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Boldly Navigating Cancer, Caregiving and Career Change with Laura Stratte

Erin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we uncover the unconscious rules we've been following. We break those rules and we find a new path to being freer, happier, sexier, healthier, and more self expressed. I'm your host, Erin Keating. Today I talk to Laura Stratte about the C word, cancer. Laura is a two time cancer survivor.

I mean, to be hit with it twice in the course of your life is so unjust. And Laura became an oncology nurse navigator to help other people find their way through the complicated and life altering world of cancer care. And as a cancer survivor herself, she [00:01:00] was fueled by a passion to do right by the people she was helping.

We talk about the impact of cancer beyond the physical, the impact of it on your money and your time, and on how people perceive you in the world when you have a shaved head. We also talk about Laura's career pivot into health tech. Her career transition process was really organic and really smart, and I think it's a good template for a lot of us who want to make big changes in our professional lives.

For so many women, the personal becomes professional, then the professional is personal, and Laura is such an inspiring example of how to integrate those things in a meaningful way.

Here is our conversation.

Laura Stratte is a mother, wife, nurse, and two time cancer survivor. At the age of 47, she left the security of traditional healthcare as an oncology RN to enter the unpredictable and unknown to her world of startups and [00:02:00] digital health at Elektra Health, which we will talk about, switching her specialty from breast cancer care to the overlapping field of menopause care. Amen. She continues to help women navigate. Major life changes to optimize health and wellness. We all need that.

Laura, welcome to Hotter Than Ever. 

Laura: Thank you. I am thrilled to be here.

Erin: You have been on a health journey, both professionally and personally, for a long time. And as it goes with women, those things sort of intertwine. Right. So I'd love to start with the personal piece and kind of what happened while you were in nursing school. And then we can jump into how everything has evolved for you professionally and personally and with your own well being. 

Laura: Great. Great. So, yeah, my. major health journey really started when I was 35, I was in the middle of nursing school.

So my first degree is in fine art. I realized like it's really hard to make a living [00:03:00] doing that happens best of us. So when my kids were really little, I was like, I'm going to go back to nursing school, I was looking for something else. And nursing really had just, there's a lot of Pluses of being a nurse, the flexibility, all the different things you can do, you can work part time and still get benefits and just all like those practical parts of your infinitely employable.

Exactly. Yep. So in the middle of nursing school, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 35 at the time, and it was kind of a struggle to get diagnosed. To be honest, um, I felt like I knew something was wrong. I felt like something was wrong and I had a lot of people telling me, are you depressed? Which I do have depression, but it wasn't that I had people telling me like, you know, yeah, like, do you need to talk to someone that kind of thing, but I was like, you know, there was a couple of things I was feeling and noticing that were just weird [00:04:00] to me.

And plus I was taking pathophysiology and that you tend to like diagnose yourself with everything under the sun with that, but I had to push a little bit and like play the crazy. Card a little bit for someone to order some imaging and then I was diagnosed it was a summer morning I got that call and I was like I told you like I was like I wanted to call my doctor and be like I told you something was wrong, but it was early stage breast cancer So stage one it's like really thrust me into this world that I knew nothing about there's no family history of breast cancer in my family and it Like I, this is totally out of the blue. It's early stage.

So, you know, treatment for at that time was surgery and chemotherapy and hormone therapy. So even for early stage cancers, they will treat you with chemotherapy, uh, depending on kind of the biology of the, of the cancer. I had to have a mastectomy because there was just too much cancer in my small chest. And, um, even at stage one. Yeah. [00:05:00] Yeah. But you know, the first thing I remember when I was diagnosed was like, Oh my God, my kids, my kids were two and five at the time. Um, it was terrifying. My husband is 19 years older than me and I was out, I, I'm the one that's supposed to be alive for them, like long term.

And, but one of the first things I did was like, run to the basement, where we kept like our old office supplies stuff and I grabbed a binder and I'm like, okay, we got to do this and I called my brother. My husband is out of town. I called my brother who's going to pick up our sons were on T ball, T ball together, but I called my brother. I'm like, Phil, I have cancer. Can you get Ned and bring him to T ball because I can't go right now.

And then, like, things kind of went into motion. Um, started working with a nurse navigator.

Erin: Wait, wait, wait, what'd you put in the binder?

