In Pursuit of Passion: From Corporate Chief to Cancer Advocate

Annette Leal Mattern is an ovarian cancer survivor

The is the next interiew in the series “In Pursuit of Passion.” I have met many interesting people on my travels as Executive Vice President of National Wildlife Federation.  In this series, I’ve chosen to showcase those living life with extreme passion and in doing so I hope to inpsire others to follow  their passion. 

Annette Leal Mattern is President of the Ovarian  Cancer National Alliance. She’s uniquely qualified for the role: Annette is a 24 year survivor of ovarian and breast cancer. It would be easy for Annette  to be angry about her bout with cancer; instead, she is a calming, hopeful and passionate person.  I met Annette two years ago, and she has  the voice of a woman who has been to hell and back and wants other women to know their own power so she agreed to let me share her story. 

Q: What are you most passionate about?

Living a life of purpose means surviving, helping others to thrive and now to change the course of a deadly disease forever.

My passion has evolved. I feel like I’ve lived two lives. During a very successful career in the corporate world I felt a responsibility to help women who haven’t had opportunity or mentors, and open doors for them and help them realize their potential.  Now I dedicate my life to cancer charity work.  I see it as an evolution of my commitment to helping women; in this case to recapture their lives. I meet women “trapped” in their diagnosis and I help them formulate a new life, to thrive and find a new definition of success and happiness within the constraints that may come from their illness.

After years of coping with my own cancer, I sunk into a deep depression following the death of my grandson from brain cancer.  For a long while I questioned why he died and yet I was alive.  One day I changed the question; I started asking myself why I was alive, which led me down a new path.

Q: Who or what inspired you to follow your current path?

First I believed that I could not affect the disease, so I decided to help women cope with ovarian cancer.  After a fortuitous meeting with Pat Goldman, an ovarian cancer survivor who first championed the cause, I made a major shift from just helping the patient to finding an even higher purpose–changing the course of the disease altogether.  This includes being part of the drive to the how, when and where ovarian cancer gets solved. Pat’s strength helped  me realize that  I didn’t need to be a doctor, that it takes patient leadership to make a substantive change  in this disease.  Pat truly helped me to see my own potential.  Monday-OCNA-on-Lifetime.

I hope other women realize as I have, that  nothing will ever be perfect: good enough is good enough.  Figure out what you have to bring, and stop focusing on what you don’t have.

 We are the movement, we are not waiting for the movement. We can change things.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying I believe I can do it all, but I realize I don’t have to.  I have found  my place in the army–the army that together can change the world.  This is so different than in corporate America.  This work is selfless. I don’t believe  my work will benefit me.  It’s for the next generation.  It’s joyful work, standing with women who share my hope for the future – a future for other people.  These people I meet are giving of themselves for people that will never know who we are.

Read more about Annette’s journey in her book Outside The Lines . . . of Love, Life, and Cancer – a riveting tale of surviving ovarian cancer.

Share your story: what motivates you to help others ?