How My Daughter's Cancer Diagnosis Turned me into an Entrepreneur

How My Daughter's Cancer Diagnosis Turned me into an Entrepreneur

I have a secret to share…

I opened my business by accident.

I never intended to be an entrepreneur and if 10 years ago you told me that this is what I would be wildly happy doing – I never would have believed you.

How did I become a successful business owner since 2009 if I never intended to be here? Well – Life kicked me here. Yup, I arrived here through tragedy. This business is a silver lining from a horrible storm.

On April Fools Day in 2009, while everyone else was playing practical jokes on each other, my world shattered. With an urgent phone call from the pediatrician telling me my 3 year old daughter had cancer and I had to get to Sick Kids immediately; my world was never the same.

What followed was 841 consecutive days of chemotherapy during which my daughter endured hundreds and hundreds of procedures to save her life.

My daughter is now 10 and a healthy joyful tween and her little sister Hope is a 4 year old bundle of fun. My husband and I are closer than ever and celebrated 25 years as a couple this month. Words cannot express the gratitude that I have to be able to type those two sentences.

During my daughter’s cancer journey, I had to leave an amazing job and walk away from a very promising career. It was hard to resign but it was crystal clear to me that I was needed at home.

Within the first few weeks, the news that I left my job spread and the phone started ringing with job offers. One very kind and insightful former boss convinced me to take on a small project because it would be good for both my mind and my wallet. I discovered quickly that she was right, it was a helpful coping strategy for me to have some work to escape into for a few hours a week.

Then word got around that I was taking on projects and the phone kept ringing with offers and I gladly accepted them.

A few years ago, I was at a point where I paused and had to decide what I was going to do moving forward. I always thought I would eventually jump back in where I left my career.

That was the point that is dawned on me – I LOVE HAVING MY OWN BUSINESS! I love having great clients who give me diverse projects where I am challenged and feel fulfilled in helping them reach their goals. I love having the flexibility to take my kids to doctor’s appointments. I love not having to commute to work. And the list goes on.

That moment was when I could see that I didn’t need to “get back to my career”. I FOUND my career.

I help for-profit and not-for-profit clients in the health sector with programs and campaigns directed at health consumers, patients, providers and donors. I help build meaningful partnerships that achieve success at a fraction of the cost. The work is challenging and diverse. I get to do everything from health websites, market intelligence, needs assessments, traffic building campaigns, corporate sponsorship and a ton of other interesting projects.

So my silver lining is Stirling Marketing & Communications. “Stirling” is a family name but also a wink to the silver on the cloud of our dark childhood cancer journey.

Through life we will all have dark times that we need to get through. It is hard in the storm to believe anything good will come from it, but yet, there is almost always a silver lining. Sometimes set-backs in our careers are just a zig-zag to get us to where we are really meant to be.

I would love to hear a story where you found a silver lining or how you found resilience when you encountered a set-back. I think we can find hope and strength in sharing these stories with each other.

Sarah Kirk Calderwood is a resilient mom of 2, and owner of Stirling Marketing & Communications.

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