Balm Box Founder Liz Benditt named a #WomanOfAction by Susan G. Komen Foundation of Kansas and Western Missouri!!
Liz created The Balm Box- which features functional self-care and gifts for cancer patients.
Liz tells her story in this podcast, and provides excellent perspective for those going through cancer, as well as feedback for their support system.
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I invite you to listen to In the Rising Podcast- a show dedicated to helping others create change and a life that they really want.
"Living the life I want" was a phrase that I heard often while working with clients going through cancer, and so I created this podcast. I also saw that there is a gap in knowledge about cancer, lymphedema and how to manage recovery, so I created Fit after Breast Cancer.
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In Good Health!
Hello and welcome to in the rising podcast. My name is Bettina, and this is the platform I've chosen to talk about living a life that is in alignment with your hopes, your dreams, your goal, and your vision, and basically moving the needle forward, walking away from shame, blame, and using the trauma and experiences that you've gone through to change your life for the life you want to live. And my guest today is Liz bended , a four time cancer survivor turned cancer preneur. I'm really excited for you to hear her story well. So I'm super excited to talk to you today, Liz , um, you reached out that you are a four time cancer survivor turned cancer preneur, and I'm really excited because not many people go through this four times, let alone once or twice. And you know, I get not, everyone gets to see you. I get to see you right now and you have a huge smile on your face. That's up to your eyes. You are definitely in a different place than what someone would think of immediately with four time cancer survivor. How do you feel that you've gotten to this point today?Speaker 3:
Uh, you know, I wish there was a silver bullet, right? It would be so nice to say, well, it's all that chocolate, you know, like it would just be so nice if there was just a , you know, a singular solution. And I don't think that there is one, I think it's a combination of things, right? So first and foremost, I have a phenomenal family. I have a phenomenal, I'm so incredibly lucky. Um, I live in the same city as my parents are both active and healthy. I have a wonderful husband and supportive kids and, you know, in a, in a really phenomenal friend community. So let's start with I'm emotionally supported really well. Um, and I can't even imagine going through the things I went through, if you don't have that emotional support. So we'll start with that. Like that's the baseline. Um, and then from there, I think other things that are really lucky about my experience, I mean, in retrospect, I've been diagnosed with cancer four times before I was 50. So I was young from a cancer perspective. And a lot of times, you know, when we see a lot of statistics about cancer, various cancers, they include everyone that's ever had that cancer. And if you look at it, the vast majority are over 60. So when they, when you look at treatments and outcomes, you're looking at a population of predominantly senior citizens. So , um, I was very lucky in some ways to go through all of my treatments when I was young and healthy , um, because it only gets harder as you get older, you know, we all, you're a physical therapist. We all kind of fall apart. Um, it's sad, but true time makes it all dry . So I'll start, you know, so that's the second one. The third one is I do think , um, and certainly over the course of my cancers, I got better at this. I learned to be my own advocate and I see so many patients that treat their doctors like medical overlords and, and what's even more frustrating is there, there's a P there's a portion of doctors don't really like to be medical overlords. And , um, and that just doesn't work for me. I want to be , um, I want to have a conversation and, and I do think the more I got cancer and realized it's treatable, it's not a death sentence. It's often treatable. Then it becomes a conversation about what is the combination of surgeries, treatments, both , you know, what's going to be palliative, what's going to cause you know , side effects, what's going to, what is going to give me the best , um, longterm outcome and comfort life outcome . And, and I do think that so many patients, especially if they've only had one cancer and I don't mean to be belittling of that on your first cancer, the only thing you think about, or at least I thought about, and I see in the cancer community is you think about whatever it's going to take to give me a long life. And so as a result , um, even though a treatment or a procedure or medication might , um, extend your life a little bit or have slightly better odds, but it gives you , you know , a two-mile long list of side effects to me that that trade-off is not worthwhile, but I, over time and ever after having survived cancers, I have more confidence in my ability to overcome it. And so then as a result, I'm more careful and thoughtful about what I agree to put my body through. So , um , and I don't mean to sound at all. Like I am , um, dismissive of traditional medical care. I love my oncologist. My radiation oncologist is phenomenal. My surgeon, I mean, I am all about, you know, maximizing the traditional medical treatment . So I am not like what's her face who is out there pitching coffee enemas as an alternative to chemo. Sadly, I think that that's not real. Um, wouldn't it be great if it was, but I th the medical literature, I believe in science and , and all of that, but I do think that sometimes we get really focused on what is going to give us the longest life possible, but not think through the most comfortable life. Um, and so I've gotten better at balancing those two things. And as a result, you know, you can see, I feel pretty healthy. I think I'm good. I just had my five-year checkup and I'm cancer free for five years, which puts me in a whole other category, which is pretty awesome feel . It's a good feeling like I made good choices, but I feel good about that because I made those choices and they weren't made for me. Does that make sense? So, I mean, it's a combination, right?Speaker 2:
