Jen Hoverstad is a cancer survivor, attorney, Tedx speaker, marketer, mom, wife, podcaster, all around amazing person, and now the Director of Community Engagement at the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. On the show, Jen talks about her cancer journey, what it truly means to be an influencer, how she does it all, and her new role with Kay Yow.
Jen’s Tedx Talk, How to Change the World by Being an Influencer
Kay Yow Cancer Fund
Greater Than Podcast
The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.
Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.
Donald Thompson: Welcome to the DT podcast, and we’re very excited today. Our guest is Jen Hoverstad, and we’re super excited to have both a mom, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, a podcaster spending some time with us to really share some wisdoms about how to overcome, how to become, and then really how to live your best life.
So Jen, welcome.
Jen Hoverstad: Thank you. Thank you that I feel like you have set me up for quite the expectation,
Donald Thompson: Which is, which is part of the fun on the DT podcast. One of the things I’m learning about this endeavor is I’m getting a chance to talk to some of the most amazing people, and a lot of times what I like to describe —and you would fit into this mold as well — is that superstar next door, right?
The people in our communities that may not be getting kind of the Entertainment Tonight limelight, but that are doing amazing things in their life and their community. And so with that, why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience and just tell us a little bit about Jen.
Jen Hoverstad: Sure. Well, you did a great job with my background.
I’ve been a licensed attorney here in North Carolina since 2011 and in fact, I’m a sixth generation North Carolinian so I have lived my entire life here, born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ve kind of bubbled up to the surface of most people’s radar because in 2018 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
It was stage three, HER2 positive. Which means that my tumor was large and had spread to one of my lymph nodes and it was multiplying very quickly. So I — within two weeks of my diagnosis, I started chemotherapy. Did six rounds of chemo, 18 rounds of targeted therapy, had a bilateral double mastectomy and 28 rounds of radiation.
So it took a full year for my treatment, but thankfully it all worked, and so I am healthy and doing well today. And as far as my career has gone, it’s really kind of span the gamut of what you can do as an attorney. I started out litigating and family law and then moved in completely by happenstance to be able to advise business owners and what they were doing.
So I typically sat on senior leadership teams, usually overseeing personnel in some regard. My undergrad’s in marketing, so I did quite a bit of marketing, which is how you and I met each other a handful of years ago. And after being diagnosed with cancer, I kind of reflected on everything and I knew inside of me that I needed to be doing more to share my story.
It was very important that I start sharing my story. And so I went back into law. I was working in estate planning, thought like really helping clients was the way to go and I started volunteering in the process with this amazing organization based here in Raleigh called the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Being an NC State grad and having my master’s in sports studies, that there’s no greater honor than to do anything that is associated with the hall of fame coach like Kay Yow.
And just so happened this year as they’re continuing to grow and expand their reach, they asked me to come on and be the first ever director of community engagement. So, I had the absolute pleasure of connecting other women who have gone through cancer journeys and are currently going through cancer with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and support them. Right now, I mean, we just launched a new platform where we’re supporting each other digitally. So it’s a interesting time to try to launch something new, but we’re making it happen and finding ways to do it.
Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s fantastic and what a kind of holistic version of you, and then kind of nailing down on some specifics of what you’re doing now. So obviously you have a phenomenal overcoming story. How do you take and coalesce what you’ve learned, what you’ve experienced, and create that fighter spirit in some of the folks that you’re working with?
Jen Hoverstad: Yeah. You know, you’re right. Getting diagnosed with cancer, especially the diagnosis part, was by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. And while, at the beginning of all this I wasn’t really even sure how to wrap my head around it, just figuring that out.
The one thing I knew is that I didn’t want to go through it by myself. So that’s why I chose to share it publicly. That’s why I went on Instagram and went on Facebook and just shared my story, and so I tell people, I started sharing it selfishly. I had no idea the impact that it would have, as you just said, you know, how how I share that with other people. I didn’t realize what I was actually doing was I was starting an online journal of sorts where other people could go back and see. And here’s the wild thing is, we’re recording this, in the past two weeks I have been connected with five women where in the past two weeks they had been diagnosed with breast cancer. All five under 40, all five located here in North Carolina.