Laura: I put, I started, I like made, I made, like, for pathology reports, imagery reports just for notes. Like, I, like, started, uh, to write, I had already been, like, keeping track of every single doctor's appointment visit I've, my family and I have ever had just [00:06:00] because I'm, like, weirdly anal about those kinds of things and I like to track.  

Erin: Not weird. Perfectionismis a superpower, we are doing this on a recent episode.

Laura: So I already had a spreadsheet, but this was like, just so I can, I wanted something that I could jot down quickly without, if I didn't have my computer with me and I just started kind of taking notes and, um, and, and kind of going from there. Just like that, that orientation like really helps me feel like I'm in control a little bit, like I can control a little bit of something. And I started working with a nurse navigator named Deb Fine, who is like an angel. She is kind of like, the model nurse navigator who became my mentor, um, and hired me later on as a nurse navigator, but her role is really was just to kind of explain things to me.

And this was in 2008. Care was less integrated and coordinated than it is now in many cancer programs. And so she [00:07:00] explain things to me. She met me at, you know, all the follow up imaging the work up that you need to continue doing and, um, made sure my I got my appointment schedule that this doctor in this clinic and this doctor and over that clinic and just was like my one constant. Like if I had a question, I would call her.

Erin: So that's what a nurse navigator does, because I had never heard of this role. I am not a health care person. I, I actually avoid it, which is probably not going to go well for me. Um, but yeah, but a nurse navigator is like your single point of contact. If you have cancer or some illness that you have to manage, right?

Laura: So navigators can look different. So now nurse navigation really started at oncology and like, you might find some of navigators in other health fields. Like my husband had an orthopedic big knee surgery and he had like an orthopedic navigator. I was like, that's cool. Um, but. In the system where I was getting treated, she really was kind of at the center of the care.

[00:08:00] Navigation can look different and can be a lot more kind of at arm's length, depending on where you go. But if you're ever diagnosed with cancer, always ask if there's a nurse navigator there. Like, kind of a blanket recommendation. Big lesson, when you, when you're newly diagnosed with cancer, you just have to learn a lot. And I was in nursing school, so I was like, okay, this is great. Like, let me learn about all this. Like learning about it in school. Let me learn about it in real life. It kind of really pointed me in the direction of my nursing career. It really kind of gave me a purpose. So it was, you know, that cancer experience it was like traumatic at points, it was totally fine at points, it was smooth sailing at most points.

I feel very blessed that my things happened in timing, I didn't have to drop out of school, I had support, I had a really, you know, it was, it was, I hate to say, I don't mean to like but it wasn't as worse as I thought it was going to be when I first was diagnosed.[00:09:00] 

Erin: Sure, it's okay to say that, right? That there's a range of experiences and you had an experience where you were well supported and you caught it early and you listened to your intuition even though the medical system was poo pooing you because you're a young woman. 

Laura: Right. I did handle it. Yeah. So that journey, you know, just kind of taught me a lot about what I needed to do personally in order to kind of like keep my health and wellness in intact, so to speak. So all of those things that you hear about doing, especially when you're in your thirties and you, you still are kind of in, you still feel a little bit invincible. You can still like beat up your body a little bit and wake up the next morning feeling good.

But I soon learned that, you know, prioritizing sleep, stress management, which I'm not always good at, and just exercise. Like, I've always been an exerciser, but this has been like, okay, I've got to do it for my mental health and it reduces the risk of [00:10:00] recurrence and like eating a well balanced diet, lots of plants, you know, those are all things that like really came into the forefront.

So I'm, I'm by means like a health fanatic, I take a very reasonable approach, but it really became kind of important to me to continue that because, you know. After I was first diagnosed, I saw this book and I didn't buy it. I should have, but it was like, the title of the book was "Cancer Does Not Make Me a Better Person", which I kind of loved because there's a lot of pressure when you're diagnosed with something like cancer to be like, I'm living each day like it's my last day and I'm so thankful for today, which I mean, yeah, but I can't live by that creed every single day. Like, it's a lot of pressure. It's aspirational. 

Erin: You know, God, I mean, there's just all these things that we expect of ourselves. Yeah. In adversity, or we hope adversity will give us because we're trying to turn it around, you know?

