Take care of you.

By: Andy Choi
Manager - Corporate Communications

Two V Teamers share their breast cancer journeys and their advice for the rest of us.

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Today’s special episode of Up To Speed is dedicated to the countless fighters on our V Team and beyond who have battled breast cancer. Host Andy Choi sat down with Kathy Grillo, Senior VP on our Public Policy team and a three-time breast cancer survivor.

Kathy talked about how she was first diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 35. At that time, she underwent surgery and radiation therapy. Then in 2018, she was diagnosed again and underwent relatively minor surgery. This year, amidst a global pandemic, her cancer came back a third time, at which point she elected to undergo a double mastectomy.

“The biggest challenge for me was the fear,” recalled Kathy. “I can either give in to my anxiety or take it on. But once I made the decision to face it and then went through it, there was great power in that. I now know there is nothing I can't overcome.”

Kathy doesn’t want to sugarcoat a process that involved many challenging days, but she now feels healthier, happier, more balanced and fun than she’s ever been. That’s partly why she wants to get the message out about prevention.

“Early detection was a key for me. It’s so important,” said Kathy. “It can not only save your life but improve the quality of your life. It can be the difference between thriving versus surviving.”

Nearly two-thirds of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, with no sign that the cancer has spread, for which the five-year survival rate is 99%.

When Kathy shared with her team why she would be away from work for an extended leave due to her major surgery, she was overwhelmed by the messages of love and support that she received. “I got baked goods and letters written with an actual pen and paper,” said Kathy. “It was beautiful.”

She also thought that being honest and forthright with her team was an example of her leadership style. “I have high expectations for people, but I also have personal relationships with many members of my team and I care about their wellbeing. When you put those two things together, you have loyal, engaged and high-performing people. The Public Policy team is all of those.”

To close the conversation, Kathy reiterated her message to the V Team. “It’s scary when you get your test results. But there are so many resources, especially here at Verizon. So please get your tests. Prevention is key. And we’re here for you if you need it.”

Neil’s story

It’s under-reported and important to remember that breast cancer is not an issue exclusive to women. V Teamer Neil Breitenbach from our Global Enterprise team shared his own story of how he continues to find the strength to carry on amidst daunting challenges.

Twelve years ago, Neil noticed pain in his chest when doing things like putting on a seat belt. He went to the doctor and was eventually diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Five years into his cancer journey, he noticed a progression of the cancer and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Recently, the cancer has metastasized again. Neil is currently undergoing chemotherapy. “I can’t thank my friends and colleagues enough for all the support they’ve given me.”

Neil shared his advice for others. “The message is to be aware of small changes going on with your body, especially men who tend to ignore what seem like small problems with our bodies.”

Throughout his journey, Neil has continued to pursue his favorite hobby of racing cars. He sees it as part of his therapy. “Focus on positive outcomes and stay focused on your work and the things you love to do.”

Thanks to Neil for sharing his journey with us. We know he’ll continue to fight, and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.

BOLD Homecoming

Today marks the start of our BOLD homecoming celebration in support of students and alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). A key component of our Racial and Social Action Plan, Verizon has expanded our partnerships to include 11 HBCUs as a way to attract and engage top talent from these storied institutions.

Check out VZWeb for more information on how you can get involved in this week-long virtual tailgate and join in on the homecoming fun.

If you have any questions, email them to live@verizon.com.

Click here for a transcript of the webcast.

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