One week after launching her life coaching business in 2017,  Penny Casselman was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had to put her business on hold. This is her story and she is resilient.

Trigger Warning: The Global Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult. The listener’s discretion is advised.

About the Guest:

Penny Casselman, MBA, is a certified life coach who helps professional women reimagine their lives. Her clients have learned to rebuild their confidence, land their dream job, create an exciting life in a new city, and more. Penny brings over two decades of professional experience navigating corporate America to her clients. After surviving and thriving beyond a genetically driven breast cancer diagnosis, she’s passionate about helping her clients evolve because they shouldn’t wait for a life-changing event to create a life that excites.

Penny’s expertise has been featured in Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, and she’s appeared on The Courage Wolf, Also in Pink, and The Fearless & Successful podcasts. She’s also the author of an inspirational and humorous memoir, How To Get A Free Boob Job (Balboa Press).

When she’s not laser-focused on her clients, you’ll find her kicking back by gathering ingredients to shake and savor the latest craft cocktail.

Links

https://www.pennycasselman.com/

https://www.instagram.com/penny_casselman/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/pennycasselman/ https://www.facebook.com/penny.casselman/

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Transcript
Blair Kaplan Venables:

trigger warning, the Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult, the listeners discretion is advised.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Hello friends, welcome to radical resilience, a weekly show where I Blair Kaplan Venables have inspirational conversations with people who have survived life's most challenging times. We all have the ability to be resilient and bounce forward from a difficult experience. And these conversations prove just that, get ready to dive into these life changing moments while strengthening your resilience muscle and getting raw and real. Welcome back to another episode of radical resilience. It's me, Blair Kaplan Venables, and I'm here today to talk about all things resilience. I'm here today with my friend Penny Penny Casselman MBA. She's a certified life coach who helps professional women reimagine their lives. Her clients have learned to rebuild confidence land, their dream jobs, create an exciting life, a new city and more. She's absolutely phenomenal. I've known her for a couple years, her expertise has been featured in authority magazine Thrive global, and she's appeared on the courage Wolf, also in pink, and the fearless and successful podcasts. She's also the author of an inspirational and humorous memoir called How To Get A Free boob job. How To Get A Free boob job, everyone, but it's not what you think. I'm super excited to introduce to you my friend coming in from Cleveland. Do you say Cleveland? Yeah, Cleveland, Ohio. Penny. Hi.

Penny Casselman:

Hello, thank you, player so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I'm so excited that this is happening. Okay, so Penny, you've like you've had a lot of situations in your life where you've had to flex your resilience muscle. And you know, I obviously your book is one example of that. But going back to your childhood, you've had to be resilient. Like why don't we just want to share your story? Yeah,

Penny Casselman:

absolutely. So when you asked me to come on, I thought, oh, yeah, the you know, the most recent thing I thought it was, course I had cancer, I had breast cancer. So big, big resilience piece needed for that. And then I started reflecting and going, Okay, wait a minute, this is a muscle that I have flexed numerous times throughout my life. When I was eight, I lost my mom to breast cancer. And so certainly, that was a time I flex my muscle but I was quite little, so I wasn't fully cognitively developed. But then I got, I've been downsized. Not once, not twice, but three times from corporate America. I've been divorced, I've had cancer. And most recently, I lost my grandmother to COVID. And so, you know, thinking about resilience? That muscle is probably bigger than any other muscle on my body. At this point, so

Blair Kaplan Venables:

yeah, wow. Well, thank you so much like for sharing all of those things, going all the way back to age eight,

Penny Casselman:

Yeah.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Do you Okay, so your mom passed away from breast cancer? And you had breast cancer? Yes. Were there similarities in the journeys that like she had? And you had? And also, can you walk us through? Like, is it something that you often thought about? Like, was the possibility of you having breast cancer in the back of your mind? Your whole life?

Penny Casselman:

Absolutely, yes to all. So when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was back in the 70s. And that was far before they had any type of insight into genetics, into treatments that actually made sense and treatments that address different types of cancer. I'd like to tell everybody that cancer is like a Jenga game, right? Cancer gets thrown around as this word that seems like it's the same thing, but my Jenga might have piece three and seven missing and yours has piece 15 And so when my mom had cancer, they just didn't understand how to treat it. Fast forward to when I was diagnosed. They sent me to genetic counseling to get my I'm results and found that I had inherited a defective gene from my mom, which, you know, just made my journey a little bit more complex than what I had first thought I was going to have to face. So I guess that's really when my resilience muscle was put to the test because I thought I was just going to be dealing with breast cancer. And suddenly, I had to face additional surgeries and additional things to deal with because I had that defective gene. So I just put my head down and focused on what I could control.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah. And you just actually said something so important. You focused on what you could control?