Laura: Right. And you know, I came to the decision, I'm like, I came to the conclusion that like, you know what? I'm going to do the best I can, but [00:11:00] I cannot live each day like I can't have these great expectations for every day because that's just not realistic. And I, there's too much pressure there.

So I graduated from nursing school and I got my feet wet on like a medical surgical floor, like working nights, which I can't believe. Like I look back and I'm like, how did I ever like do that? The hardest, that was the hardest year I've ever had. I've never worked so hard. It was tough. 

Erin: Circadian rhythm disruption. I'm not even, I've never used that phrase before in my life, but that's what it occurs to me. Like sleep is critical. How did you do that?

Laura: Oh my God. Well, my daughter and I played a lot of nap time, so she would put me down for naps. Um, that was my favorite, favorite game. Um, but we had, you know, I had help, I had support. My husband was great. We had, you know, we had the kids in childcare a few days a week and just a lot of family support. So very, very lucky.

You know, after I worked [00:12:00] on the floor, just it's, you know, it's really hard to be a nurse. Um, and we hear it every day, especially what's happened because of COVID, but working on an inpatient unit is incredibly challenging. And I knew fairly certain, I knew like right off the bat that it wasn't for me. And I got those nurses that I thought they are true heroes and that's but people who, people who can work on an inpatient unit, like deserve all the respect in the world, without a doubt. But then I did a little bit with some nursing informatics, which is like a nurse navigator. So my navigator, Deb, hired me on as her two, like her number two.

And that was so in the four short years between my diagnosis and working with a patient to working with her as a colleague, the care integration had become so much more solidified. And it was such a better integrative program. And when I say integrative, I'm not meaning necessarily like, you know, acupuncture [00:13:00] or not talking about holistic or complimentary therapies.

I'm the systems working together, the systems working together. And it was great to be a part of that. So we worked with women from the time they were diagnosed. We would be kind of like their second phone call after they received their news, and we kind of worked with them away through the end of active treatments, and some women didn't end active treatment if they had advanced disease, metastatic disease, and work with them into kind of what we call survivorship, which is kind of that wellness piece.

So, like, we do all this stuff. We throw all this stuff at you. We poison you. We burn you. slash you and maim you in some respect and we want to get your life, you know, we need to help you kind of get things back to where they were before and better, hopefully. 

Erin: That's incredible because my sense of my own experience with the health care system is it's just piecemeal. It's just you go in and you do the little thing and then like no one follows up and everyone's kind of half assed about. Connecting [00:14:00] the dots and no one has the files and like your system doesn't talk to that system. And if you're not in this plan, you can't do that thing. And oh my God, it's a real mess out there.

Laura: It is a real mess. And that's why I think, especially in oncology, and there's so many other areas of health care where it's so complicated and there's so many different players and it's like this finely tuned, like. You know, play where like act one is this act two is this and they've got to come in order that this navigation is really there to kind of help get that patient through so they can finish treatment and it is such an important role.

I don't understand how people can get through this without that strong navigation support.

Erin: Yeah. So, and you were talking to me about these different kinds of toxicities of cancer, there's the toxicity of the cancer itself, right? And then there's the treatment, but there's the stuff in your life that is impacted by having cancer. Financial toxicity is something you mentioned, time toxicity. I'd love to hear about those [00:15:00] ideas.

Laura: Right. So financial toxicity is a concept that's been around for a while. And it's really kind of what it sounds like when you go through cancer treatment. Most people will take a big financial hit somehow, either in the amount that's not covered by insurance or your copays.

You could be diagnosed in December and then blow through your 10, 000 deductible or out of pocket next year. And then you do it again a month later. All those little pieces that you try to figure out in advance, like how much is this going to cost me? And then you're hit with this weird bill or I mean, it's just there's so many bills coming and it's so hard to navigate.

So there's that financial toxicity in that aspect, but also in all of the when you go through cancer and this kind of leads into the time toxicity, you are taking time off of work. You might have to quit your job. You might have to take a leave of absence, depending on your chemotherapy. You take time off after surgery if there's any complications, you're taking time off here and there.

And some people don't have sick time. [00:16:00] Some people, you know, just jumping through hoops to get the FMLA paperwork filled out is like a nightmare for some employers. They just do not make it easy.

