Editors note: In all of the public health work that I do and the hundreds of presentations I have given, whenever I ask the question “is there anyone in this room who has not been impacted by cancer – either yourselves or a loved one?”– I have yet to meet anyone to raise their hands. Some of us have been touched very, very personally by cancer. What happens when it is your mother? With September being a month of observances for ovarian cancer, it’s appropriate that one of our interviews is with Angela Coffey, whose mother had ovarian cancer.
NOU: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Angela, and how cancer has touched your life, particularly with your mother.
AC: I am a wife, mother, and registered nurse. But before any of these I’m a daughter. My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997 at age 67. The world stopped turning that day.
NOU: What are some of the unique challenges your mother’s diagnosis brought to your life as an adult child of a beloved parent with cancer?
AC: There are a number of challenges one faces when someone you love faces a diagnosis of cancer, but I truly had to reach deep inside myself to find the strength I didn’t know I had until God revealed it to me. I had to be strong and supportive not only to my mother but my whole family. They turned to me for confirmation that the medical decisions being made were the best choices. I had to be a nurse and a daughter at the same time.
NOU: Our Magazine is called NOU (NEW+YOU). When a loved one has cancer, it isn’t just that person who is impacted. We, as co-survivors, are deeply impacted. Because of your cancer journey as a co-survivor with your mother’s cancer, what is NOU and different in your life because of that cancer experience?
AC: I now have a deeper appreciation of life. Not just a physical breathing person but a life. I feel I don’t take the gift God has given us and allowed us to enjoy for granted. We never know what tomorrow, or for that matter the next minute will bring. Be thankful. Always.
NOU: What do you miss the most about your precious mother? Would you be willing to share one of your favorite memories?
AC: My mother loved cooking. Besides just every day meals, on holidays my mother would cook and bake beginning 2 to 3 days before. She would make 4 to 5 pies, 2 to 3 cakes, in addition to the traditional turkey, ham and fixings. I don’t know how many she expected to feed but she probably could have fed the whole neighborhood! Needless to say, everyone had plenty and lots of leftovers. I guess Christmas was my favorite memory, The house always smelled wonderful with a cedar tree in the living room for our Christmas tree. It’s still my favorite Christmas tree to this day.
NOU: You are a very accomplished businesswoman along with your husband, David. Tell us a little about your business and why you do what you do.
AC: Thank you! My husband and I own and operate Covenant Air in Springhill, Chattanooga and Knoxville. We specialize in radon testing and mitigations, but offer more services to help improve indoor air quality. Not only has ovarian cancer affected our family, but lung cancer also. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. My sister was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 50, and we are on a mission to educate and encourage everyone to test their homes.
NOU: Sadly, your mother was not the only time you have been touched by cancer. Can we chat again in November – given all of the focus on lung cancer that month – about lung cancer and more about radon, your business, and how we all need to be more aware of radon?
Yes, I would love to. The more people learn of Radon gas and lung cancer, the more lives we will help save.