And I can’t help but think about like what if I had just chosen not to share? What if I had chosen not to share my story to keep it all in. One, I know that I would be an absolute emotional wreck because man, trying to hide something like that. It’s – I’d say it’s near impossible. But the facts that all of these women have told me, I went to your blog, I read what you went through, I’ve looked at your Instagram, and what they can see now is that there is a woman who’s on the other side of it. So hey’re at that starting point, that starting point where the questions run through your mind, will I be here next year? Will I be here to watch my kids grow up? What is my life going to look like?” And they can come to my Instagram and they can see, “Oh, that’s what my life can look like two years from now.”
Donald Thompson: That is super powerful. And now let’s now move that into this brighter future that now is your life. Talk to me about how you’ve transitioned that sharing and then into your Ted Talk and how to be an influencer and different things like that.
Jen Hoverstad: Yeah. You know, I think, and you know this, we hear the word influencer thrown around so much and it really was for me — I realized the impact of influence when I had the opportunity, when I transitioned out of litigation, I went in house with a local Chick-fil-A franchisee. And at Chick-fil-a, the very first thing that you do as a new employee is you watch this video called Every Story Matters.
And you learn that whether it’s your coworkers or the customers coming in drive through or coming up to the counter, or simply the person that has to, you know, pop in and ask for directions. Every single person is facing their own individual story. And so therefore we need to treat everyone with kindness because we just – we don’t know what has brought them into the restaurant today, or we don’t know what someone’s carried into work with them today. So the idea of influence really hit me then that not only was it the person who is the representative of Chick-fil-A, but also myself as a customer, that I could have an influence on the person behind the counter as well.
And so fast forward as, you know, I’m choosing to share my own cancer journey, and that’s kind of when it all clicked. It’s like this is not about like business influence, although very, very important, this is about us as individuals. Like if, if we are not aware of the impact that we can have in every single moment and every single day, we are missing significant opportunities.
So you’re right, that’s what I gave my Ted talk about in 2019, it’s called “How to Change the World by Being an Influencer.” And you know, my hope with that title is people are like, “Oh, here we go again. Another influencer talk,” but that’s not what it is at all. It truly is about paying attention to the small moments and how you can make an impact on people simply by sharing your story and by being yourself.
Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s phenomenal. Now there’s one thing as an overcomer, health issues, different things like that. Now there’s also the function of just having the courage that what you’re sharing is important because anytime you put yourself out there, everybody doesn’t always agree with what you’re saying, your perspective, you got a little back and forth with folks. What made it important enough for you, both in business and in life, to kind of put yourself out there?
Jen Hoverstad: That’s right. You know, that’s something I think about constantly from the vantage point of who I choose to follow and be friends with on social media, right?
Because that’s public. People can see who I choose to follow and where I comment. From what I choose to say, how I choose to say it, you know, more often than not, our human instinct is to just say the first thing that comes to mind and get it out there, but what we forget is the impact that may intentionally or unintentionally have.
Prior to my whole cancer journey from 2012 to 2014, Carl and I went through two and a half years of infertility trying to have our first child. And I remember signing onto Facebook every day, seeing every pregnancy announcement and those women were celebrating something so exciting in their lives.
But for me, that was like a shot to the heart every time I saw that. And that made me much more aware of what I was posting and what I was saying, and so I, I promised myself every time I chose to post something about my kids after I had my first baby, when we were able to get pregnant, I was going to remind people how long it took us to get there. Because I knew, on the other side of the screen, there was a woman who was saying, “Oh gosh, here’s another one,” and I didn’t want her to feel alone, but I think it’s even bigger than that – what I’ve realized now, and in the years since then. It’s not only about whether it’s your family, it’s about how we’re choosing to treat each other and talk about each other. It’s the idea of whether or not you choose to talk about politics and how you choose to do that, right? It’s a matter of who we’re standing up for and how we’re standing up for them on social media.
We have such an opportunity to show our support — especially for people whose voice might feel small or is small, if they’re in a minority group — we have a real opportunity to stand up for those people. And, while I wish I had the magic formula to do all those things, it’s, again, it’s just a matter of coming back to not going with your first instinct all the time, right?
Like, dial down the emotion a bit, and then think through what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and what kind of impact it might have on people completely unintentionally.
Donald Thompson: No, that’s a powerful thought process, and one really, that we’d love for other people to kind of adopt. Because unfortunately, social media and communication is a little bit mean-spirited more often than not.
