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I Had Cancer and Found A Dirty Secret

Surviving Cancer and starting a Business
Gwen Gardner
Written by Gwen Gardner

I had cancer, and Simply Chickie organic cotton clothing line grew out of that life event. My mission is to make people laugh because I remember a time when I couldn’t.

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I had cancer, and Simply Chickie organic cotton clothing line grew out of that life event. My mission is to make people laugh because I remember a time when I couldn’t.


On a hot August weekend in 2004, I decided to leave my boyfriend who I had been with for one and a half years. I packed bags and boxes and asked a friend to help me move into another local friend’s house temporarily. However, I wasn’t feeling well and “late,” so I went to the doctor on Monday.

On Tuesday, I found out I was pregnant.

On Wednesday, I was told I had stage 2 breast cancer.

The juxtaposition of life and death was confusing, yet transforming. I sat on the couch with my mother and sister. We held onto silent questions.

The next few days were filled with driving to doctor’s appointments in bleach scented offices and hospital rooms, sharp needles, unpacking t-shirts, and eating pizza.

I thought a lot about how my body felt, and how it got to feeling that way—what I put in my body and eventually what I put on my body. I paid attention to smells and food and everything coming in contact with my mouth and my skin.

My mom was the original organic guru—she gardened, she bought food at farm stands, she cleaned with baking soda, but I grew up, left home—and lived a fast life.

At the age of 40, life itself decided to slow me down. I had a disease—cancer, but I was operated on and the cancer was excised. I took really good care of myself—exercised—ate organically grown fruits and vegetables—and practiced yoga. I needed to live because I was going to be a single mom.

I paid attention to labels and discovered that the lovely soft cotton clothing I enjoyed hid a dirty secret. The cotton crop is one of the most polluting crops grown.

I had that baby—Elizabeth.

I decided to become an entrepreneur and print the funny stuff that woke me up at night about babies on baby clothing, but a baby’s skin is porous—so I looked into organic cotton options.I printed on organic cotton clothing.

When I first began, I had to explain what organic cotton was all about—imagine that—look how far we’ve come!

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

I have accepted that I cannot do everything, but that I can do something–and that I can ask for help. (Though this help “thing” is still difficult–and I continue to work on that aspect.)

2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? I am learning to appreciate that I do have faults, but those faults don’t define me. I am a good person too, and I’ve inspired many and helped many people. What are you still working on to appreciate? I’m still working to appreciate not defining myself by my faults.

3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? When my daughter turned 10, I realized I had moved through a lot of stresses and difficulties of being a single mom and that I was still standing–and my daughter still walks up to me and hugs me and says she loves me all the time. She recently said. “Sometimes it hurts I love you so much, Mom.” What makes YOU most proud? Having a confident, secure, smart, and funny child makes me proud; one who dreams daily and loves me. Because, really, love is, in the end, what counts. What goals and dreams do you still have? I want to build my Simply Chickie clothing business into a 7-figure business.

4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? I can be stubborn. I can also look too closely at the details in a situation and life and miss the big picture. What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity? I’ll refer to my above sentence.

5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I love my…” I love my ability to dive into the abyss of depression and pull myself out. I’m an optimist and always seem to be able to convince myself and the people around me to not jump off cliffs!

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About the author

Gwen Gardner

Gwen Gardner

imply Chickie - Laugh with a child, as a child...Organic cotton baby/kids/adult clothing that feeds your karma as featured in, "Green Child Magazine," and currently worn by rock star children all over our green planet. Find Simply Chickie at "Whole Foods" or online at: www.simplychickieclothing.com