Penny Casselman:

Yeah. Oh, yeah. So powerful Penny,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

like, so what was it in that in that time and space that you could control?

Penny Casselman:

So I quickly learned that I had. First let me back up. I'm a type A person. I like checklists, I like to get things done. I like to move things forward. And I gotta tell you, when you're going through chemo, at least for me, and all of these treatments, and drugs and surgery, your body cannot wake up and start ticking off boxes on a to do list it. I needed to nap, I had to learn to listen to my body. And really give myself grace. And so as soon as I read, I mean, I still remember I went into the doctor. And it was two weeks after a major surgery. And I looked at him, I said, I am still taking two naps a day. And he kind of leaned in and said you didn't just have six hours of surgery 14 days ago. You know that? Right? So I was like, Oh, yeah. Okay. So then I realized, I'm gonna let the medical doctors do what they do best. Right? They tell me to do something, I'm going to do it. I'm going to listen, I'm gonna tick those boxes. But I've got to be soft with myself and graceful. And if I need an app, I take an app. If I want to go for a walk, I go for a walk. If I don't, I don't. So I had to institute that level of self care. Which was hard because I like I said, I just in my life, I just want to do doo doo.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, and I think that's really important too. Because like, as someone else who is energized by checking off things on my list, you have to listen to your body. And I think it's also about, you can still get up and check things off your list. It's just like, not as fast. Yes, it's not as fast or your list changes. And maybe it's a couple of things than a nap and a couple of things in a nap. And you know, your body needs to sleep. And I think that has to go with any illness or any anything mental or physical, like sleep is one of the best medicines. And it's actually one of the tools on how to strengthen your resilience muscle. Yes, love sleep. I'm actually thinking I need a nap right now.

Penny Casselman:

I will get that reward when we are done

Blair Kaplan Venables:is is interesting, because so:Penny Casselman:

Yes, yes. I am still taking a pill on a daily basis. Although I am coming up, this is so hard for me to say believe not say but believe that. I've been on this pill for almost five years. And depending on how the recent data comes in, I may be able to say goodbye to this pill or the data may say no, you should stay on it five more years. So that's really the last remnant. This at this point when I have meetings scheduled with my doctors, which I will have the rest of my life. It's just like, Hey, how are you? Oh, I love your shoes. You know, how are ya? How's everything go? It's just it's so not so much about me anymore. It's

Blair Kaplan Venables:

it's yeah. Wow, you're so brave. And I and you wrote a book. Okay, so you wrote a book about how to get a free boob job and like, it's a humorous memoir,

Penny Casselman:

is as you can tell by the title i i certainly approached my entire, and I call it an adventure, my cancer adventure because to me, every time I thought about having cancer being this journey, it just did not resonate with me it was just too passive. And like this was an adventure. There's so many times where I was surprised by like, the time I could not open the jar of jam. It was a brand new jar, and I could not open it. Because of the trauma from surgery that I had had, obviously on my chest. I can open jars now by myself, but this girl you have, but in them I need that jar my biatch it's a safe okay. So, so yeah, it was, it was very much the adventure I never planned. Like if you had said penny on your set on your vision board, is it anywhere in your knowledge that you want to do a book? I would have said no, no, I'm not a writer. But what I found was through providing updates to people, because I, I quickly in the beginning realized I can't talk on the phone, I would lose my voice, I wouldn't have the mental capacity to have that many conversations. So my updates to even family members came through written written for him. And I was starting to get so many voicemails or and things back saying, oh my god, I was crying, I was laughing. I didn't know which I should be doing when I'm reading your updates. And then someone suggested you know what should really put this in a book, you know, it could help someone else. And one of my favorite quotes is by Morgan Harper Nichols. And it goes, tell the story of the mountain you climbed. It could be this, it could be someone else's Survival Guide. And so that's how I embraced self publishing my book was, I'm going to tell my adventure. And if it give someone else, even a piece of resilience in their own life, in their own journey through cancer, or any, you know, unexpected health, health issue that they face, then it will have been worth all the blood sweat and tears that went into