Jen Hoverstad: Yes.
Donald Thompson: And so for those of us that have the opportunity to do it different, and have a strong point of view, but be able to deliver that point of view with empathy for other people that are involved, and so I appreciate that perspective. Let me ask you this, one of the things you mentioned is about underserved folks or people with a smaller voice.
Our team’s doing a lot with diversity and inclusion these days, and you’ve worked on the HR side, the marketing side, the legal side. So I’m very interested on your perspective around diversity and inclusion in the workplace, what businesses should be thinking about and preparing their mind for this multi-generation multicultural future that we’re all a part of.
Jen Hoverstad: Oh my gosh, yes. And I am so glad to see DT that y’all are doing that because not enough businesses are doing it, and I have had some real impactful conversations. The first time that I realized my own personal privilege was early 2015. I was working for the state government and I was running the HR department for Department of Employment Security, and the woman who worked alongside me, her name’s Stephanie, she is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. And she — probably like mid-forties African-American woman — we had some amazing conversations, very open and honest. I mean, me having just turned 30 and really not seeing the world and, her having been in state government for 20-plus years.
And one day we got to talking and she randomly just asked me, she said, “Tell me, what do you wear when you go to the mall?” I was like, well, what kind of question is this? I wear gym shorts and a t-shirt and you know, flip flops or like tennis shoes. Like, why aren’t you asking me this?” She’s like, “Do you want to know what I’m wearing when I go to the mall?”
I was like, “Sure, what do you wear?” She said, “I make sure that I look my best. I have my hair fixed, I have on nice clothes, and I want to make sure that no one thinks I’m stealing from them when I go into their store.” And I was like, “Stephanie, you’re successful. Like here we are with 600 employees, really? That you have to think about just going to the mall?”
She’s like, “I know.’ She’s like, “But I want to open your mind to like, this is my reality and this is what I’m training my daughter to grow up into her reality.” And that moment, gosh – it’s still, it feels like it’s yesterday because that moment had such an impact on the way that I view my interactions with people — how I choose to treat them, how I don’t —who I choose to bring around a table because I think what we see right now in our communities and our societies is that it’s people that have too many friends that look just like them and think just like them where they miss these incredible stories like I had with Stephanie. And the way that we need to go about-
I think businesses have such an incredible platform and opportunity to bring their workforces together. One, to make sure those workforces are diverse across the board, right? In all different kinds of ways. But then to help to facilitate some of those conversations in a safe place where people know that they can speak from their own personal experience and not be judged for that experience and not be told that their experiences is wrong or incorrect, but rather that it’s valued and that’s why they are part of that team.
I recently, within the past couple of years, I have, a great friend named Dexter Hubert, who recently opened the Southeast Raleigh YMCA. He sat on the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Coard with me. And my husband and I are in the process of looking for schools for our oldest, and so we were telling him about this and he said, “Oh,” he’s like, “I just talked to the county school system about the issue of inequity in our schools,” and I said, “Yeah, like I recognize it’s a problem. We’re seeing that as we’re touring these schools.” He’s like, “I need you to help me.” He’s like, “They expect me as an African-American male to come in and tell them about the inequity and tell them about the issues. They don’t expect you to do it.”
And Carl and I were like, “Oh, they don’t. Oh, OK. All right. Here we go.” We got to use our voice. And, again, I think coming, back to both of those conversations happening with people one, that I already had really great friendships with and they felt comfortable that they could trust me with those conversations, and trust me to, challenge me to grow me as a person.
But it was organizations that brought me together with them. It wasn’t just like- they’re not just family friends. It was through a business platform that I got to meet those people and I was able to, to earn a reciprocal trust with them. So that is really, I think, where the businesses have an opportunity to build trust within their teams, so more conversations like that happen and we can be challenging each other across the board. I mean, those were just race examples where I was personally challenged, but in the LGBTQ community, making sure that we have those safe spaces for conversations as well.
Donald Thompson: And I think, you know, one, that was a phenomenal story, and it’s really a testament to — a friend of mine, John Samuels, always says it — is that proximity creates empathy. And so when you spend time with people, right, and you remove some of those walls of communication, right? We create different points of allyship also, right?
Where we can really advocate for one another because we want to truly understand, because that’s our friend. And so, it’s- a lot of times when you just have those small circles of people that look alike, talk alike educated alike, and nobody in an underserved community is your friend. Then it doesn’t- when you see it on TV, “Oh, that’s not me.
