“ "Bit of advice- listen to your body and don’t take no for an answer. If that means keep going back to your doctor or seeing someone new, do it! You know your body better than anyone."
Mailet Lopez is one “driven” mAss Kicker! She graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in 1997. In 2001, she co-founded Squeaky, a digital marketing agency. In 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost three years later in 2011, she founded I Had Cancer. We were very honored to find some time to chat with her about her amazing journey!
mK: Hi Mailet! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to hangout with us. What/When was your diagnosis? How did you find out about it?
ML : I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer stage 2 in 2008. I’m celebrating 5 years this month :- ). So I’m going back to the state (physical not mental) where I got the news, Florida, where I was vacationing.
I had been noticing changes to my body so I went to my gynecologist who didn’t notice anything. I left the office somewhat confused because I knew something wasn’t right. Over the next few months I found a lump during a self exam and made another appointment. The doctor thought it was nothing but wanted to get it checked anyway, after a mammogram, sonogram and biopsy, it ended being positive. Bit of advice- listen to your body and don’t take no for an answer. If that means keep going back to your doctor or seeing someone new, do it! You know your body better than anyone.
mK: You are your own best advocate. Congrats on 5 years! Why did you start “I HAD Cancer”?
ML : When I was diagnosed I found it difficult to get the information I needed. Although I had great support from family and friends it wasn’t the same as talking to someone who had been in my shoes. I started I Had Cancer because I wanted to make it easier for people to find someone who can relate to exactly what you’re going through. I wanted to provide a platform where people could connect and share their experiences and understand that they are not alone. At the same time I also wanted to provide a vehicle for someone to give back to the community by making themselves available to answer questions from those newly diagnosed.
mK: What motivates you?
ML : The feeling you get when you’ve helped someone. It’s as big an adrenaline rush as I’ve ever felt. It’s contagious. It’s a feeling I want to continue to feel. The same dogged perseverance I’ve channeled to start a business and beat cancer motivates me to help people.
mK: Cool. What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
ML : It’s easy to make me laugh. But tough to make me laugh so hard I actually cry. Those are the laughs I love…the ones that are induced by… pranks would do it. … I’m a big prankster on April fools. I’m pretty good at getting people. I guess I’m pretty mischievous but now everyone will be on the lookout.
Cry- It’s easy to make me cry. Any sappy movie or touching YouTube video like the one where the special need child is given a chance to play basketball. There are two similar videos and both show the power in the human spirit. The feeling is so overwhelming I cry. Sharing the stories of my fellow fighters and survivors on IHC does it to me every time.
Angry- Selfishness and injustice. People who don’t consider how their actions affect others, people who think they are owed something without earning it. Basically people who aren’t recognizing we all live in this shared community we call earth.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
ML : Food. I assume you’re referring to food…and if you weren’t than Food again. I’m a full blooded Latina who loves to eat. Did I say Food? Rich, decadent, sweet, salty. Anything dark chocolate and soft serve ice cream especially from Mr. Softy (chocolate/chocolate sprinkles). I’m hungry now thanks for that! Ok, ok I like kale too.
mK: Hahaha! What do you like to do in your spare time?
ML : I feel like I don’t really have much of it. I love to work and get things done. The sense of completion is really satisfying. I’m usually thinking of ten things at once and multitasking. So even if I’m not at work running my agency or IHC, I’m still working whether it’s catching up on industry reading, answering emails at midnight or connecting on IHC.
When I actually do have free time I like to garden, travel, read, dance (salsa that is) and spend time with my family. I adore my family. Being an immigrant I’m really close to my cousins so I try to take trips to hang out with them.
mK: Wow! You are one busy girl! Who is your hero, who do you look up to?
ML : I’ve had this question before and I have to answer it the same way…My parents. As cliché as that may be, they are my inspiration. With just two days notice, they left everything they owned and everyone they knew to bring my sister and me from Cuba as part of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980. They did it so that my sister and I could have the opportunities they didn’t. Once in the US my parents did everything they could without knowing the language and doing odd jobs so that my sister and I could have the best education. They’ve worked most of their lives to ensure we had everything we needed. That’s why I can’t disappoint them. I have to push myself hard to prove that their sacrifices were worth it. It’s a challenge I will always push myself to meet.
mK: You can never forget your roots. Tell us what you remember from living in Cuba? Favorite Cuban food?
ML : I was so young I don’t remember much. I have a few memories that popup from time to time but I can never tell if they were actual memories or something that my family has told me over time. I mostly remember textures, the sand, my grandmother’s chair and the material of the dress I wore on my way to the US.
I love Cuban food so I’m going to have a few favorites; congris (or muro) is one of them. It’s where beans and rice are cooked together. Tostones is another, these are fried green plantains. For dessert it would be flan but not any flan it has to be made by my dad or one of my aunts. Guava and queso blanco is the other whether as a pastel or empanada. Any of these make me happy…yum!
mK: Cuban barbecue (even though you didn’t mention it) and fried plantains rock! Hee hee. Actually, what would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
ML : hmm I have several for different reasons, starting my agency Squeaky days after Sept 11th, starting I Had Cancer months after my cancer battle, and completely random, I once sang on stage with a cover band… I don’t sing but my outfit was divine.
mK: HAHAHA! Changing gears… what would you want to do for a living if you weren’t doing Squeaky/I Had Cancer?
ML : I’d probably be an entrepreneur in the creative/digital field… so I guess I’m not that far off from what I’m currently doing. I was meant to do this.
mK: What advice would you give people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
ML : Stop, take a deep breath, breathe deeper…now know that you are not alone. Breathe again. Now slowly realize there’s someone out there who has been through what you’re going through and they made it so believe you will too. Attitude plays a big role and the mind is a powerful thing.
mK: We ask this question to everyone… Tell us something people probably didn’t know about you… anything.
ML : The boat I came in from Cuba, the “Ocean Clipper” was shown in the opening scene of Scarface. They used real footage. You have to look closely and pause but it’s in there. I also love to dance to Kenny Loggins’ Footloose.
mK: Uh… Footloose? No comment. JK, ;P Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
ML : Take it one day at a time. Go at your own pace and do YOU. Don’t worry about what other people think or want.
Mailet Lopez… BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR, ENTRPENUER, BUSY LADY, CUBAN FOOD AFFICINADO, KENNY LOGGINS FAN… Thanks Mailet! Check out I HAD Cancer when you get the chance! We are looking forward to seeing what you do next!