Erin: Well, and what if you don't have a full time job? What if you're freelance? What if you're a gig economy person? You know, what if you're an artist and there's no, you know, nobody's paying into your health and wellness? Like, wow.

Laura: Right. It interrupts your life in so many ways, the mental aspect, which I'll talk about kind of the mental aspect a little bit about my second round of cancer, but the time toxicity isn't is the other aspect and it's closely intertwined with financial, just how much time it takes to manage this it's really a part time job. Sometimes it's a full time job.

You also have to take into account if you're caring for someone. If you're a caregiver yourself, your children, aging parents. You need to make arrangements for them, rides to school, meal trains, like you can get people to help you, but when it comes down to it, you're kind of coordinating that yourself, you know, you could, you can look at how much [00:17:00] time other people are spent helping you, right?

That's time out of their schedule and their calendars that they might be making some sacrifices to do that. So this time toxicity piece is, is really interesting. And. When I was diagnosed this year, I read a paper, I read an article about time toxicity and I never occurred to me like this was a thing.

This is a concept and it, I was embarrassed because I was like, Oh my God. Yeah. Like how much, you know, part of my role as a navigator was to kind of help with that. Like we would try to piggyback appointments so people wouldn't have to come in two days for two different tests, they could like do it one, you know, one right after the other.

Erin: That sounds practical.

Laura: Um, yeah, and it, it's, but it's a lot of, a lot of places won't have people in the role that can do that for you. Some navigators don't have that kind of scheduling control that we had in the hospital system I worked at, but you know, the time that it takes to manage this, the time that it takes when you're preoccupied, the time that it takes when you someone makes an [00:18:00] appointment, like you're diagnosed, you need to get in for a follow up scan to see if it's spread.

You're taking any appointment they give you. It doesn't matter what your calendar says, like you're just taking it. So that time toxicity piece is, is just another huge kind of disruption in your life. And it's really hard to work around. So kind of what I'm interested in now is like looking, how can we really do something?

What can, what are the levers that we can pull that will make that better for people? 

Erin: Yeah. I mean, it's hard enough to manage the like emotional. reaction to your own mortality, you know, let alone all of this other stuff that layers on top. And if you don't have a good support system, you know, you know, yeah, I mean, it's really tough.

I don't think our culture is set up for caregiving on any level. We have a very sort of fixed and limited notion of work and time, and it is not set up [00:19:00] for caregivers to give care, let alone get care. 

Laura: There is so much support that is needed that we're not giving. Yeah. As a society, we don't value that in this country, which is really sad.

Erin: Yeah, because isn't the point of being alive to just live and take care of each other? 

Laura: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It is. Um, so I love that.

Erin: You built a career in Mm hmm. In nursing. Yeah. Focused on oncology and you could have stayed doing that forever and ever because there's infinite demand. Cancer's not going anywhere unfortunately. But you decided to take a turn when you were 47 to make a shift, but that was a shift that came over time, right?

What was the thing you were attracted to and what was the change that you made? One thing that struck me when we spoke was that a lot of people could benefit from hearing how you pursued a change in career that [00:20:00] you didn't know how to pursue, how to go from one thing to the next, but you found a good path. 

Laura: Yeah. So I, I just started, you know, working in healthcare can be very disillusioning. Um, you get your, like all that stuff that happens and it can be hard. And I was starting to see like on the periphery, like these cool things are happening, like outside of the traditional healthcare space that are like making a difference.

And I I was like, how do I get there? I don't know how to get there. Like, I don't, I started like just following random people on Twitter and LinkedIn and just started kind of reading more, there's like this area of health tech, right? So like, that's how I, okay, I want to get into health tech. How do I do this? Like, I don't even know, like, you know. What does that entail?

So it's a lot of research, just reading. And I've, you know, I discovered this company outside of New York that was in health tech, in, in research and oncology. So they were hiring nurses from all over the country to abstract, uh, data [00:21:00] abstractors, so we would go through charts and pull data in structured format.

And I was like, okay, I can do that. And that's going to be like my leap into this company, which seems like a really cool company. It was called Flatiron Health. And I, I got the job and I very quickly realized like if it's gonna be like, you know, just getting, becoming an abstractor there, they had a huge workforce or a big company like that wasn't gonna be my step in, so I needed to like, figure out some out something else.

