor where it really doesn’t belong. I recall looking over each shoulder and saying, “you talking to me?” All the while, my mother had a vice grip on my thigh that was tightening by the second. I honestly think she was handling it worse. I was too young and stupid to really wrap my brain around the magnitude of what was being told to me. I recall how my hearing changed. I could hear an IBM Selectric in another room and a sound coming from fluorescent lighting but I wasn’t hearing the doctor anymore. My mother scolded me saying, “Linda! You need to listen to him! Pay attention!” Another moment of levity, “that’s why you’re here Mom.” I wanted to unplug and float away from all of it like a happy little balloon.
How did your life change with that diagnosis?
The threat of death changes everything! I’m not afraid to experience and taste life to the fullest! Yet, I’m still afraid of spiders. Go figure! There was a time in my life when I sat in judgment of those around me complaining about the dumbest things. I was screaming in my head, “shut up, shut up! You don’t have cancer! You’re not going to die!” As I matured I discovered everything is relative. As I’ve grown older I’ve watched breast cancer touch everyone eventually.
Many cancer survivors say they have someone or something that helps motivate them to fight. Who/what is that for you?
I knew I wanted to live. I wanted to meet a wonderful man and have a family of my own someday. I was too young to die!
What advice would you give a friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer? What about someone supporting a friend or family member who has been diagnosed?
Go to your appointments with someone. There is a lot of information being shared and you need to be able to review and understand what is going on and the choices you have. Get selfish. Make your health the priority and let others take care of you for a change. Bring a comfy sweater or blanket with your for chemo treatments. If your chemo makes you lose your hair don’t wait until you look like a frightening Gremlin that was fed after midnight! Just let it go, shave the hair off. I feel like being bald was a sign of courage and a statement to all that are fighting cancer!
How do you empower women now that you are cancer free? Do you have any advice for those raising kids/families?
Breast cancer is survivable with early detection! I regularly make posts on FB with instructions and reminders to visit your doctor. Know your body and listen to it!
What positives have you found during this experience?
I’ve learned I’m a strong woman! I’ve done a lot of volunteering and participated in fundraising for breast cancer research, detection and helping those actively fighting the disease.
Again…I HATE CANCER! All cancer. My volunteering and fundraising efforts have shifted since my son arrived in this world and my passion charity has become St. Baldrick’s, a foundation for children’s cancer research. Our whole family has participated in St. Baldrick’s for 7 years. Our team has raised over $150,000! I’ve actually chosen to be bald a few times. Most people and maybe those who are in the throes of chemo and it’s side effects might think I’m crazy, but what I personally have discovered is that my hair does not define me. Cancer does not define me.