I'm really glad you pointed out number three, which is be your own advocate. Um , just from my side of the fence , uh, hearing people that I would work with my clients would often just refer, well, someone said this, someone said that, what do you think? And ultimately, every practitioner may have a lot more knowledge about X, Y, and Z, then the next person, which is why you labeled all those different people in your journey, but none of them have ever been you, right? You have lived all of your life in your body and advocating for yourself, asking questions and learning more what's important for you , um, is so critical.Speaker 3:
It really is. I mean, the best example I can give is when my third cancer was not life-threatening it was basal cell carcinoma. Um, what sucks is that it was on the very edge of my, the bridge of my nose. And , um , you can't see very well. The lighting is very excellent in this video, but , um, I am very freckled. And so , um, th the spot that they had to remove was bigger than my face, realistically, to cover. So traditionally, what a plastic surgeon would do is they would take a chunk of skin from your neck and relocate it to your nose. But for me, it would look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer. It would just look crazy. Like I would look at a patch on my face. And so then they had to look at alternative ways to close the gap on my face and the first plastic surgeon , um, I was referred to by my dermatologist, but someone in her own practice , um, red flag, number one, and then , um, and he had recommended , um, and he didn't even recommend, he just said, here's what we're gonna do. Like , there's no conversation. Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna, we're gonna cut a line from the tip of your cheekbone and draw it all the way down to your chin. So I was going to have a big C shaped scar on my face, and then that was going to allow them to move the skin around, to cover the nose. And I thought, so I'm going to be disfigured. And he was like, well, yeah, but, you know, it'll, it'll, it'll, it won't be that bad. And so of course, I, you know, Googled the crap out of that, and that's a pretty hideous scar and it doesn't go away and people look kind of square Facey . And so I thought, is there another option? This isn't, you know, I've been through a melanoma melanoma, man . They got to get that out fast. There's no time to second guess, but basal cell it's, you know, it's not fast growing and you got a sec to kind of figure out your plan. So I went to a second , um, dermatologist on the recommendation of, you know, friends and family , um , the guy that was known for a good faces, he does faces faceless in the community. And I went to him and he had this much more bananas procedure where he would create the scar along the shadow line of my nose. And it was a two-part procedure and it was super painful. Like, don't get me wrong. I had to suffer for it. However, I don't have a scar on my face. Like it's, it was so worth that. And I, and so a, even though it was painful and I was really, you know, I don't want to minimize it. I was in a lot of pain. I had a hard time driving. I was running around with a giant, you know, patch on my nose for a month. Um, everyone kept asking if I was doing a nose job, super annoying. However, when it was all said and done, that was so much easier to overcome because I actively chose it. Does that make sense? As opposed to having somebody tell me, this is how we're going to do it, you know, like I , and sometimes the right, I mean, don't get me wrong. It could have been that, that was the only way to do it. And if that was it, then I would have separate through my scar and I would have smiled over it. And it would have been fine, but it's always worth checking . Right? Like be your own advocate. See if there's another option, if something doesn't feel right. Ask, right.Speaker 2:
And go, go with your gut. And you also said that you developed the bomb box, and I would love for you to talk a little bit because your background story that I know that the listeners don't know yet, it sounds so familiar because I've heard it from so many of my clients, like I'm looking for something I'd love for you to kind of go into that.Speaker 3:
