A Senior Executive Vice President for The SPAR Group out of New York, Christine Clifford was also the top salesperson in this multi-million dollar retail services firm and seemed to have it all. But in 1994, at age 40 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and life changed – forever. She described her life as if someone had turned off the treadmill with her still on it.
She may have cracked the glass ceiling with her executive rank in a male driven industry, but navigating cancer was her toughest challenge ever. Throughout her career at SPAR she was negotiating multi-million dollar contracts and traveling extensively. One year she clocked 298 days on the road and admits that she missed a big part of her young children’s lives because her focus was on work.
After a year of surgery, aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and the loss of her hair, Christine had a dramatic change in her priorities. She wanted a career that would enable her to cut down on her travel, spend more time with her kids, and still provide her with significant earning power.
Four weeks after surgery, she awoke in the middle of the night with a vision… cartoons. Over 50 cancer-related cartoons started popping into her head. Christine realized that in all the support, gifts, calls and messages she’d received, no one ever brought her anything that made her laugh. In fact, she noticed that people were actually careful to avoid humorous conversation or topics around her. Yet, she recognized that laughter provided a necessary release from the tension and even promoted recovery.
So, Christine decided to do something about it and created The Cancer Club® which is now the world’s leading source of gifts and inspiration for people dealing with cancer. It took a little over 2 years for Christine to phase out of her SPAR career since she still needed the health care benefits until her new business venture was profitable. But she built a strong foundation during those early years and the company is still thriving today.
Don’t Forget to Laugh™
Not only is this tag line trademarked by Christine for The Cancer Club®, it represents the heart and soul of her company. She firmly believes that laughter is the best medicine and has written many books, with another one in progress, that will inspire and bring a smile to the face of those dealing with cancer.
Her books: Not Now…I’m Having a No Hair Day; Our Family Has Cancer, Too! (written for children); Cancer Has Its Privileges: Stories of Hope & Laughter; Your Guardian Angel’s Gift: Inspiring Breakthrough Secrets to Live Your Dreams; and her newest book, YOU, Inc. The Art of Selling Yourself are filled with award winning cartoons that are a signature of The Cancer Club® and Christine’s commitment to healing with a smile, a lift, and a laugh!
The Cancer Club® website is an amazing resource with tips for loved ones and products to help people cope with the realities of cancer. From healing hats to inspirational DVDs and an exercise video for women recovering from breast cancer, Christine also travels nationally giving talks and workshops to spread her message of healing and hope.
One Move at a Time
Always the savvy business woman, Christine had a breakthrough deal with The Cancer Club® when her exercise video (One Move at a Time), developed exclusively for women recovering from breast cancer, sold over 25,000 copies to a major pharmaceutical company. But the challenge of running your own business is that you also wear all the hats, all of the time.
Christine does everything for The Cancer Club® from the inspirational speeches to posting products purchased on her site. She called herself a 99.9% one-woman band but does have 2 graphic designers and a virtual assistant whom she contracts out for some tasks.
She shared that having her freedom is amazing running her own company and she can prioritize life and family around her work schedule. She walks 4 miles every day – in sun, rain, and even snow and is accountable to no one but herself. Christine also doesn’t take life for granted and feels so blessed to have this second chance.
Be Your Own Valentine
One of Christine’s mottos is that everything happens for a reason and she lives that philosophy in multiple ways. Now a two time divorcee, Christine is on a mission to empower other women who are divorced so they can heal, grow, and gain the confidence they need to be in charge of their lives again.
She is the co-founder of Divorcing Divas® and is working to help other women live happily ever after knowing that divorce this is not the end…it’s the beginning. Through support, education, resources, and hope, Christine and her business partner, Barb Greenberg present seminars and support groups to help women in need. She is also working on a humorous book about divorce.
They have developed 10 Divorcing Divas Tips that others may find helpful:
- Don’t Panic
- Take Four Steps Forward
- Surround Yourself With Supportive Friends and Family
- Realize Your Life Will Never Be the Same
- Research all The Possibilities
- Do Something Special For Yourself
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up
- You are the Source of Your Happiness
- Learn to Forgive
- Don’t Forget to Laugh
As if one successful business was not enough, Christine is at the helm of The Cancer Club®, Divorcing Divas® and Christine Clifford Enterprises® where she manages her public speaking career and consulting practice. Christine has earned the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) credential from the National Speaker’s Association and has received accolades from audiences and speaker bureaus nationwide. She has reinvented herself and her life to meet her specifications.
Having a disease like cancer gave Christine permission to make a change. She believes the trade- offs of the mega corporate career and salary is well worth it for her new multi faceted career. While the income is not the same, after 15 years she is healthy, which is priceless, and she is making a good living doing what she loves.
Christine shared with me that this is her one and only shot at life and she intends to make the best of it. She has prioritized herself, her adult kids, and never forgets to laugh. Waking up every day, Christine can’t wait to see what happens because life is grand!
Christine’s Advice and Action Steps:
- If you believe in your product, your service, and your company – anything is possible.
- Make good hiring choices with outside vendors and contractors.
- Solicit feedback but don’t let negative input stop you from moving forward – trust your gut.
- Use humor to deal with adversity.
“It’s always ok in the end – if it isn’t ok, it isn’t the end.” – Anonymous
Christine Clifford Enterprises www.ChristineClifford.com
The Cancer Club www.CancerClub.com
Divorcing Divas www.DivorcingDivas.net