And so, again, just like starting to talk to people, I just, I, I knew some people that were kind of in the periphery of health tech, so I just started networking with them a little bit. And it's like acting. It's, it was, it's really kind of like calling people up and ask, it's networking, you know, you ask for, you know, can I have 20 minutes of your time and just have a conversation and just learn about their journey.

I didn't even know like, you know, people would ask me at that point. Well, what are you interested in? What do you want to do right in this area? And I'm like, I don't even I don't know like you tell me I don't know like I want to know what exists. I didn't know. Like, I [00:22:00] don't know what the, you know, you, you start to talk with one person and they're like, well, you know, you could, should talk to this person and then you follow up and you just kind of, it takes time and it takes a lot of effort, but, um, it, it's really kind of worth it.

And you know, I, I was 47 at the time when I started this and I was feeling really kind of like, oh my God, I'm just way too old for this. Like you and I had talked about this invisibility concept that women often talk about when they're like approaching 50 and above.

Erin: Yeah. Say more about that.

Laura: Yeah. So my confidence level was just not there when I was starting this kind of this journey. I was like, I can't do this, all these people went to school. They're so much smarter than me. Like they've been tech people, they're tech people and they know these weird tools like Slack and like. You know, I mean, I just it was very intimidating and it's hard to go from an area where you feel like you're an expert and then into an area where you're not an expert, right?

That is scary proposition, but I kind of came to a point when, especially when COVID [00:23:00] hit, I'm like, I need to figure something out. Like I got to do something here. So I stumbled across this um, I got a call from this guy who is young enough to be my child and he was starting this, he started this newsletter called Out of Pocket Health and he was starting this community, the Slack community. I had no idea what Slack was and he's like, apply. I'm accepting 20 people, it's going to be a very intentional community and it's just going to be one that's going to help each other out in all different areas of health care. So I applied and I got in and I was like, Oh my God, this is like so cool.  

Erin: Well because they need people with boots on the ground experience, right? I imagine that you have an experience that they can't even, they can't access that information, that insight that you have after spending 15 years as a nurse focused on oncology.

Laura: So, I mean, it was. It was great. And they didn't have in that first cohort, they didn't have a lot of clinicians and this community has grown and grown.

And it in this community started in May of [00:24:00] 2020. So great time to become part of this community. And through this community, I really got the confidence that. I needed to kind of like really start taking steps and I just somehow came across Elektra Health and there was like this little comment on their website, like interested in working with us, send us an email and I would like immediately I'm like, first of all, what drew me to Elektra was that it was dealing with menopause, which is something that in cancer care and especially breast cancer care, we deal with all the time. We put people into early menopause with chemotherapy. It can be permanent menopause.

Erin: So that's a, that's an effect of chemotherapy is that women have menopausal symptoms.

Laura: Yeah. So it can, it'll shut down your ovaries temporarily. Um, and depending on your age and the kind of medications that you get, um, Your cycles may resume afterwards, uh, or they may not. So the older you are, certain medications have a much harder hit on ovarian function. So in my case, when I was [00:25:00] 35, I did get my cycle back. So I was only in that menopause temporarily while I was getting, you know, like three or four months of chemotherapy. And it came back fairly quickly, actually.

In addition to the chemotherapy piece, you know, if you are in GYN cancers, then surgery can be involved. There's menopause related with that, of course, and impressed cancer care. We give women estrogen blocking therapy for 5 to 10 years. And most breast cancers are what we call estrogen receptor positive. And so most women who are estrogen receptor positive will get these estrogen blocking medications.

They're oral, you take it, you know, it's a pill, you take once a day. But the side effects can be, they're menopause like side effects. So you could be, you know, like I was, 35, 36, and like having hot flashes a little bit from, you know, I, I, We've seen some women who have tolerated them very well.

Some people have really hard time. Hot flushes up the wazoo, like major vaginal symptoms. Um, you know, all these weight issues because of it. [00:26:00] We also give this medication to older women. So it doesn't, you know, you could be 85 and we'll give you a medication and all of a sudden you're having hot flushes again. You, you know, your, your joints may, you know, become incredibly achy because we're kind of eliminating the last bits of estrogen in your body with these medications.