Well, so my fourth cancer was breast cancer and at that point I , I wasn't freaking out. Right. It was good. Um, in in fact, if anything though , it's almost deterrent. So I, I was going through radiation treatment and when I was going through all of the pre radiation meetings, they were like, you're a runner. You're still healthy. You're so young. It was really nice to be told. You're still young when you're in your mid forties. Like I was like, oh, stop. And , um, so I had planned all of my radiation appointments for 7 45 in the morning with no, the only change to my schedule. It was that my husband was going to be in charge of running the morning, kids, school carpool. And other than that, I would go to radiation and then I would go to work. And then I planned to cancel nothing. Right. So I was still troop leader for my daughter's girl scout troop. And I was working full time as an executive at a commercial manufacturing company. And , um, I had a volunteer commitments out the wazoo and, and I did not plan to stop. Right. Because this was going to be no big deal. And I was so young and I was so healthy and , um, the, oh , I didn't do anything. The only thing they told me I needed before I started, this was a aluminum free deodorant. That was it. Um, and so I went to sprouts and I shopped the holistic deodorant aisle, and I spent $200 on holistic deodorant. None of which actually wasn't anti per sprint. So that was a fun trial and error. And then , um, but I, it was all kind of like, well, if this is my worst complaint, that I can't find a good aluminum free deodorant, I'm getting off easy. Right. Um, and what happened after about two weeks? Uh , run the second week mark? Um, I ran a 10 K , um, and I don't know if it was a , the running of the 10 K um, that's about six miles and like a little race. Um, but I was a little overheated and I could not get the burning to stop. Like I, all of a sudden I was in a lot of pain because it never occurred to me to slow down. Right. It didn't occur to me that like, maybe this wasn't the best idea. No one has oncology practice told me to slow down. They were like, great, go live your life, make , go run. Good for you. Woo survivors. Yay. And , um, so yeah, I was in a lot of pain and then that was a turning point where all of a sudden, I couldn't stop the burning. I was in a lot of pain. It was very debilitating. All of a sudden the fatigue kicked in. I felt like a weight was on my head and back all the time. Um, any, like then I started having all these. So then you realize you need stuff, right? Like you were saying, so the stuff you need, I couldn't wear a regular bra. Um, I had a lumpectomy. I did not miss Stephanie. And so as a result, you're supposed to be able to go back to your regular bras, vomit, regular bros, or underwire bras. And you can't really see this on the podcast, but these girls need a bra. I don't know that physique where you can just run around with that one. That's nothing . Um, so what, so all of a sudden, of course I need wire free bras that aren't too tight, but just tight enough. And so now I'm like on Google, on Amazon shopping for a bra alternative and I'm , you know, paying twenty-five dollars, overnight shipping fees for $12 items, you know, I'm just , and , and luckily at least I am in a position where financially that wasn't going to ruin us, but plenty of other people aren't , um, and so on, and this is everything from the bras to like the weight of my arm really hurt my side. And so I was constantly looking for a pillow or some kind of lever that would keep my arm, the weight of my arm off of my chest, or like even just the weight of clothing hurt. And so , um , then I was, it was in the middle of winter in Kansas, by the way, it's cold. And I was looking for like really lightweight clothes, but there were also long sleeve, like, you know, these like really specific requirements. And then , um , look the seatbelt wearing a seatbelt. It shakes right against your tender part of your chest. So it had like a specialty pillow that you stuck in between your seatbelt to separate. So there's , I mean, all this stuff, oh , oh , ice packs, right. Ice packs that aren't going to leak through your clothes cause you need them all the time. Um , they say, you know, however many hours on and off, but that's whatever we all just went on all the time, you know, this right , um, lotions that are actually that are high, like high absorption lotions so that they don't stick to your clothes. I mean, so just everything, all this stuff. And I was like, where is radiation relief.com? And it did not exist. It just doesn't exist. It's not there. So , um, and the other fun thing front back that I've learned since then is that , um, Google deprioritizes product listings related to healthcare searches and it prioritizes content. And I think that's in it's intentional. Right? They're trying to make sure that they don't miss mistakenly , um, advertise, give advertisers the opportunity to break HIPAA laws. Right. So I mean, it it's, it's not evil. It's, it's just, and the unintended consequence though, is that as , um , someone searching for this stuff and looking for these things and searching for these keywords, all I'm getting are just generic articles from like web MD and MD Anderson. And I don't need to read about radiation treatment generically. I need a lotion that will be palliative for radiation burns. Right. Like, and that's what was so hard to find. And I thought this, it should, there's an opportunity here. I'm in marketing. I mean, this shouldn't be this hard. Right. Um, and then, you know, then you buckle that against all these friends and family want to do something right. They want to, they want to be helpful. And what they do mostly is bring food. Um, and don't get me wrong. It's great. It's really nice to have everyone fed. Um, but you know, like you don't get to choose your own menus and you're kind of like stuck with whoever and you get lots and lots of lasagna. And I don't know, like, again, I don't want