It’s okay. We’re, we’re good,” because it’s not affecting anybody that’s touching you. And it’s one of the things I think that we’re experiencing as a society and everything that we’re going through with COVID-19 is that it is bringing us together because it’s not racial. It’s not economic. It is a global pandemic, and so it’s touching every part of our society, and then we’ve got to figure out collectively how to win together.
And I think that’s something that we’ve got to remember once we’re past this crisis to attack other problems with that same kind of unity and vigor, if you will. Let me ask this. You’ve got a, let’s see, Greater Than podcast, right?
Jen Hoverstad: I do!
Donald Thompson: This is what you’re doing today, what you’re moving forward with.
Tell me a little bit about both the genesis and what you’re looking to accomplish, right, with using your voice in this new way.
Jen Hoverstad: Yeah. So you know, when the idea of influence came to me years and years and years ago, I told my dad, who’s a retired broadcaster, I said, “Dad, I had this idea for a podcast. Let’s do it together!” He’s like, “Great just tell me what to do.” You know, of course as great ideas, tend to kind of like lose a flame when you hit an obstacle. I kept hitting a few obstacles and I just was like, I don’t know when this is gonna happen. But, last year as I was coming out of everything and as I was collecting these stories of inspiring people and people telling me that my own story was giving them encouragement,
I was like, “Ah, I just really need to do that podcast.” And so, I saw my dad had this fancy piece of equipment, which was not unusual for him, he loves gadgets being a retired broadcaster, I was like, “Dad, why did you buy that?” And he’s like, “Oh, you know, get some volunteer work coming up, but if you want to use it for your podcast, you can.”
And I was like, “OK. I see what’s going on here. Zero excuses now, let’s let’s dive in.” And so I started the podcast. We launched it at the end of 2019. It’s called Greater Than, as you mentioned, and the greater than symbol was kinda my personal logo while I was going through cancer. The idea was that we told all of her friends and family “Jen is greater than cancer.”
That is our mentality. That’s how we’re going into it. Jen is greater than cancer. And then I realized, you know, while it’s cancer for me, it might be something like addiction for someone else. Or it might be a bad relationship, right? Like, I am greater than this bad situation that I am in and I can get through it with the tools and the right people.
It’s where that phrase comes from. So, the podcast features some incredible people. Stories from- I have one woman that I interview on the podcast, Leah Wong Ashburn out of Asheville, who took over her family brewing business that so many of us know well, Highland Brewing, and what it’s like to go to work with your dad and your husband.
To stories of people who have faced just some absolutely excruciating life circumstances that most of us will not have to go through. But my hope is that people see themselves in the stories that we share and that when something happens, they can go to Greater Than and they can say, “OK, I’ve lost my spouse. Oh, here’s a couple of interviews of people who have lost their spouse. Let me hear how they got through this.” And recently, over the past couple of months, I’ve also started adding what I call Monday motivation. Every Monday I do a a short 10 minute or so podcast. Honestly, it’s just a collection of my own ideas where I’ve challenged myself, but I hope to motivate people to try something new to think outside the box and give them a new idea that ideally it’s not me telling you what to do, it’s me trying to spark something else that maybe you’ve been thinking about or you didn’t know how to think about so I’m giving you a few outlets of how to consider that.
Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s pretty- that’s awesome. What would you say are some of the biggest things? So, I’ll use this. I get to interview and talk to some of the most amazing people as I’m doing podcasting, and I’m probably on that episode maybe 40 with all the different types of- whether I’ve been on as a guest or I’ve done on myself for different things.
What are some of the key things you’ve learned through this journey of podcasting and different things? What are some of the nuggets that really have stuck with you?
Jen Hoverstad: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned from Greater Than is when I reach out to people- we live in a world where there are so many humble people. And so more often than not, we are jaded by our own experiences. Now there, there are some outliers. You know, people whose stories have been on the news and they recognize that it’s a big story. But there are people that I approach and I say, “Hey, like, here’s where you are in life. Here’s what I’ve seen you go through from the outside, like, will you come on the podcast and talk about how you got to where you are?”
