By Lisa Kaczke Edina (MN) Sun Current, June 18, 2013
Christine Clifford’s first thought when she heard her breast cancer had returned after a 20-year absence was that God thought she needed new material for her comedy.
The Edina resident is the force behind Edina-based organizations The Cancer Club and Divorcing Divas. Having experienced divorce twice and now cancer a second time, her mission in life is to help people get through the tough times and realize that “life goes on,” she said.
“Don’t forget to laugh,” she suggested.
Twenty years ago, Clifford was a “stressed-out marketing executive” for an international company – meaning she was staying in hotels for 200 nights a year. She never imagined her future would be filled with drawing humorous cartoons and writing humorous books about cancer.
“Laughing is a part of everyday life,” but cancer is so serious that people forget they have a regular life that includes laughter, she said. She suggests people embrace life and the problems that come with it.
“The sooner you find humor, the easier it is to get through it,” she said.
During her first year of treatment for cancer two decades ago, she worked on her first book, “Not Now…I’m Having a No Hair Day.” She began The Cancer Club after its publication to provide humorous and helpful products for people with cancer. Her latest book is entitled, “Laugh Til It Heals: Notes from the World’s Funniest Cancer Mailbox.”
Many things have changed for Clifford in the 20 years between cancer treatments.
She found out she carries the BRCA gene and is at a higher risk for breast cancer, which was devastating to know, she said. Clifford’s mother
was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38, dying at 42, and her sister, who also carries the gene,was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago.
When she found out her breast cancer had returned, she chose to have a double mastectomy in June because of the higher risk. She’ll now undergo five months of chemotherapy.
Facing cancer a second time has been devastating, and she’s taken it harder this time than she did the first time, she said. She’s older and knows what she’s going to go through with chemotherapy. The first time she fought cancer, she was the mother of two young boys, surrounded by their laughter, and was married with a supportive husband.
She also had a mastectomy this time – the first time she had a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. However, the medications have improved in the last 20 years and the surgery was better than what her mother went through, she said.
It’s difficult, but Clifford knows she has the love and support of a community, she said. When she was diagnosed a second time, she vowed that if someone said they were going to stop by to see her, she will stop what she’s doing and spend time with her family and friends. The silver lining of cancer is that she knows she’s blessed to be surrounded by people who want her in their lives.
“I want to spend every minute with people that I love,” she said.
She suggests cancer patients take the help when it’s offered by family and friends, she said.
Although she has felt the love and support for her battle with cancer, she found that when divorcing, people tend to shy away from showing support because they don’t know what to say or do.
That’s when the idea of Divorcing Divas came to her.
Divorce was sad to go through because Clifford thought she’d live in Edina with a white picket fence, watching grandchildren grow up with a husband of 60 years.
However, Clifford felt empowered when she divorced – like she was taking control. It made her wonder what she did that made her feel strong while friends and colleagues went into depressions due to divorce.
Clifford is a brand consultant, operating Christine Clifford Enterprises, and she realized that her business background caused her to go through divorce with systematic steps, creating a team of an attorney, financial advisor and psychologist to help her.
She began Divorcing Divas to offer an opportunity for people going through divorce to have access to resources to help them. Her annual Happily Ever After conference, which meets Oct. 26 in St. Louis Park this year, brings together financial advisors, psychologists and professionals to discuss parenting plans.
In addition to providing education and support, it also connects people who are going through divorce so they can see that they aren’t alone.
She’s also added her humor to divorce, authoring “The Clue Phone’s Ringing and It’s For You.”
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