So it can be, you know, some people, some women tolerate them very well. A lot of people don't tolerate them very well, and we didn't have a good way to help women manage this in the oncology world. Like sleep would be such a huge issue, brain fog, like unrelated to chemotherapy and chemo brain. Um, the sexual side effects were huge and we would kind of give them like half ass support.

Erin: What did that look like?

Laura: I would, um, go see a sleep specialist, you know, try cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep, which is great, which is super effective. But there was, I think, two certified providers in southeast Wisconsin [00:27:00] where I live. And I think one of them didn't take insurance and, and it's, and it's therapy. It takes time. We would kind of try to make, you know, go see your support gynecologists about these things or your primary care. We just didn't have good resources too. I would be like looking and scouring the internet for things and, and there's some good resources but menopause is such a, has been such a black hole in women's health for so long.

It is changing, thank God. But when I discovered Elektra Health, I was like, this is what the world needs. We need education. We need to learn more about interventions, medical interventions, lifestyle interventions, because there are some that are can be pretty effective. And we just need more acknowledgement and awareness that this is a thing and that women can get help and women deserve help in this.

So I reached out to Elektra and I just sent them this like fangirl email. And then we started a conversation. And then a couple of months later I was working for them.

Erin: But you wouldn't have done that if you hadn't been active on this Slack group and not just lurking, right, you were [00:28:00] not just lurking. You were actually participating in the conversation and really having a voice there.

Laura: Yeah, absolutely. And actually the job posting that I saw, so we were, I was having a conversation with Elektra and then someone in this out of pocket community. Was good friends with the C.O.O. And she's the one that posted the job posting that I saw and like, so I do a lot of pocket that, um, the fact that I'm working there.

So it kind of was like this double sided. I was approaching them from two sides, which was great, but they absolutely gave me the confidence and the ability to see, like, you know, the things that you learn as a nurse are completely transferable into kind of a more office corporate setting, time management, people management, project management, working under stress, kind of being scrappy, figuring things out. It's directly transferable into kind of an early stage startup. When you don't have resources, you got to figure it out on [00:29:00] your own and figure it out as you go.

Erin: I love that you found all of your skills to be transferable because I think we think they're not. I think we think like it doesn't come with us or that we can't translate what we know.

But by the time you're in your forties and you put in a huge amount of time in a career and you've been building all of these interpersonal skills and organizational skills, I think they just come baked in with you. And so you've evolved to understand how to work, period.

Laura: Right. Right. And you know, and I think that just being a mom and running a household, like, when I was younger, a friend, a girlfriend of mine said, I'm the project manager of my household. And I'm Yeah, you are. You are juggling things. You are organizing things. You are making sure things get done when they need to get done. And usually that falls on women, right? Like, let's be honest. And that is a huge [00:30:00] organizational feat.

Erin: Yeah, I wish women could, who have stepped out of the workforce, could codify that.

But to come back in if they want to, I'd love to see a resume that's actually broken down for like household management, mothering as a skill set on LinkedIn. 

Laura: That would be great. And then yeah, caring for adult aging parents are all of that multitasking.

Erin: So what is your role today at Elektra?

Laura: So my role at Elektra, so we're an early stage startup, which has just been, which is its own thing. I felt like a fish out of water. I felt really--it's stupid the first several months because all these tool, I'm like, Oh my God, did I make the right choice? But I am so glad I didn't absolutely make the right choice. My title is senior manager of program and operations, but when you're in this early stage startup, it's, you're kind of all hands on deck and you're doing a little bit of marketing, like event planning, hosting some of our virtual events, kind of building out a lot of [00:31:00] back end processes we've done, we have some coaching, we have a clinical, we have a virtual clinic, so doing the clinical operations behind that, so it's really more of an operational kind of role as well. That I'm doing right now that has evolved over time.

Erin: And will continue to evolve as the company evolves. Startups are very exciting and also they are all consuming.

Laura: And a little chaotic. Before I took this job, I was kind of talking to some people who knew startups and they're like you have to be okay with uncertainty and quick pivots and then lack of structure.

I was like, okay, I'm a very risk averse person. I like organization structure. I'm like, okay. I'm just going to do it anyway, and it's just been the best decision. And one of the kind of the neatest things I think of this whole experience was like, my kids knew I was unhappy with my old job and that the fact that I took steps to change that and I found a job that I love, I [00:32:00] think I'm just so proud that I could be a role model for that for my kids.