And they’re like, “Me? Like you want me to talk about this? This is just my life.” But all of us have that story whether we realize it or not, whether we want to talk about it or not, we all have something to bring to the table that is unique and is a challenge that we have overcome. Whether or not we see it as a challenge, there are other people in the world who are facing that, that see it as a really big challenge. So it’s important to value that. I’m very inquisitive, generally speaking. I would much rather be in your seat right now DT than, than in my seat answering the questions.
But I think that we do not ask each other enough questions, and so for me, the podcast is just a great way, an excuse, to ask people questions and to pull out their answers. Because we do, as we’ve discussed today, we have so much to learn from each other.
Donald Thompson: Oh, I think it’s powerful, and I think one of the things for me is that, you know, as I move into this diversity inclusion work, it has changed me and created an empathy that was there, but needed to be more thoughtful in the everyday aspect of my life.
And I was talking to my mentor at Grant Willard, and he was saying, you know, I think the DNI experience happened when you had daughters. And I thought about it for a minute, and Grant’s known me since I was a young buck growing up in the technology space. And so he’s seen my kids grow up. And I remember at the dinner table or at a restaurant, and I would say something that might not be gender correct, and my oldest daughter, Mariah, would be like, “You wouldn’t say that if that was a man.” Right? Like, and she was- because we had raised our kids to speak their mind and to have an opinion and to do those different things, and then this opinion was challenging the way that I behaved. And what I thought about even in those early years is what kind of example do I want to be for my daughters?
And so for me, as I went into the workplace, one of the reasons that Walk West has so many women in leadership is I always think about promoting people from a gender standpoint like what kind of workplace do I want my daughters to be able to go into?
What kind of advocate do I want managers to be if they were the manager of my daughter, Mariah or Sierra or Diana?
And so it created a different level of empathy because that proximity was right there, and now obviously it’s expanded to some of the things we’re doing in race and different things, but Grant was pretty astute in terms of that genesis because succeeding in the world, you see things that happen to you and you feel like, “Alright, I can overcome it,” right? But you want to make sure that the pavement is a little smoother for those that you love and care for, so you got to get involved.
I mean, the thing that’s needed is nobody wants a handout necessarily, right? Just don’t put a 40 pound weight vest on my back, right? You know what I mean? Like just don’t make it harder than it needs to be, right? I’ll compete, right, for the job or for the opportunity or different things, right? But don’t create additional barriers that are holding folks back.
Jen Hoverstad: Exactly.
Donald Thompson: You- from knowing you and your journey and the different career transitions that you’ve succeeded in so many different things. You’re an avid learner. Tell me something you read. Tell me something you listen to. What inspires you to continue to learn and grow?
Jen Hoverstad: So right now, I read Gary Keller’s “The One Thing,” and- I’m glad, I’m glad we’re on the same page there. That makes me feel good. And so, I’ve read that ending the year, and I mean. Goodness gracious like, who would have expected the year to go the way that it did? But what’s fascinating is how simple that concept is, right? Cause I- just like you, I have read all the books about all the ways to do all the things. And he in this book, it’s just like, “All right, imagine you have set a Dominoes. What are you trying to get to? How are you knocking it down? And you can’t come at it from the side, you got to go at it straight ahead.” And I’m like, “Huh. Well that makes so much sense!” So, that is the thing that right now I am- On the Enneagram typing, I’m an Enneagram seven, which means, and you have seen this before in the boardroom, DT but like, I can give you all the ideas, all the brainstorming, and I get super pumped about all the things, but this year I’m really challenging myself is what is my one thing? What am I going after and how am I getting there? So what I realized is, based on my cancer diagnosis, my one thing is truly to fund a cure for all cancers affecting women. Because back to our conversation, that affects my daughters.
And while I have no genetic test that has confirmed my daughters are more or less likely to get cancer as they get older, which is great, I want to make sure that they don’t have to go through cancer. I want to make sure that, you know, my niece and that my sister and my mom are also in a good space where if they were to be diagnosed, we are at a point where it’s easily treatable and they can move forward in their life without having the scare that we did.
So, this year, my-well, this year I realized my one thing is to fund that cure for all cancers affecting women, and that’s why I was easily able to say yes to joining the Kay Yow Cancer Fund because that’s their mission and it’s incredible- when you have that mindset of knocking down the dominoes and how you’re getting there- it makes the yeses very easy and it also makes the nos easier, which in the past has been very hard for me because I truly have wanted to be a part of everything, but this year I do feel very focused. Right now, I’m reading an oldie but goodie of Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human” because just, you know, trying to ramp up that communication and continue to sharpen my communication skills.
