Pull Quote: Take care of yourselves and of each other, it's very important.

The Year I Got Cancer Was The Year My WordPress Business Took Off

In 2010 I was beginning to take on client work creating WordPress web sites when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ironically, at 43 years old I was more fit and healthy than I had ever been in my entire life. I had been running road marathons and trail ultra marathons for a few years leading up to my diagnosis. Good thing too, because surgery and treatment were obviously very tough.

I was transitioning my design studio from analog to digital. Previously, I was working as a professional artist and illustrator creating commission portraiture and college mascot illustrations with some moderate successes. My background is in Fine Art and Design. I studied Drawing, Sculpture, & Time Arts. (2D, 3D & 4D – 4D can be described as: Length, width, height, and time/ motion) Naturally, as a Time Arts artist/illustrator I love the web! I love designing for the web and mobile too. Web work is immediately gratifying. I do design for both the web and print but I have always felt drawn to the web as it is more accessible, more fluid, dynamic, interconnected, animated, media rich, and well … if you are reading this then you already get the picture. :)

To get through treatment it was important to me that I still work every day.

Some days it was just a couple hours in the afternoon but it really helped me to cope and endure unplanned surgery and many painful chemotherapy treatments. I had recently completed a couple of websites with the help of my mentor Jerry Turk. Those sites had good reach. I mean they were the kind of sites that groups of people used and managed so I got some attention for the work and word of mouth spread locally.

It was while getting through that period of treatment and the shock of a devastating diagnosis that my digital design agency really got legs. It could not have happened at a better time. So, my studio, C&D Studios – https://CandDStudios.com continued it’s move towards being 100% digital. No more analog photography and not much more drawing at the drawing table either. Now my work was nearly 100% focused on screens and it would also begin to pay the bills. That was eight years ago. I was very fortunate to learn using reliable frameworks, themes, plug-ins, and hosts that would also stand the test of time. Thank you Genesis Framework, StudioPress and Gravity Forms to name a few…

Fast forward to 2016 after having been cancer free all those years and cranking out a lot of agency work, I had a cancer reoccurrence. I never wanted cancer to be part of my story and I tried to deny or overcome it in all ways but it had resurfaced in October of 2016. Professionally, I was involved in collaborating on very large scale enterprise sites with teams. I was spending the year testing the waters at a new level of production. It was not good timing to require another surgery and 18 more rounds of chemotherapy. Fortunately, I found support in the community from other designers and developers whom helped me to the finish lines with 3 large projects in areas of e-commerce, college membership and enterprise site work -one with a large volume of SVG animations. After surgery, in February of 2017 I completed 18 rounds of chemotherapy treatments.

I have survived and am cancer free once again!

While going through treatment the second time I was not really focused on what good thing will I be able to grow towards professionally. Honestly, when you go through these things in life – you just spend your energy getting through as best as you can. I think it is worth noting here that while a positive attitude is great and it can improve a patient’s overall experience. Please don’t tell people they will survive cancer because of their positive attitude. Cancer is horrible, it does not discriminate and when people can’t beat a disease with their mental attitude they end up blaming themselves unnecessarily. That is not good. That is not what people intend when then try to offer support in that way but that is something I wanted to share.

Now I have landed on the other side of treatment again and as I reflect, it’s been a really epic year! Our WordPress community has been open and supportive, welcoming me at conferences, online, and in slack groups, whether I had hair, energy, or resources – always welcoming and always encouraging. Over the years I have made some wonderful friends through WordPress! Some of us have been at this for a long time and we now have many shared experiences and skills.

Having Survived Again I’m Launching a WordPress Product

Having survived again, and having been inspired at PressNomics in Tempe last spring, I’m busy launching a mobile product/service with my partner Dr. Kendra Remington called Docs With Apps.

We still accept some client work, and some retainer work but I’m pretty selective about the projects we work on “in house.”

I love SVG animation work so in 2018 I’m overjoyed to be doing more contracted SVG animation work with my collaborator Jackie D’Elia. Hit us up!!

These are some very wonderful times in technology and within the Internet of things. I feel very grateful to have been able to ride the digital wave into the present and future. At WCUS in Nashville I began the process of contributing to make WordPress after having spent many years empowering others with it.

When I was young I needed a way to get my portfolio on line and that is how I got started. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story, to publicly thank my husband Dominic, my family, and friends too. The future is going to be awesome!

Take care of yourself and of each other, it’s very important.


    1. Right back at you Patte – Stay awesome! I’m very glad to have become friends through WordPress! ?

      1. I believe that everything happens in divine order and your words came to me giving strength and hope this morning when frustration fatigue and stress were at a high level. I have always been about empowerment for others.
        Thanks for giving me some in your story

  1. Your story is empowering. I am an artist and now disabled American War Veteran. My cancer came as a possible result of agent orange and I was in excellent condition teaching martial arts and working three jobs for most of my life. Last Feb I had my surgury and because the VA hospital put it off for almost a year it metastasized. I paid out of my pocket to have the surgery done at a local hospital. That proved to be a disaster because I got an infection in the surgery that almost killed me and almost lost my leg. I spent most of the year in hospitals and nursing homes at 62 years old. Well, sure enough last month it came back and I have eight more weeks of radiation ahead of me with only a 40% chance of success. Yes, i so much agree with you about people trying to help by saying keep positive. It is tough for sure. I live alone with my service dog now on my boat (which I love) and have been focusing on my painting and word press (which i constantly have troubles with) and created a contest for naming my artwork on facebook. It keeps me alive and happy. After I got sick I lost my home (which I build most of myself) my bank account and my job. I live pretty simple now but happy and hope to live more than that doctors expect me to. If this does not work I am going to look into the brain cell option if I can afford it. Thanks for your inspirational post. I am up at 4:30 in the morning writing this as you certainly know sleep is not my friend. I do love my art studio on my boat and my ability to communicate with the world via social media and my web site lawrenceolearyjr.com

  2. Cathi. Thank you for sharing your story. I feel so privileged to know you. Your strength, courage, and positivity are truly inspiring. While we may have started as collaborators on projects, it has now grown into a friendship that I cherish. Always a pleasure to hang with you. Here’s to many more successful creative collaborations sprinkled with good health, joy, and laughter.

    1. Always a pleasure indeed – thank you for your kind words, professional collaboration, and friendship Jackie! ???

  3. Hi Cathi. What a great story. My brother and I run a small web design shop and he is currently going through cancer treatment. It is nice to read about people who have navigated these treacherous waters. Keep making great WordPress sites!

    1. Thank you Ean – so great that you two can work together! Working when one is able to really helped me to get a mental break from having to cope with treatments and difficult diagnosis.
      We are all a whole lot stronger than any of actually realize. :)

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