6 Life Lessons That Helped Me Survive Breast Cancer

Anyone who meets Janet Pardo knows—within about 2 minutes—that she is perceptive, bold. And quite possibly fearless.

Senior Vice President Global Product Development here at Clinique, she’s also a wife and a mother of two. And since 2013, Janet has been a cancer survivor. Diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, she—in addition to other courses of treatment—opted to have a double mastectomy.

Every day, Janet’s energy goes into creating products that make women feel better about themselves. When we asked her to do this story, we knew it was deeply personal. But she said Yes. It’s in the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a cause that Clinique supports by funding critical research. It’s also another extension of her generous nature.

Here are her observations on how to get through the unthinkable and live life to the fullest.

1. Say “Why not me?” Don’t wait until it’s too late, and then say “Why me?” Be diligent about your health starting right now. Do regular self breast exams, and keep an open dialogue about them with your doctor.

2. Listen to your inner voice, your gut. Have a nagging feeling that you want to get a mammogram? Nothing says you have to wait until you’re 40. Go get your mammogram.

3. Cultivate a support system. Give your life all you’ve got, and when the tough times come, you’ll realize that you have people. Whether they’re at home, at work or both, it matters. Individuals who will be there for you and help steer you through can, in a way, save you.

4. Buckle up! When something unthinkable and unexpected happens to your health, or to someone you love, there’s always an emotional roller coaster that comes along with it. Everyone talks about prognosis and treatment. Not enough people talk about the emotional element, which is profound. So go into it knowing there’s an emotional ride, which often lasts longer than any course of treatment.

5. Take control of your life. That is courage. Bad stuff happens. But who you are going into it—that’s how you get through it. Be strong, be brave, have focus.

6. “No mud, no lotus.” This saying is on the wall of my office, and I think about it every day. Out of the darkness comes beauty. And without darkness, we wouldn’t know light when we see it. I appreciate my life so much! And all the little things in it that are wonderful! If there was no darkness in the world, how could I understand their beauty?

Photography: Ondrea Barbe | Words: Alix Light Perez