But I do, I love a good book, and you certainly, DT, have influenced my reading over the years with your recommendations as well.
Donald Thompson: No, I appreciate it. I’m an avid reader. I think it’s such a great way to get world-class mentorship at a price that everybody can afford. And that’s just one of the things I’ve always thought about with my reading habit, because I can control my learning capability, right, is one of the big things. So let’s transition and talk a little bit about your new role with the Kay Yow foundation. And I want to give you some time to talk about your role, but also how people can get involved, right? What’s a call to action, right? We’re going to- as we promote our show and different things, why the Kay Yow foundation is a good place for people to put their seed, their extra money and help grow a cause.
Jen Hoverstad: Well, the first thing, what makes the Kay Yow fund unique, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund unique, is that we are the only organization, at least that I’m aware of, only national organization that is focused on all cancers affecting women. So you know, that really only nixes a few cancers that only affect men, but we’re bringing people together.
It’s a three prong mission, one, to fund that cure for all cancers, affecting women; two, to serve underserved populations, so whether it’s helping women get mammograms who are underinsured or who are not insured, helping them find ways to get treatment if that’s the case, if they do find that they have a positive cancer diagnosis; and then the third is just bringing women together and bringing those survivors together. The cool thing about my job- so director of community engagement, people are like, “What does that even mean?” I get to do that third prong of the mission. I get to bring people together and find ways to connect women who maybe have gone through similar circumstances, who are just champions of our cause, but recently- so you know, with COVID-19 we did have some in person events planned for the spring. Everything had to be canceled, but what I was seeing in my own personal circles were these women who were going through active treatment that can no longer take people into the infusion room with them.
They’re very alone and isolated, just in active treatment. And then you have women who have had treatment, they’re out of it for maybe even a number of years, they remember what it was like to go through cancer and cancer alone in itself is so isolating.
Often when you’re going through chemo, you do have to self isolate. So they’re having these feelings of PTSD. And I’ve- I think one of the things that initially for me, when I started this role and as I was seeing these groups of people where they were saying like, OK yeah, COVID-19, but I still have cancer.
I was like, wait, why aren’t we all coming together? Like there was nothing that was bringing everything together. So I pitched this idea to our CEO Stephanie Glance, and I said, “Is it okay if I just create a Facebook group for the women who are going through cancer right now and who have been through cancer and are sharing and all of these feelings?”
She’s like, “Well wait a minute, let’s like that’s the third prong of our mission, let’s explore that some more. And so from that exploration, the cancer warrior network came about. And so for women who are listening, who find themselves, either in active treatment for any cancer or they have been diagnosed with any cancer in the past, they can join our cancer warrior network at kayyow.com/cancerwarriornetwork. So short form, we just collect your mailing address because we have a little welcome gift to join you and we collect your email address to make sure that you’re on our email list, and then we pop you into our private Facebook group and in this private Facebook group, I’ve literally- I’ve been a part of a lot of Facebook groups for kids or women in treatment as well as survivors, but in this Facebook group, women are popping in their own videos and photos and telling us their stories. They are saying like, thank you, I needed this community. We have all kinds of cancers represented. I think a lot of people, when they think of a women’s cancer, they only think of breast cancer, and that’s just so far removed from the truth of what we’re seeing in our cancer warrior network. I would say almost every kind of women’s cancer is represented, or cancer affecting women is represented. The thing I love most about it is that this community is going to continue to evolve. We are using the tools that we have and that we can use right now while most of us are in quarantine, but when we come out of it, we are going to have these incredible in person events.
February every year is our Play for K, which Kay Yow started herself when she was alive before she passed away from stage four breast cancer. But, the month of February is our month to shine a light on all cancers affecting women. And there is a game, and I would say multiple games, in every state in the United States. We have this at the middle school, high school and college level. So it’s this crazy environment of supporting women who have gone through just these unfathomable journeys and raising money to fund a cure for those cancers affecting women. And it’s incredible, and it truly is unlike anything I personally have ever seen or been involved with and that’s why I was bought in from the moment I became a volunteer almost 18 months ago because I recognized how unique this group is. And I mean, you know DT having been the son of a coach and played sports yourself, sport is this incredible tool that brings us together, right? We’re missing it right now.