Blair Kaplan Venables:

and Bucha book and Bucha and Bucha. As well I love the end, you know, getting to know you like you have a really great humor, like it's kind of a dry humor, and I really appreciate it. I'm someone who puts a lot of humor to the, you know, in the dark side of life. I mean, I've just been navigating the craziest like few years with my husband, and like the Death Parade. And my sister and I have like this really funny humor about everything that we've went through. And, you know, I think that's a coping mechanism like to have the humor and like the feelings and really express in whatever way you feel like you need to express it. And you're doing it for you. You're not doing it for anyone else. And the fact that you're sending these updates, and they weren't moving people. And then you put them in a book and your book is helping people. Yeah, that's amazing. That's amazing. So congratulations, like, that's cute. How do you think okay, so you mentioned that you lost your grandmother to COVID I'm really sorry about that, like, that is so hard, like losing a grandparent losing someone to COVID Probably, you know, just like it's like a shit sandwich. And yeah, how do you think going through what you went through with breast cancer prepared you to navigate the loss of your grandma

Penny Casselman:

with COVID That's, that's a fantastic question, Blair. If I just reflecting here really quick, I I think it has to do with embracing your mortality. And maybe you can relate to this. I don't know. But, you know, we're all going to die. It doesn't matter how much money you have. It doesn't matter what your job is. And it's nothing that you can fully prepare for, and I think staring before I got my diagnose the stage of my breast cancer, right? Because when they found it, I had no idea if it was stage one, stage four, if I had three months to live if I possibly had the rest of my life, it was stage one, when it finally came back, but in that gap of time, I just sat and thought, Okay, it's common for all of us at some point. How can I make the most of to day to day? Because even though I had cancer, I could still get hit by a bus. Right? I mean, there. There's no no rhyme or reason.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

To? Yeah, yeah, I got it. Right. So no rhyme or reason, and we don't know what's going to happen. Yeah, we know that eventually we die.

Penny Casselman:

Yes. Yes. And boy, when you when you can wake up almost every day and remind yourself of that. Talk about being resilient and greeting each morning with a level of gratitude that you maybe had never embraced to that level before. is profound. You know, and I know that you have talked about gratitude. A lot. I love the guy.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, you know? Okay, so like your grandma passed away. You didn't know if you're gonna live or die. I mean, like, you knew you're gonna eventually die. Right? Like, eventually you die. But with enhancer, you just don't have severity of it. And like, yeah, I have never been diagnosed with cancer, but I watched my mom not feel good push for tests, push, push for tests learned she had cancer was told you're gonna be okay. You'll get through it to being told you have two weeks left to live to die a couple days later. And I'll never forget, she looked at me right when she found out she only like, had a couple weeks left. And she's like, I'm in so much pain. I can't fight this. Like she let herself let go. But you fought and you were, you know, in the earlier stages. But I think when something like that happens, it just changes your perspective on life. Yeah. How do you find that you're showing up in life differently now.

Penny Casselman:

I definitely have to remind myself, when which sounds dismissive slightly, but this is what I find. I'm such a doer that I get things done. I tick off the list. And I never celebrate the things that I've accomplished.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Same z's. Right. It's a terrible habit.

Penny Casselman:

It's terrible. Because I am not kidding you. I will. My book. People, even to this day are like, Oh, my God, you wrote a book. I'm like, Yeah, I wrote a book. Yes, you can write a book too. You know, like,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I gotta go write a book. Yeah, I had cancer. I survived it and wrote a book like big will up. But it's like, actually, no, it is big work. But yeah, it's a double big warp.

Penny Casselman:

And so it's interesting that you that, you know, you say how do I live differently? Part of it is reminding myself what I've gone through, because I am so quick to just, Okay, done. It's in the rearview mirror, move ahead. It's like, no, let's really embrace what we have. Overcome. Right, and put things in perspective. And yeah, have massive gratitude for where we are and where we came from. And so, that is something I try to remind myself every day, you know, because it's, it's just so easy to forget. It's so easy for me to just push it behind me. Yeah, it's

Blair Kaplan Venables:

like and it's like, you shouldn't just be like, you know, on the Ferris Bueller's that quote, like, if you don't stop every once in my life passes you by that's not the quote. I'm very bad at remembering quote. Unless it's from Empire records. I know almost all the quotes but but like, if you don't stop to celebrate those moments, they just passed by. Yeah. What are you doing now to celebrate? Like, how did you celebrate that book? Like how are you celebrating your accomplishments now so you're not just letting them pass? spy,

Penny Casselman:

you know what that has definitely. And I'll use journey for that. It's not an invention journey for me on learning to embrace and celebrate what I've done. Because for too many years, probably up until I had cancer, I probably never celebrated much at all. It was just done on to the next thing. And having gone through cancer, realizing mortality has given me that insightful reflection that okay, yeah, you do need to celebrate more. And I'm finally giving myself permission to celebrate.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

And so let's talk about what is the next goal you're about to accomplish? And how are you celebrating? And

Penny Casselman:

yeah, so I just am on the heels of winning a speaking competition on

Blair Kaplan Venables:

applause, everyone.