to complain because it's so nice and well meaning , and no one wants to be the, right. That's like, that's so much free food, but it's not the best. Right. It's just not , um, what would have been helpful is ice packs that don't leak through my clothes and burn bonds and , um, you know, childcare and laundry, right? Like those are the things that you actually need. And so , um, I had this thought, well, one self-care , shouldn't be so hard and two , gosh, wouldn't it be great if gifting were functional? And then I thought, well, why can't that be the same thing? Right. Um, why, why can't I buy myself a care package? I can. So that was the, that was the ideation behind the bottom box. Um, and then, you know, and I , I, it's been in the back of my mind since 2017. Um, but of course, you know, life gets in the way and you just, and there is an enormous pressure to just get over it, right. Just move on. And , um, and I did, and, but it was always just nagging me. And then the beauty of the pandemic for me was it gave me all of a sudden this like super crazy busy lifestyle does brown to a halt. And all of a sudden there was no volleyball to drive to or orchestra concerts or tennis lessons or whatever. Right. Like, I mean, all of a sudden our calendar was free and gave me this amazing opportunity to really invent like investigate. Is this a real business idea? And so I'm in marketing. So the first thing I do is I write a survey , um, and the survey had two paths. So one path when , um , if you've had cancer in the past or, and , and, or done radiation or chemo, you know, you , it takes you to on one ticket on one path. And if you ever purchased a gift for someone who has cancer in the past 18 months, which if you don't another , um, and I sent it to friends and family and posted to Facebook and LinkedIn, and I'm thinking, okay, if I get like, you know, 50 responses that would be just directional and helpful, it went viral and I collected almost 600 responses. And what was amazing is that people were giving me such thoughtful, really good, granular feedback, who I have no idea who they are. Right. Like they're friend of a friend of a friend, like at that point. And , um, so that was incredible. So a couple of like fun facts and learnings from that survey one over 70% of adults have purchased a gift for a cancer patient in the past 18 months, 70%. Like that blew my mind. I thought it would be like 20, right? Like I had no idea it was so common. Um, and then the second, when you ask cancer patients to rank order, but they didn't rank order, they had to rate , um , a series of, you know, at the time I was, I had like 50 items, but I said, okay, here are different things that could go into cancer care package. And , um, the top five items were palliative. They were functional ice packs, lotion, lip, balm, essential oils , um , like, I mean, really useful step, right? Um, the bottom performers, the absolute worst performing stuff, kicking cancer, tote bags, kicking cancer, coffee, mugs, worry stones, books of inspirational poetry. And if you look at like the majority of these cancer care packages promote for the most part sold in like Etsy, what you see is a lot of the kicking cancer tote bag stuff, and I'm telling you, nobody wants it. And yet that's what being bought. Like, that's crazy. I thought there's that market opportunity, right? There's an opportunity to fix something that's broken. Um, and , and that was the Genesis.Speaker 2:
That is a cool, that is, and that's great that you're , you know, I think things happen for a reason that you're in marketing, you know, how to go about some answers to where this this need is. And, you know, as I'm listening as a physical therapist yeah . I knew week two, it's going to be different. You know? And, and that's where I think also feeling this community of, of people that you're not being told you're not alone is not always helpful. It makes you feel more lonely, but , um, that these are, we're not being told. We're not telling people that a, B and C are likely to happen as an 80% of the time. So you don't have to be afraid of having this happen, but you can have those lotions that are Roma being prepared helps you deal with pain. And instead of the shock of having it happen and being unprepared, it perpetuates fear.Speaker 3:
I am a planner. I am just like, I've got my list. And I plan, and we go on vacation and there's like checkmarks of things to do. And , um, we were, we were in Montana and , uh , to go visit a national monument. And there were things around there that I had written down that we should go look at as well. And it was, it was a bit of a long drive and we got in the car and got a little bit of I'm like, oh no, I forgot my list. How are we going to have fun? And the kids just made so much fun and they like, how could we possibly have funded that a list? So , yeah, as a planner, like, just like you said, it was, if I know to plan ahead for something I could , you know , I can be prepared for it. Um, but being told that I'm young and healthy and I'm going to sail through, then it puts pressure on me to be young and healthy and to sail through, and then feel that much worse when I'm not sailing through. And I'm struggling. Um, and not really wanting very much to not show that I'm struggling and I think, and, or ask for help because I feel like, well, gosh, I'm , if this is people must have it worse than me, because I'm supposed to be the no big deal patient. Right. Like, I think that that's the hard part. So I, I know, I think that if