The fact that the Kay Yow Cancer Fund uses sport to bring people together over a cause that so many of us find near and dear and have affected us personally is- it’s just phenomenal and incredible. And to give women an example, if they’re on the fence of whether or not they might want to join the cancer warrior network, this past Tuesday we had Shannon Miller — Olympic gymnast, Shannon Miller — come and talk to our women. We had about 50 of our cancer warriors join us live. They got to do a live Q&A with Shannon via Zoom. She answered questions, and she was just real and honest about what her experience was like as an ovarian cancer survivor.
And even now nine years later, even some of the thoughts that crossed her mind and the concerns she has about what could be a potential reoccurance that is again that PTSD for women who have gone through cancer, and they’re able to hear that. But even more exciting, I would say we had just announced today, and we didn’t even plan this with the podcast next week we are launching our digital arm called Hope for All. And so it’s again, a play on Play for Kay but this is where we are coming to people via the computer, via their phones, and we will be doing live interviews next week, specifically the first week of May, every night to launch this at 7 p.m. Eastern time. But longterm, we will be doing this on a monthly cadence and we will be bringing champions and coaches.
The coaches affiliated with the Kay Yow cancer fund want to connect with cancer warriors and their supporters and their families and their friends and offer them hope and encouragement, so that’s where hope for all came from and we’re excited to do that for the greater public. So, that can be found on our Facebook page.
Donald Thompson: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that so that our audience can participate in be a fellow warrior with you. Last question as we wrap up our time, cause it’s just flown by, like I enjoyed just catching up and just seeing the vibrancy in your voice and as you’re chasing these new dreams.
And I’m just super excited about that. How do you keep it all together, mom, professional, author, wife, all of this, and you’re moving forward. Like what’s a pro tip that you can share with people that have a lot going on but need to keep focused on that one thing when there’s still many things that have to be done?
Jen Hoverstad: I take a page from one of my friends and North Carolina icons, Vivian Howard. Vivian Howard has asked this question almost all the time. And, you know, she says like, “I don’t. I just don’t juggle it all either. Like something is getting my time and something else is not. And I just have to figure out where to spend my time.”
So I have really, kind of, heated her advice on that as well, where you know, I am so fortunate. Like I said, I am born and raised in Raleigh. I still have family here. I have a lot of support. Going through my cancer journey, I had a lot of support. There was nothing that I did to make that situation better. It was a community that came around me and made me feel fully supported. My sister, my husband, my parents, and my inlaws being the primary group that really supports us on a regular basis. I do think, like I mentioned, as far as how things, I guess how I juggle it all or where I find the inspiration — I love listening to podcasts. I do love reading to find that encouragement and support. I love calling a friend and being like, “Hey, I’m, I’m drowning right now. Like, just talk me through this.” And I have a small group of friends where I can call them and say that, and they know not to be like, “Oh, everything’s going to be OK.”
They just asked me questions, right? Like we have that relationship where they can do the same with me and I can do the same with them. So, having that close knit group of friends, but I think more than anything, learning to say no, and as parents, as a mom, maybe as women — we so often want to do all the things.
My husband and I have divided up the household chores where he takes on a lot of the things that women think they need to do, but both he and I recognized he’s the better cook, he is much better at being efficient when it comes to like, cleaning up things and saying like what goes where and just making like a decisive decision.
Now, if we’re going to do like a deep clean, that’s where I come in because I’m great at like, sitting in a space for five hours and being like, every nook and cranny, but that’s not realistic on a regular basis. So, he and I having that open conversation about where my strengths lie. I do the laundry cause I’m a nitpicker about laundry, but where each of our strengths lie and where we can best utilize that so we were kind of running it the most efficient household as possible, those are the things that we kind of live by, but I’m always looking for the next, you know, efficiency, trick and tip, but for now it works, and so we stick with what works.
Donald Thompson: That is awesome. Well, listen, Jen, thank you so much for having us, and we’ve enjoyed it and that’s all for now, so we’ll wrap it up. Thanks for having us, and thanks for joining the DT podcast and we wish you continued success in everything you’re doing.
Jen Hoverstad: Thank you DT. Appreciate it.
The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit Earfluence.com.