Meet Chrissy Varholak, 2 time breast cancer survivor and read about her journey and her strong faith in God, family and friends.
*Note: The answers to the interview questions will be written in Chrissy’s perspective, but the answers are not direct quotes unless it is surrounded by quotations.
1)What was the proudest moment in your life?
“There’s not one moment that sticks out, but when I think collectively, it’s when my kids do something for other people.” My kids, Colton, Anna, and Ellery, value service heavily. They are very active in our community, our church and organizations through their school, such as Habitat for Humanity and Columbus House. My husband, Mark, and I teach them to “serve because it means something to [them], not because [they] want recognition.” They don’t need a trophy or a certificate for Mark and I to be proud. It’s a proud parenting moment, for sure, and rewarding in and of itself.
2) What was the hardest time in your life and what helped you overcome it?
When I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer and then re-diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, “ the floor [was] ripped out from underneath [me].” You plan your life and think it’s going to go a certain way, then an unexpected obstacle comes into your life and “[you] fear you’re not going to achieve all those plans.” I undoubtedly become a stronger person as I move forward through my cancer journey. I “try to make the best of every day I’m given and learn how to dance in the rain.” My faith helps me achieve a positive mindset. I was raised in a faithful home and Mark and I are raising our children in a faithful home. My strong connection to my church and the community keeps me hopeful. I may have been battling cancer since June 2013, but I believe that “God has a plan” and everything happens for a reason. I will grow from this experience and won’t let my cancer stop me from living a happy and fulfilling life.
3) Who do you look up to: personal and celebrity?
“When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time trying to fit into groups that I didn’t necessarily fit into. I wanted to be popular and be cool. I wanted Sixteen Candles to be my life. That’s not who I was.” I admire my kids for how secure they are in their own skin. They don’t change who they are to get approval from others. “They find people who like them for who they are. All three of them have strong friendships with real people” All 3 of them, at some point in their lives, realized they don’t need to have ‘cool’ friends to have good friends. For a celebrity that I admire, I don’t have one. “I look up to my kids because they’re real and genuine. I’ve learned in my 48 years that I don’t need to look up to someone that I don’t know.” I don’t know a celebrity’s whole story. My admiration for my children is deeper than my admiration would ever be for a celebrity.
4) What does it mean to you to be a feminist?
“To me, it means being someone who advocates for equality for everyone and doing my part to make sure [that girls and women know they can do anything].” With my 2 daughters, I encourage them to speak up and say that it’s 2020 and we are past telling females they aren’t allowed to do things. “There shouldn’t be discrimination for any reason. “Coming from the voice of a woman and also the voice of a mother who tells her 2 daughters there’s nothing they can’t do,” I’m telling you that women are fierce and unstoppable.
5) What’s something you wish you could have told your younger self?
I would tell my younger self “to be myself and that [a real friend is] drawn to you for who you are.” The right ones will come, so don’t try to change yourself for others. Growing up, I bought into the 80s movie cliches, like being the homecoming queen or being the Molly Ringwald of my high school. I wanted to be that so badly. But, there’s only one homecoming queen. “The other 99.9% of people who aren’t the homecoming queen have amazing qualities and we should recognize those people as well.” It’s not a one-size-fits all world.
6) What makes you feel most confident?
I have to admit that I wouldn’t consider myself to be a confident person. I feel most confident, though, when I’m informed. For instance, with my cancer treatment, “being informed and educated makes me feel better about decisions I’m making and conversations I’m having.” I also feel confident when I’m around people who make me feel good about myself. “There’s definitely a difference in my confidence level [like when I’m around one of my best friends] versus when I’m around strangers. Being surrounded by strong people who I love and who love me makes me feel better about myself. [Confidence] is a constant journey. You either work to improve things that you are struggling with or you move on. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about accepting yours.”
7) What are 3 things you value the most?
My family, faith, and friends are what I value most. “[My] family and faith are definitely tied for first because my faith and family are my everything. I can’t choose one over the other...They are so completely interwoven and part of who I am. I couldn’t exist or be who I am without them. My friends are a close second because the friends that I have are practically family.” Ever since first grade, I had 1 or 2 really close friends. I sometimes thought I needed a bigger friend group, but over the years I’ve realized that for me friendships are all about quality, not quantity. “A few good friends who love and support me are more than enough.”
8) What’s the key to raising strong, independent daughters?
“[I encourage] them to be themselves no matter what that is, [whether] it’s quirky or quiet, studious or free spirited. The key in parenting a child is to let them know that you accept them for who they are no matter what.” I tell them to always keep themselves central and their main priority. I tell them to do things that make them happy and not to please someone else. For instance, my daughter, Anna, is interested in physics. “If you want to take science and math classes to be an engineer or if you want to work onsite to be a construction worker, do it!”. I want women to take their passions and turn them into a career without basing it on salary or status. I learned that from my father. He always loved cars, and he built a career and supported his family working on cars. He didn’t make a lot, but he did something he loved. “My dad was probably the happiest man in the world.” In my own career with teaching, it wasn’t always glamorous but it was still my dream job and I loved doing it. With all that said, I think the key to raising strong daughters is to not limit them on what they can and can’t do. I allow my daughters to create their own identities and pursue their passions.
9) If you could make one change or improvement to the world to further gender equality, what would you do/change?
It’s hard to pick just one because there’s so much that could be done to improve the world. “I know what I want the end result to be but I don’t know how to get there. I want every woman and little girl to [be able to] pick up a mirror and see their self-worth [without letting] someone else’s words, actions or condemnations change that. I really wish people could just see themselves the way God sees [them]. God sees us differently than how we see ourselves and our peers. Circling back to the three things I value most, your faith, family and friends are what help you create that image of self-worth and value. [If you’re] surrounded with people who criticize you, [you’ll] keep putting yourself in an environment where you can’t see your self-worth. We all have worth and value.” It’s just a matter of developing the ability and confidence in what you do and with whom you surround yourself to see yourself in a positive way.