you have a box ahead of time sitting in front of you, it's all these items. And by the way, there's nothing like that says you can't use. I mean , I've got this phenomenal lotion. Um , I had a , I mean, it was super fun. One of the things, you know, as the planner and the researcher, and when I was in my like deep Google research, I ended upon some , um, medical journal articles. Cause I was looking for what is the ingredient that is going to, that I'm looking for in a lotion that will be a burn, right? That will be pet level helped me with my burns cause it's the burning sensation that was just so difficult. And it turns out that there's actually some really interesting medical research on the use of Kellen doula oil as , um, as something that helps burn victims. It helps take the sting out of burn for burn victims. And so then of course I'm gonna have with that information. Now I'm looking at all these different lotions that have Kellen doula oil in them and what each one has the highest concentration of killing doula . And I finally find a really fabulous lotion and I, and it's so expensive, it's so expensive. It was like $45 for this little bottle. And it was worth every single penny and it was amazing and it made such a difference. And then all along, I was thinking to myself, this is crazy. How come I didn't have this from the beginning? Like, I'd be slathering myself with this stuff. I would've bought 14 bottles of it. Um, and so I shared that information with a friend who actually has a holistic organic skincare line and she created a botanical burn bomb for the bomb box based specifically on that feedback. And it has the highest concentration of Carolyn doula oil. And it even got to test it with some radiation patients and they were all like blown away by how great it was. Um, and so I'm very, like, I'm very proud of that, right? That's a great collaboration. It's super fun to work with another small women on business, on, you know, the local. Right . All of that's positive, but that it's thoughtful, right. That it's based on research that it's thoughtful, that it's not just a bunch of stuff that smells right. It makes a difference. Yeah. It was really carefully curated and created. That's amazing.Speaker 2:
That's really amazing. And so you have also , um, you know, the bomb box.com and you can sign up for that. And then I was not, you know, can you kind of describe , I was not fully clear because I looked at it and I was so into reading about it that I did not fully get this answer before this podcast. Okay. Do you, as a, as a person signing up, do they get one box? Do they get two boxes? Like one,Speaker 3:
No, it's such a good. When I originally thought about the bomb box, I was thinking it would be a short term subscription process, right. So that you could get boxes over the course of your treatment. But then as I was developing and curating the product line, I thought, well, what if someone just wants a one-off box? And if they want to gift a box, which box did they gift? And if I'm a gift buyer, do I know exactly where my friend or family is in their treatment plan? Maybe not. Right. And so you can order a three box radiation subscription product , or you can buy singular boxes. And then my most popular product is the cancer care package, which is just the generic, all-purpose a little bit of something for every stage in your cancer journey box. Um, and so, and , and they're all good depending on where you are right in your journey. Um, and then we are , I don't know when this podcast will lunch , but , um , we're really close to launching. So maybe it's like, no , um, our chemotherapy , um, subscription product line, which then also you'll be able to purchase pieces of an individual boxes. Um , if you just want a one-time like , if all you're doing is suffering, for example, from nausea or like neuropathy, we have the love, the nixing nausea box in the neuro box. But if you want this subscription package that kind of covers the whole gamut of chemotherapy side effects, then there'll be up to like a five box subscription. So again, with some amount of ability to kind of , um, to personalize it, right. So if you want, depending on what your treatment plan is, you can say, I want this many boxes and I want them to stay this many weeks apart. Right. Um, so I'm trying to kind of provide that flexibility so that we're very excited about that also based on research, right? So I'm big, big fan of research before we invest in a new product line because it's risky. Um, but yeah, I'm very excited about it .Speaker 2:
Sometimes you have conversations with people that, you know, are changing the world right now, and we just don't know how big this is going to be, but you know, it's big. And that's how I felt with having this conversation with Liz. She is making a difference to help women as they're going through their struggle, especially with radiation, what to do, what gift to have, how do you give something that is valuable to the person at that moment and not that lasagna and anything else isn't valuable, but we need other things out there. And so she's all of her marketing experience to market to people today. So if this podcast was beneficial to , I encourage you to share it with someone that you think it would really help. I also encourage you to leave a review. It does so much for this podcast. It puts this into the ears and the network and the search of balls for people that really need the sort of information. And until next time let's get building one another upSpeaker 1: