Mom Life, With Cancer: You’re Not Dead!

There are two contrasting narratives around cancer: We hear stories of survivors who beat the disease. And then we hear stories of people who are on their deathbeds. In reality, there is a much greater spectrum of experience.

Emily Garnett is 32 years old. She recently celebrated her fifth wedding anniversary and her son’s second birthday.

She was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer that same week.

But Emily’s life didn’t stop. She is still here. She is still making dinner and taking care of her son and going to the grocery store. And she wants the world to know what it looks like to live life with cancer.

Today, Emily shares her career evolution, explaining how she became an elder care lawyer and her decision to step away when her son was born. She shares the devastating experience of being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer as a young mom and her extremely limited options for having more children. I ask Emily how she navigates the fear and the unfairness of it all, and she describes how she talks to her son about her cancer diagnosis. Listen in for insight around the opportunity Emily has found in her illness and learn more about her advocacy organization, Beyond the Pink Ribbon.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #089

Some quotes from the episode

  • “I have never felt so overwhelmed and terrified and unprepared and just in over my head. I think that there are a lot of people that jump into motherhood and say, ‘You know what? I feel good about this.’ I have to say—truth bomb—I did not.”
  • “I love my son, and I love having him and being a mother, but that shifting roles into being a new parent was so insanely difficult for me. It did not come naturally.”
  • “I really struggled to find appropriate language for all of the different feelings that were wrapped up into this little parenting burrito. I always wanted to tell people, ‘Yes, it’s wonderful. But the wonderfulness is couched in this brutality of it. It’s so raw, and it’s so difficult, and I just want to cry. But I’m also really happy and grateful.’”
  • “I got super-depressed [after my cancer diagnosis]. There were weeks where I couldn’t get out of bed. I am here in my present state by the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals.”
  • “I have to give a lot of credit to my psychiatric team to make sure that I’m functioning. That I can be Mom and Wife and Person and Patient and Advocate in a way that I want to be—and not continue being Sad Emily in bed.”
  • “You have to get to that point where you look at that absolute worst-case scenario … and say, ‘You now what? I can deal with it.’”
  • “That is the single scariest thing to do. To look the very real possibility of dying … in the face and say, ‘You do you. I’m going to do me.’”
  • “It’s important to create the opportunity to have the uncomfortable conversations, and I want people to feel like they can engage with me about that. But God, it stings.”
  • “Egg adoption and then pregnancy through a surrogate is really one of the only avenues of reproduction available for women with metastatic breast cancer who … didn’t freeze eggs or embryos prior to starting treatment.”
  • “I don’t have the bandwidth to expand my family. My focus needs to be on the son that we have.”
  • “Cancer needs to live with me, rather than me living with cancer.”
  • “I was able to find my voice as an advocate, find a space to write and to utilize all of my skills in a way that allows me to get out of bed in the morning and create a space for my child that makes him a more understanding and empathetic human being. There’s so much magic there if you are willing to let it exist concurrently with the sadness and the sorrow and the uncertainty.”


Emily Garnett is a former elder law and special needs attorney whose practice focused on adult guardianships, capacity issues, care management and public benefits. Today, she is the face of Beyond the Pink Ribbon, an advocacy and awareness platform where she documents her experience living with metastatic breast cancer. Emily also serves as the host of The Intersection of Cancer & Life podcast.


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