Stacey Aaron Domanico of ‘Coaching with Stacey’: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It
Surround yourself with 100% support — This is not the time to worry about other people’s feelings — You are the CEO of your life and you decide who you surround yourself with. For me personally, I had realized that I had surrounded myself with toxic people including the relationship of my marriage. I knew if I was to heal properly, I needed to take some action.
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 Stacey Aaron Domanico.
Stacey Aaron Domanico is a certified life and empowerment coach and the Author of “Where Do You Spend Your Heartbeats?” Design the Life You Desire One Heartbeat at a Time. She has over 25 years leadership experience in a Fortune 50 company coaching and mentoring women. As a two- time cancer survivor, her purpose and passion is to help other women throughout their journey personally and professionally.
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 the Bronx NY with my sister and my mom. A product of divorced parents and at times on welfare. I was an extremely obese child and had to learn life lessons very early on. I was in a toxic marriage for almost 20 years and have one daughter from that marriage. I have been a leader in corporate America for over 25 years for a Fortune 50 company and my passion has always been mentoring women. So much so, that I recently left Corporate America and am now coaching full time. I was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer at the age of 42 and was told there were no worries and to move on with my life after having a double mastectomy. I was still in a toxic marriage at the time when the cancer returned… this time almost stage four. It was then and only then, that I took inventory of my life and realized I was not happy and if I only had XX amount of time to live, would this be the life I wanted? The answer was a resounding NO and I filed for divorce and began my healing process. Through this journey, I had picked up so many learnings and tools that I needed to share with others, hence the published book “Where do you spend your heartbeats?” My goal is to have others live a better life WITHOUT the catastrophe. I am now remarried to my wonderful husband Ed and we have a blended family of four children.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Trust the next chapter, because you are the Author.” I love this quote as it is a powerful reminder that we have the power to create our lives. We have the pen in our hand and we are holding the blank book of what is possible
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?
Yes. The first time I had found wetness in my bra and after many tests, I was told I had DCIS (Cancer of the milk ducts). The second time I had known something was off… I had a few tests but nothing was really conclusive… until I found a lump near my clavical. A biopsy and pet scan had proven almost stage 4 cancer.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The first time, the scariest part was being told I needed to have a mastectomy, Just hearing those words gave me shivers down my spine. The second time, the scariest part was needing to have a biopsy on a lump found near my clavicle. The surgeon told me the lump was malignant but they did not know what kind of cancer it was. They sent the biopsy to the lab and the next day Hurricane Sandy (in New Jersey) hit. I needed to wait over two weeks in the dark with no electricity until they could get systems working to analyze the biopsy. These were the scariest two weeks of my life. Waiting, not knowing whether I was going to live or die.
How did you react in the short term?
The first time my short-term reaction was pure denial. I convinced myself I was having cosmetic surgery to get through. The mind has a very powerful way to protect us. The second time, I went numb and then literally took one day at a time. I was very anxious and fearful until the treatment plan was in place. Once we had a plan, I focused on it being a “project” and took one day at a time.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
I used every tool the hospital offered, I went for therapy, yoga, medical massages, visualization and Reiki — I also went to a functional nutritionist and had my entire diet revamped. I looked at where I was spending my heartbeats and modified as needed including high maintenance friends and relationships — I protected my health in any way I could.
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 mother was my wing woman. Whether it was connecting me to the right people or just holding my hand, she was critical to my healing. One other person who was very special to me was my medical massage therapist Dorothy Coyne. I had a huge reaction to one of the chemo treatments and as a result I had a huge rash. She was the only massage therapist who did not turn me away. She took me on rash and all and really helped me heal. Her energetic and spiritual work were magical. I later found out that she used to be in insurance and became a massage therapist working with cancer patients after the loss of her best friend to cancer. Her passion and purpose was to heal. And she did.
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?
WAKE UP AND LIVE THE LIFE YOU DESERVE. MAKE THE CHANGES YOU ARE AFRAID TO MAKE.
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?
Cancer has taught me how strong and resilient I can be. It taught me how worthy I was and that changed everything. It also taught me how precious life is — I make every decision now based on where I want to spend my heartbeats. When I was diagnosed with cancer (the second time) I really viewed my heart beats differently. As a result, I asked myself if I was happy with my life… I was not. This learning gave me the strength to leave an unhealthy marriage and eliminate toxic people who were currently in my bubble. To this day, I am very careful on where and who I spend my heartbeats with.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
I truly believe I went through this experience to help others. Whether it’s through coaching or through the book, I truly believe we are here to help others. I believe (for me) the cancer was a “wake up” call to assess my life and to then help others navigate their own lives. This experience changes a person and I could not “not” pay it forward.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
Many people say “Life begins when treatment ends” meaning that treatment is so debilitating that you cannot enjoy life while in treatment. Although, there is some truth to the debilitating effects from many treatments, it is so critical to enjoy any of the moments while healing. For me personally, I tried to do something every day (based on the energy I had) that I enjoyed as every heartbeat counts. By doing this, you are not playing the “waiting” game to begin your life — I took that time to enjoy any and every moment I could when I felt good. And it made such a difference on my healing path. Whether it was a walk, a good book, a favorite blanket and cup of tea, sneaking in a movie on a random Tuesday when I felt well enough — Every heartbeat counts.
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.
The theme is Protect your Heartbeats and “Everything Counts”
The top five things you Need to Beat Cancer:
- Surround yourself with 100% support — This is not the time to worry about other people’s feelings — You are the CEO of your life and you decide who you surround yourself with. For me personally, I had realized that I had surrounded myself with toxic people including the relationship of my marriage. I knew if I was to heal properly, I needed to take some action.
- Mind/Body/Soul — Everything counts, Pay attention to your thoughts, what you feed your body and what makes you feel good — Remind yourself that in this very moment, you are ok. I relooked at everything including how I nourished my body — I knew that whatever I put in my body either hurt or healed me. As a result (and this was hard), I removed all the unhealthy foods out of my kitchen and stuck to whole foods where possible.
- Take one day at a time. Do not look past this day. If you look too far into the future, you are inviting fear into the conversation. This one is easier said than done, however, I really did quite a bit of “self talk” and reminded myself that today was a gift and I was only going to focus on the day in front of me. Before I knew it, each day turned into a week etc and my treatment was coming to an end.
- Visualization was very powerful for me. Picturing myself healthy and healing. It kept me out of fear and kept me calm which I believe is critical to healing. I created playlists and listened to visualization tapes on a daily basis. I cannot express how much this helped each and every day.
- Do not look for a prognosis on the internet — Every heartbeat is precious and not to be wasted with fear. I made the mistake of googling the cancer and the stats and it was probably one of my worst mistakes. It brought me down such a rabbit hole of fear that took a while to get out of. Anyone I know who is recently diagnosed with cancer I advise to listen to your doctor and do not try to play Dr Google.
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?
A movement I would inspire would be to be the CEO of your body, mind and soul. To pay attention to what your body is telling you, to watch the thoughts you allow in your world and to pay attention to where you spend your heartbeats. We are all here to help each other and a movement to provide these reminders to each other will raise us all up
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. :-)
Wow, are you blessed! Anyone who is part of the Peloton community of instructors. Especially Jenn Sherman and Robin Arzon. The motivation they provide is world class and has helped me on my healthy path of living to this day.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website is www.coachingwithstacey.com. My insta is @coachingwithstacey and I am available for individual and group coaching.
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.