She Wanted To Make The World A Better Place For Pets. After Breast Cancer, She Found A Better Way To Do It
After her breast cancer diagnosis, Angel realized that no one knows how much time they have left. But she knew, with razor-sharp focus, that she wanted to spend whatever time she did have doing what she loved: making the world a better place for pets and pet owners.
Angel has worked for Mars Petcare for over 10 years. She’s the Corporate Citizenship Lead for the company and a great friend to GreaterGood, one of their nonprofit partners. In 2016, she was gearing up for their Mars’s big annual adoption weekend. Her mind was on details, last-minute tasks, and finding forever homes for lots and lots of cuddly critters.
She tried to ignore the nagging pain in her arm.
Watch Angel’s story and see how her diagnosis changed the way she works with pets!
She figured she just had a cold and her lymph nodes were swelling; she could push through. But the pain continued to spread, and about a week before the big adoption weekend, she went to her local clinic. She told the nurse practitioner that she just needed a prescription so she could focus on adoption weekend. “I got a big event, let’s go!” she said.
But the nurse was about to change Angel’s life. She told her that she had to go to the local hospital and get a biopsy—right away.
At the hospital the doctor told Angel she had breast cancer. It was at least stage 3A, but she’d have to wait to get the pathology report before she’d learn all the details. While she was waiting, Angel still showed up at the adoption weekend and helped pets find forever homes.
When the results came back, Angel learned that she had stage 3C triple negative breast cancer. “I don’t think it was a last call, I think it was a wake-up call,” she said. She knew she’d have to put work aside for a time to focus on her health and her family.
Treatment was hard. She went through both chemotherapy and a mastectomy. But one of the hardest parts was losing her hair.
She made the decision to shave her head after her hair started coming out in handfuls during chemo. Her six-year-old daughter, Bella, was scared to see her mom without her hair. Angel tried to be brave for Bella while at the same time feeling like she was losing one of her biggest assets. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be to see myself in a headwrap,” she said.
Angel and her husband shaved her head while Bella was having a sleepover for her sixth birthday. The hope was that Bella would be distracted and supported by friends while Mom took the plunge to no hair. But Bella felt she had missed out, so the next day they buzzed again so that Bella could be a part of the process.
“When she lost her hair I was kinda scared,” Bella remembers. Now she has advice for other kids with parents going through cancer: “Just tell them it’s okay, it’s gonna grow back. And now look!” she said, pointing to her mom’s now shoulder-length hair.
When Angel returned to work, she did so with the renewed clarity and focus. “I don’t know how much time I have left, but I know that I want to do it in something that makes me feel proud.”
She wanted to do things differently at Mars Petcare. She wanted to see the world become a better place for pets and their people—permanently.
Mars Petcare had partnered with Rescue Bank, now a signature program of GreaterGood, after Hurricane Katrina to get food and supplies to pets affected by the hurricane. In 2016, they partnered for “Rescue Rebuild,” a program committed to rebuilding at least one animal shelter in every US state—in one year.
Angel led a new partnership between GreaterGood and Mars’s initiative to create better cities for pets through legislation and education. “The partnership has been, year over year, a little bit different… bit either way we’ve been able to go and make a lot of difference here in the US but also in places like Thailand and Mexico and Puerto Rico. So it’s been a great partnership and I can’t say enough about the team,” she said.
Angel continues to be excited about Rescue Rebuild and the way that a shelter renovation can improve the lives of dogs and cats, as well as make shelters more attractive to potential adopters. Volunteers build “catios” where cats can play outside without the risk of running away, which means healthier cats who are more likely to get adopted. Together, Rescue Rebuild and Mars Petcare gather volunteers and supplies to make shelters safer and healthier for rescue pets until they find their forever homes.
These are the things that inspire Angel now she’s living “after B.C.”
GreaterGood is proud to partner with amazing women like Angel, and amazing companies like Mars Petcare, to make the world a better place for people, pets, and the planet. Thanks for being part of our work!