Penny Casselman:

Yeah, on the topic of impact, I beat out 100 other speakers to take that distinction. And I am now headed to Toronto, Canada, Welcome my friends in the north. Love it in November, to compete for Grand Slam champion. And very excited the theme is evolution. And I have always when I close my eyes, and pictured myself, what are you doing in 10 years? What are you doing in five years? My vision has always been, I am on stage. I am delivering a message that inspires and motivates people to celebrate where they have come from and expect excitement in their future.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Okay, I love that. First of all, okay, so excited for you to come up to Canada. I wish I was on the east coast because I am not. I'm on the other side. But okay, so this is a huge accomplishment because you're you when you close your eyes, you see yourself on stage. Yeah. And you're you're doing it, you're making it happen. So when you are notified that you won,

Penny Casselman:

yeah, did you celebrate? I went out with some girlfriends and toasted the occasion with some bubbles. Yeah, because I love a good craft cocktail. So I am very excited to go do that. Yeah, and I just moving forward with this next round of, or this next competition that I'm in, I have been so much better at giving myself grace in preparation. Because I incorporate America coming up through there was I put so much pressure on myself of every minute of every day to do it faster, to do it better. And sometimes you gotta let go to let it come in. And I have certainly just like when I was listening to my body, take a nap when you're tired, and you're going through cancer, like it's okay. I'm at a point now where I'm embracing that for other aspects of my life. Like, it's okay to slow down and not put the pressure on yourself to do do do go go go because in the moments in between, is when you can get those magical insights that you can't force.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, it's interesting that you said that because like me and my friend Teresa, my podcast co host for dissecting success. My other podcast, I randomly just talk. I mean, well, that's what I do. I talk. And I said to her, like, you know, we're talking about taking breaks and how like idea the best ideas come when you're resting. And I said to her, like in stillness we create and that's just so true. And stillness and rest, like when you are taking that break when you listen to your body is when the magic happens. Yeah, and I love that. You know, as we wrap up this interview, I have a couple more questions for you. Yeah, one How the heck do our listeners buy a copy of How To Get A Free boob job?

Penny Casselman:

Oh, you can get it on Amazon all over the world. I've had my friend in Italy order from Amazon and got my book so wherever you are Amazon or Barnes and Noble online

Blair Kaplan Venables:

amazing. Okay. And you know you've been through all this you've lost your mom when you were a kid you've gone through divorce and career it or you know, when you say downsizing, you've been downsized multiple times. If you survive I do, I'd actually like to call it through revive like Surviving and Thriving through revival, like youth revived through breast cancer wrote a frickin book. You know, you're winning all these really cool accolades you would published in the media. You lost your grandma to COVID, that you have had this very accomplished life. And it's just the beginning. But you've gone through all these different things where you've had to flex your resilience, muscle in different capacities. What advice do you have for someone who's constantly being challenged and has to show how resilient they are?

Penny Casselman:

Allow the quiet and I know that probably sounds so cheesy or so dismissive. But in our culture, we are awarded and rewarded for effort and work. And it's not all it's cracked up to be. Because that effort and work can certainly lead to detrimental aspects of your mental capacity or physical capacity. And really, taking stock of being quiet and doing things to support rest. I think those are two massive things that are too quickly overlooked.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of times people's default is to push through. Yes. Like just like, head down, run on that adrenaline and push through. But, you know, then you crash. Yeah. And you're forced to rest. Yes.

Penny Casselman:

It's very interesting how the universe will be like, You didn't listen to me the first time or the last. So I'm going to, like literally force you to do what I'm trying to subtly tell you to do.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I love that such good advice. Penny. Thank you so much.

Penny Casselman:

Oh, my goodness. Pleasure to be here with so much fun.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I love it. So you want to get in touch with Penny. Her links are in the show notes. You can buy her book on Amazon, you can learn how to get a free boob job, but she probably doesn't advise going the route she did. You You're gonna avoid it, probably avoid it. And I just want to thank everyone for tuning in to another episode of radical resilience. It is okay to not be okay. You're not alone. You have the support of me and Penny and our whole community and professionals. You are not alone. And remember, you are resilient.

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