Like, huge.

Erin: It's huge where they see you don't have to suffer. That doesn't matter how old you are, that you're going to make a change. If you intuitively know you're attracted to something new, like go for it. Yeah. Yeah. I have the same experience with my kids. They're like my son who is 12 and somewhat sarcastic, but I think he means this in a nice way, calls me mommy mogul. Which I'm like, are you being a dick? I can't tell.

Laura: Half the time he probably is, and half the time he probably means it in the best way possible.

Erin: I'll be like, thanks?

Laura: Depends on his mood. I love it, but I think that those kinds of examples, because you know, you can say stuff to your kids all you want and they're not going to listen to you, but If you show them, it's better if it's coming from someone else, that's even better.

Erin: Exactly. I'd love to get back to this notion of [00:33:00] invisibility because I hear women talking about being in their forties, being in their fifties, being their sixties and that the world doesn't see them anymore. I'm curious what your experience was with that. And also you have a visible marker of being a cancer survivor in that you shave your head. So, that is also not invisible. 

Laura: Right. So before I was a nurse, I worked in kind of nonprofits. So very female heavy fields. Um, and so I'm, I feel like I haven't necessarily gotten that invisibility or experienced that invisibility. And if I had to guess why, I think it's probably because I'm in a female, I've been always in these female dominated fields and companies. So I feel like I've like, Okay. There hasn't been space for invisibility to happen necessarily, but I, I feel like in some [00:34:00] areas, like I could, you know, in a more corporate area, more traditional corporate, like if you're a banker, I don't know, like finance, um, or, or some other field that's much more male dominated, I could, I see something like that happening probably, and I'm wondering if, you know, it, it just is kind of dependent on where you are and what you do from a standpoint of age, I guess.

It is interesting when I am, you know, like a lot of people I work with, I might work with someone who is like over 25 years younger than me and she's great and she's fabulous and my two bosses, the co founders of Elektra, are younger than me and it was, you know, it's kind of, it's amazing, I kind of see it as like, it's amazing to see this younger generation of women, like, they don't have the same, I think, hang ups maybe as we do, I mean, they experience a lot of I've pushed back in some areas because of the fact that they're female, you know, in fundraising for venture venture backed capital, that kind [00:35:00] of thing.

But they are like, they're amazing. They're going to, they're going to change the world and the world is going to be a better place because of them. But for health, when I went through chemo the first time I shaved my head without a thought. I never wore a wig.

One of the most empowering experiences I ever had was going to the grocery store, my local grocery store the first time and just walking around and I actually ran into someone I kind of knew and he's a nice haircut and I would like was able to drop the, yeah, chemo, chemo gave me that haircut, um, and, um, make him feel a little bit stupid, but it was great.

Erin: It was like kind of like he was judging you. He's like, what are you a punk rocker now?

Right? No, actually. Cancer.

Laura: Yeah, but that was actually really empowering walking around without any hair. Um, and it helps because, you know, I would get comments constantly. You look great with, you know, you've got a nice head shape. You look great without hair. And I actually felt good without hair. Like I had shaved my head once back in college by [00:36:00] mistake.

So I was like, yeah, I've been here done that. Right? So this time round, I'm 15 years older, you know, my body's 15 years older and I was getting a chemo regimen that possibly, um, some women don't experience complete hair loss.

And some can experience kind of little, little hair loss. I'm like, I'm going to give this a go and see you can do these cold caps now, which I didn't want to mess with because it just seemed like it was way too much effort for me at the time.

Erin: What is that? It just blocks the hair loss?

Laura: So yeah, so you basically wear a cap that's cold and it has to be kept cold. Basically it's so cold that it blocks the blood flow. to the hair follicles and your hair is not damaged. Your hair follicles then are not damaged by chemotherapy and you can keep your hair.

So it's pretty cool.

Erin: I would definitely do that. I want to know what  my head shape is. 

Laura: Yeah. There's a lot of people who, I mean, it's really, really, hair loss is really that huge kind of like sign of a cancer patient, a cut [00:37:00] sign that you're sick. I had hair many, for a big part of my life. And then after I was dying, after I went through chemo, I didn't want to go through the hassle of growing out my hair because we all know how hard that is.

