Cindy Papale is a breast cancer survivor, board member of the Kristy Lasch Miracle Foundation and author of the bestselling book, “The Empty Cup Runneth Over.” She has the kind of energy that is intoxicating, which is probably how she has inspired countless women to educate themselves on breast cancer and breast health. Her website is chalk-full of information and inspiration from every angle, and she is just getting started. She has a second book and a movie in the works, all in the name of sharing her own story with others in order to educate and empower everyone about how to overcome breast cancer.
Love and Water- Can you talk about how you decided to write “The Empty Cup Runneth Over?”
Cindy Papale- The Empty Cup Runneth Over was actually written from my heart after I finished lecturing at high schools and colleges. The second year into lecturing one young girl came up to me after a talk and said she loved my talk and that she had taped it for her mother, and she suggested I write a book. It had crossed my mind, but I wasn’t sure how to put it together. After thinking about it I decided a book was necessary for the students I was speaking to in order to further educate them. The books I found on the market were, I felt, either too clinical or didn’t provide enough information, and I was moved by how passionate that young girl was to learn more. So I started to collaborate with physicians I knew almost immediately at the University of Miami Mount Sinai Hospital. I asked them to help me write informative but easy to read chapters for high school and college students. Almost all of them said yes. I wanted to break it down into categories, because there are many different stages of breast cancer, starting with stage 0 and moving into stages 1 through 4. There is also a type that is not staged, called IBC, or Inflammatory Breast Cancer, which is very aggressive. Chemo therapy is the first form of treatment for it, and not many people know about it. So I wanted to cover that as well. In fact, on my website there is a link to a woman’s story of Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
L&W- How did you feel after writing the book? What kind of response have you had?
CP- I’m very pleased with the book, and it actually made the top-ten bestseller list with the publishing company. It was a real accomplishment for me. Many people purchased it over the holidays, which is such a wonderful feeling, because it’s a wonderful gift to give to someone. My website gets around 85,000 hits a month, which is a tribute to the message I worked to get across in the book. I’m so moved by the people who contact me and tell me how much they learned by reading it. One woman sent me a picture of herself on the beach reading it, and I posted that on my website. I’m very moved by the connections I’ve made with people.
L&W- What is the most moving experience you’ve had so far with writing the book?
CP- The most moving experience overall has been knowing that I’ve touched people’s lives. People reaching out to me, telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my book and how it has helped them. One woman told me that she got a mammogram after reading the book and was diagnosed with cancer, so she felt the book actually saved her life. That touched me deeply. I sat back and I thought that if I could touch one life, I would have felt accomplished, but now I’ve touched so many.
L&W- How has surviving breast cancer impacted your life today?
CP- I believe everything in life happens for a reason, and we can choose to look at the positive lesson at hand or choose to see the negative. Surviving breast cancer has changed my whole way of life. My twenty year marriage ended, which was extremely devastating to me. I was faced being single again, with breast cancer, wondering if a man would love me again. In fact my last chapter in the book is titled, “Will Someone Still Love Me After Breast Cancer?” I was just finishing my book when my divorce took place. But I’m happy to say that my life has been consumed with so many blessings as a result. My time is filled with writing my books and helping to educate people, and they in turn have helped me get back on my feet and feel like myself again. Having had breast cancer is a gift without the bow- what I mean by that is the not-so-good part of the gift is that I lost my breasts, but the good part is being able to give back to others as an advocate. And getting brand new breasts in whatever size I wanted! But giving back is what is so wonderful for me. It’s still scary, but I’m taking each challenge as it comes.
L&W- What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
CP- The advice I’d like to give to diagnosed breast cancer survivors is to be up front and let people know. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence. Losing a breast can be devastating, but one must always move forward and surround yourself with positive, loving people. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, and there are always certain family members who can put a damper on things, but I disregard what they say, and my family of friends makes that extremely easy for me to do. My biggest support system was my friends and my co-workers. They were amazing, and made me feel everyday like I was going to make it. That was invaluable to me.
L&W- How did you feel when you found out you had breast cancer?
CP- Well, I worked for a breast surgeon for 11 years, and both of my aunts had breast cancer, so I was already well educated on the topic. 90% of women do not have a history of it in their families, so that’s important to know and why women should be getting mammograms on a regular basis. When I heard for the first time that I was positive for breast cancer, my first thought was not whether I was going to die, but how bad do I have it. I had no complications with my surgeries, other than the emotional aspects involved, and I just took it all one day at a time. It’s so important to find a support system that helps you stay grounded, and that’s exactly what I had.
L&W- What kind of breast reconstruction did you choose? Can you talk about the options available?
CP- Sure- I waited five years before having breast reconstruction. I was afraid to go back under anesthesia, and of my body rejecting the implant. I chose saline implants, but you can also get silicone, and they have a new silicone implant that is supposed to be really amazing. I want to clarify that there is a difference between breast reconstruction and implants. Reconstruction involves reconstituting the breast, including the nipple. Implants are inserts that fit under the muscle and give you your shape back. The day I got my mojo back was the day they took the bandages off and I saw the curves back on my body! I started to cry and couldn’t wait to go shopping. My outlook on life changed, and I didn’t look at things the same way. I think it’s important to take your time and really decide what is best for you and your body. And trust yourself and your instincts on the matter.
L&W- Can you talk about the non-profit organization that you are a board member of?
CP- I’m a board member to the Kristy Lasch Miracle Foundation, which helps women under the age of 30 with medical expenses who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Kristy was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 22 and lost her battle at age 26. I read about her foundation in an article and made a point to contact Kristy’s friend, Laura. Through that I was introduced to Kristy’s parents. They told me they had found Kristy’s journal in a box, and I asked them if I could include her journal in my book, and they said yes. As a result of our wonderful meeting and collaboration, I became a board member to the foundation. It has been a privelege and an honor to serve this foundation, and they are growing little by little each year. It’s a wonderful service they provide to young women. Nothing could be more valuable.
Visit Cindy’s website and learn more about everything she does. And take a look at her Ribbon in the Sky items on Cafe Press. 15% of the profits go to the Kristy Lasch Miracle Foundation.
Visit Cindy’s website here: http://www.theemptycuprunnethover.com/main2/index.php
Follow Cindy on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/#/cindypapale
Follow Cindy on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/CindyPapale