Live Into Your Life: A Q+A with Melissa Surdez, Metastatic Liver and Virtual MORE THAN PINK Walk Top Fundraiser

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The Surdez Family

Melissa Surdez truly is a liver. She dives headfirst into living and loving life with positivity, enthusiasm and true happiness. As a woman living with metastatic breast cancer, Melissa is an encouraging inspiration to many. She has been a Komen New Jersey MORE THAN PINK Walk Top Fundraiser year after year and leads her team valiantly, Johnson & Johnson, also a valued Walk sponsor. Melissa has also been a speaker at Komen New Jersey’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference and will be speaking again this year.

We spoke more with Melissa about her journey as a metastatic breast cancer liver, and her advice to those facing a similar road with this disease. Read on!

Komen New Jersey: We’ll start with a little bit about you. Tell us about yourself, your family, your job, whatever you’d like to share.

Melissa: I love my family. I met my husband during my freshman year at college and here we are 30 years later. My kids are amazing. My son, Quinn, is in his freshman year at University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) studying Musical Theatre and my daughter, Brielle is in her freshman year of High School and is currently playing field hockey, softball and track. It’s a year of firsts in my house!

My job is amazing and my company is even more amazing. I work for Johnson & Johnson as a Senior Human Resources Director. My client group are all of the technology resources around the globe, about 4,000 employees.

Komen New Jersey: What do you want others to know about living with metastatic breast cancer?

Melissa: I want others to know the following:

  • Cancer is an individual sport. You are playing against only your own self. Don’t get bogged down in stats because your own genetic make-up are not in those stats.
  • Be a very, very good patient. Our oncologists are everything, so find yourself one that you can bond with, since they will be like family to you. And follow what they say. They know the science of medicine — we don’t.
  • Talk about how you feel. You will have highs and lows — trust me — I know this. You must talk through them. You simply cannot bottle up your energy. It isn’t good for you and it isn’t good for those who care for you. I know that most of us don’t like to talk about the lows because we feel we put a burden on family and friends. What will they say? Am I making them uncomfortable? I am here to tell you that there really doesn’t need to be a lot said when you talk through how you are feeling. Letting it out can make YOU feel “lighter” instantly — and after all, this is about you, right?
  • This leads me to a very important point: celebrate those little wins, those tiny life moments that for the most part you never really gave much thought to before. For instance, when I am lucky enough to make it to my daughter’s field hockey game and see her assist in a goal or make the goal herself, I take the time to celebrate it. Before cancer — with our lives being on-the-go busy — I would have dismissed this — just giving a “nice job” and moving on. This little moment is huge for me and for my family because I AM HERE.
  • Live into your life. Don’t put off on doing; just do it. Now of course this is all within some sort of reason, but live life. I mean, that’s what life is there for, right? To live.

Komen New Jersey: What three words best describe you.

Melissa: Unabashed, Authentic, Giving

Komen New Jersey: You have such an incredible outlook on life. How do you apply your positive and empowering mindset in your fight against breast cancer?

Melissa: I guess I would refer to the bullets above that I lay out. But I would add in something else. Life is amazing. People are incredible. We are made up of thousands of stories that make us who we are and I love hearing those stories. More importantly, I love to tell my stories. It’s really what makes the world go around. I love that all too much to think of the alternative.

Komen New Jersey: What advice do you have for women and men who reach out to you after their cancer diagnosis?

Melissa: Again, those bullets above. Call me crazy, but I give them my cell number. Whether I personally know them or not, I feel that once someone who now has cancer found their way to me, I am all in. That can be a text, a call, anything. They are now a fellow warrior and we warriors gotta stick together!

Join Melissa and get started fundraising for the 2020 Komen New Jersey Virtual MORE THAN PINK Walk on October 4 here.

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