So like I just kept it short and people would come up to me, strangers all the time, you know, hair, you look so great with that. You're rocking that short hair. And I was like, oh, this is great.

So it was like, it did, even having short hair. And I'm, I am a natural platinum blonde, so I've gotta get back to that in my, like, I identify as a natural platinum blonde, uhhuh

I'm waiting for my hair to grow out a little bit more before I color my hair again. But, um,

Erin: So you're a natural, in quotes, platinum blonde. Got it. Got it.

Laura: Yeah. I do have blonde hair. Naturally though my eyebrows destiny to be almost platinum, platinum blonde. It's my destiny.

Erin: Got it, got it.

Laura: Yes. I held onto my hair and it was short hair, I held onto it for as long as I could. And then I felt like, I felt like Gollum from Lords of the Ring when he's like that, those like few wisps. I finally was like, I cannot do a comb over anymore. And so I shaved my head again this time [00:38:00] round. And I really didn't want to, because I was like, do I really want to do this?

Like, no one wants to see me, but I'm so glad I did it. It just made me so much less self conscious, honestly, very empowering experience. And it was absolutely empowering to come back to work. And I did it over the weekend. And then on Monday morning, I had a meeting, um, with some external people and the first time I met them.

And so they saw me with this hair and it was, you know, you get a little nervous, but then you go through it and you're like, damn, if I can do that, I can do anything. So like, it is like, like superpower giving to, to have this.

Erin: I love that. And also you have a good head shape.

I askeveryone who comes on the podcast, one question, and I'd like to ask it to you, which is, are there any deal terms in your life, any sort of agreements or arrangements or compromises [00:39:00] or situations that you feel ready to renegotiate? 

Laura: I feel like it's just, you know, my kids are about to be, my son is in college, my daughter is a senior in high school. I'm about to become an empty nester. And I feel like there's a lot of renegotiating that's going to happen when that happens. Whether you like it or not. Whether I like it or not. And I, and I have, like, I, I think about it, my husband and I talk about it, but there's a big unknown there. And I feel like I wanted, I definitely want to do something different.

I want to take advantage of kind of the freedom that comes with having my kids being off at college and having, especially now that I work remotely, like, where can that take me?

Erin: Right. It's an unknown. You know that it's going to need to be renegotiated. And that you have an opportunity to rewrite. the way things are in a bunch of different ways as a result of not needing to be on call 24 hours a day.[00:40:00]  My kids are 12 and I think about that. I'm like simultaneously excited for them to go to college tomorrow and then don't ever want them to leave, you know?  

Laura: I know. It's hard. It's bittersweet for sure. But I always tell my kids, I'm like, my job as a mom is to like launch you into the world as a, a good citizen of the world and resilient citizen of the world and I want to see you fly. That's why, that's what I've been doing all these years.

Erin: So that's beautiful, Laura. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. I've really, I've learned a lot from your journey and also from the way that you've extracted an expertise through your own. personal experiences. I think women are really good at integrating our personal selves and our professional selves and we don't get credit for that. Thank you for the work you do.

Laura: Well, thank you. This was, this has been great. Take care and be well. Thanks.


Erin: Thanks for listening to Hotter Than Ever, hotties. I looked at Apple podcasts today and so many of you have left wonderful five star reviews. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. E McGowan writes,

"I feel like I have a friend to talk with about all the difficult topics I'm faced with. I'm at the time of my life where it all applies. You are giving me confidence and helping me in my journey to live my life. So thanks from one Erin to another."

Thank you, Erin. Your encouragement means the world to me. Tell your friends about the show, share the word on social media. And for those of you who want to get more involved with hotter than ever. Please go to the Hotter Than Ever Instagram @hotterthaneverpod and DM me with questions or topics or ideas you'd like me to take on in the show.

What is burning you up? What is the conundrum you keep rolling over and over again in your head? Maybe I can help you get things untangled so [00:42:00] you can live your Hotter Than Ever life. Reach out. I'm dying to hear from you. Is that too thirsty? Yeah, well, maybe I'm thirsty. I really am dying to hear from you.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Girard and PodKit Productions. Our associate producer is Melody Carey. Music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Issa Fernandez.

Come back next week, hottie. We're gonna keep on digging deep.


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