Lynn Power of MASAMI: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Stay positive. This is the most important thing. It’s easy to get depressed with the constant doctor visits, feeling crappy all the time, uncertainty about whether the treatment plan will work and other challenges that will inevitably pop up. But, with every negative thing that happens, you can also find something positive (even if it’s small). So focus on that, it will help you appreciate all that you do have — and will hopefully carry forward long after your treatment ends.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Power
Lynn Power is a long time advertising executive (formerly CEO of J. Walter Thompson NY) turned entrepreneur. She launched MASAMI, clean premium haircare in February 2020. She is a cancer survivor, recently finishing treatment for Stage 3 Metaplastic breast cancer.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Chicago. I’m the middle child with two brothers so I am a natural negotiator — which turned out to be a great business skill. I went to Indiana University, which I loved. I had a double major in English and Criminal Justice and wanted to go into the FBI. But it was 1989 and there was a recession (and hiring freeze at FBI), so I ended up getting a job in advertising in Chicago as a receptionist. From there, I moved to New York where I spent the bulk of my 30 year advertising career before I became an entrepreneur in 2018, launching MASAMI, clean premium haircare in 2020.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”, Oscar Wilde. I love this because when I started out in advertising, there was a very specific type of successful leader — very confident (borderline arrogant), brash, charismatic. I had to learn that this style wouldn’t work for me, especially since I’m an introvert at heart. It took me a while to embrace my own leadership style but when I did, my career got traction. Now, the qualities people are looking for in leaders are much more “female” — collaboration, listening, compassion, empathy. People want leaders who are authentic and genuine, and that builds trust.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer.
I had my annual mammogram and ultrasound (for those of us with “dense” breasts) in March 2021. I’ve been going to the same place in NYC for YEARS and they are good about sending me reminders so I have been diligent about getting my screenings on schedule. As per previous years, both screening tests came back clear. But only a few months later,I felt a golf ball size lump in my left armpit (my lymph node). I went to my regular OB/GYN in NYC (who I had also seen forever) and she was certain it was a reaction to the Covid vaccine which I had gotten 2 months before. Luckily, I have a friend who had gone through breast cancer herself and is also a nurse practitioner. She insisted that I get another opinion. I had an appointment at Baystate 4 days after my OB/GYN and they took one look and said, “It doesn’t look good”. Sure enough, it was cancer.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
Once I got through the initial shock of realizing it was Stage 3 cancer, it got worse because I found out after the biopsy that it was a rare and aggressive kind of cancer (less than 1% of all breast cancers) called metaplastic. Google is super scary and wasn’t good, not to mention there is also misinformation there — I don’t recommend Google for anyone newly diagnosed. And while my doctors were cautiously optimistic, they were also very clear that it was bad. So, I definitely thought it could kill me.
How did you react in the short term?
I’m pretty pragmatic so I never had those thoughts of “why me”, especially since so many women I know have also gone through it. I just wanted to get to a plan. So as soon as I knew what the plan was, I focused on how I was going to get through it.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
My husband and son (who is 21) were home at the time so just getting into a routine with them was helpful. They both jumped in to help take some of the household responsibilities off of me which was good. I was lucky that I also have a good network of support around me to help me with my business (Kristyn, James, Jeff) which had just launched in March 2020. It would have been a lot harder without my network around me.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
My friend Laura literally saved my life by strongly encouraging that I go get a second opinion right away. My tumor grew to 8cm within 3 months so had I waited even another month it could easily have been Stage 4 and much harder to treat. Because she had gone through a very similar diagnosis (we were both HER2+ so had the same drugs), it was also helpful to have someone who understood my symptoms and what was “normal”. There’s a lot that the doctors don’t really tell you. For example, I knew I would lose my hair and eyelashes, but I didn’t realize the chemo would affect the glands in my eyelids, giving me cysts and making wearing my contacts impossible for 6 months or so.
In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?
I think my cancer wanted to take over my body! It was feeding off sugar, alcohol and maybe loved some of the other toxic things I was unwittingly doing to my body (deodorant with aluminum for example).
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
If I put a positive spin on the experience, it would be that cancer helped me focus on what matters in my life. The ability to rethink your priorities and focus on people who lift you up is really valuable. I learned not to sweat the small stuff as much. I also had to rethink what success looks like for my business. I just wasn’t going to have “VC friendly” sales, so I celebrated and appreciated the small wins. This stayed with me. I also have tried to eliminate toxic people from my life. They creep back in now and then but I’m less tolerant and better about exiting them.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
My business is connected to my cancer as it’s all about conscious beauty — products that are good for you and good for the environment. I’ve become even more of a champion for clean formulas, sustainable brands and products that give back (like mine!) because it really does matter. The majority of mass beauty brands and haircare brands still have toxic ingredients in them.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
The biggest one that I dealt with is that people thought that because I survived, I was strong. People said all the time “you’re so strong, I don’t know how you do it.” But the reality is, 1) you don’t have a choice 2) being strong doesn’t dictate survival. I have strong friends who died from breast cancer. It’s all about the type of cancer you have, when it’s caught and how treatable it is and 3) you’re never really “cured”. The type of cancer I had has a very high likelihood of coming back so I’ll always be on the watch out.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.
Cancer sucks, so if you have been diagnosed, I’m sorry. I get it! But you can get through it. Here are some things that helped me:
- Focus on the small stuff. It’s easy to worry about the big things but if you just take it day by day, it’s a lot easier. When I was going through chemo, just getting out of bed, taking a walk or not throwing up were good days. I also thought about my treatment plan in phases (chemo, surgery, radiation, infusions, port removal) and I celebrated each milestone.
- Be your own health advocate. This is so important! You start to realize that doctors don’t know everything. My husband says “You can be a C student and still be a doctor.” I educated my doctors about the potential for Metformin to fight cancer (which my friend Laura had told me about). And there are other supplements (Coriolus, Fucoidan) that the doctors won’t recommend because they aren’t approved. So you have to do the research to find things that might help you.
- Lean on your friends and family. A lot of people will offer help, but many people just aren’t sure what you need or what to do. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask! People will be happy to get some direction. I had friends who checked in regularly just to see how I was doing which was nice. Also don’t be annoyed if some people disappear. I found that you will rethink your friend group — but some people have a harder time dealing with it than others.
- Delegate and Reprioritize work. You just have to be realistic that you can’t do everything you were doing before. I had the added fun of being a haircare founder with no hair! And because my immune system was so compromised and Covid was very active, I couldn’t go to some of the trade shows I had committed to or many of the other meetings I used to do for my business. Luckily, my business partners Kristyn and James were able to step in and take on quite a lot.
- Stay positive. This is the most important thing. It’s easy to get depressed with the constant doctor visits, feeling crappy all the time, uncertainty about whether the treatment plan will work and other challenges that will inevitably pop up. But, with every negative thing that happens, you can also find something positive (even if it’s small). So focus on that, it will help you appreciate all that you do have — and will hopefully carry forward long after your treatment ends.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
I’m all about Conscious Beauty, so getting more people to detox their beauty routines would be the movement I would push. Plus, it’s really not that hard. There are so many great high performing clean beauty products now that will a little bit of intention, you can make the switch.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
I’d love to chat with Jessica Alba about how she built The Honest Company. I’m sure there’s a lot I could learn.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’m active on LinkedIn but also on all social channels @lynnpowered.
You can also follow MASAMI @lovemasamihair or check out our website lovemasami.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head, heart, and gut— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.