Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Courtney Shihabuddin of The Pink Warrior Shop Is Helping To Change Our World
Ensure that you do something to fill your cup. Don’t run yourself into the ground. I enjoy reading and ensure that I do some reading for pleasure each and every day.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Courtney Shihabuddin
Courtney Shihabuddin is a mom, nurse practitioner and educator. In February 2020, at the age of 35, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since completing treatment, she has worked to educate others about the growing population of women under 40 developing breast cancer. She does this by sharing her personal story and working with several breast cancer organizations to raise awareness about young women with breast cancer. In October 2020, she launched The Pink Warrior Shop, an online boutique with thoughtfully curated products designed for the unique needs of breast cancer warriors. She donates 10% of all shop proceeds to breast cancer organizations.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I work as a nurse practitioner, professor of graduate nursing, and breast cancer advocate. I chose nursing as a second career and have loved every minute of my career. I joined the faculty at Ohio State University in 2019 and thoroughly enjoy shaping the next generation of nurse practitioners. After my breast cancer diagnosis in February of 2020, I knew that I wanted to share my story and connect with other young women going through breast cancer. I struggled to find other young women going through breast cancer that could relate to the same issues I was facing — being young in my career, with young children (one and five at the time), facing questions surrounding future fertility, etc. I began sharing my story on Instagram and soon connected with other young women with breast cancer who lended me an ear. It was an incredible experience, and I knew I wanted to be that strength for others. But as a nurse practitioner, I wanted to amplify that to help other young women understand their risks of breast cancer, and help identify questionable lumps earlier for better treatment outcomes. Hence the formation of The Pink Warrior.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I have connected with so many amazing women and organizations since my diagnosis. In August 2020, I became a Young Advocate with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. In this role, I was offered opportunities to amplify my voice and share my story.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Opening a boutique is always a risk and there is such a learning curve, especially during a global pandemic. I started The Pink Warrior initially as an online boutique with snarky cancer items to inject some levity into something so dark and scary. However, the shop quickly evolved into so much more. The Pink Warrior is me, but it’s also the advocacy work that I do; the resources that I offer and the gifts that are available for anyone who wants to support the organizations we support.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
For every item purchased, The Pink Warrior donates 10% to a breast-cancer related charity or organization. This organization changes every quarter, and I love that we get to support multiple organizations throughout the year as part of our social mission.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
There have been several women who have reached out to me on social media after coming across my account. They primarily thank me for sharing about my breast cancer journey because it helped them know what questions to ask. Others have told me that hearing or reading me share about my cancer journey has made them feel less alone. Even if I only help one person by sharing my story, then I know I’ve helped one person.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Share about the importance of breast-self exams. Early detection of breast cancer means better treatment outcomes.
- Ensure that people who are buying “pink” things know that the retailer is actually supporting breast cancer organizations, and not just slapping a pink label on something to sell more products (this is called pinkwashing).
- Provide more funding for metastatic cancer research. This is the only breast cancer that kills, and young women are disproportionately affected by metastatic breast cancer.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me a leader is someone who sets an example for others. Someone who positions themselves in a place to show others a path or shares about their journey and what they’re looking to share, improve or change.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Opening a retail shop is hard and many do not survive the first year in business — make sure you really love it and will persist before you start.
2 . Being an advocate can be hard and exhausting, but it’s really worth it when people tell you how you’ve impacted them or how you’ve helped them. My friend Anna (@mycancerchic) did this for me when I was first diagnosed, and her knowledge, resources and compassion truly helped me through the early part of my diagnosis and treatment.
3 . Being a content creator requires you to give a lot of yourself to others. Make sure you set boundaries and stick to them. For me, I spend time with my children and unplug from social media when I feel overwhelmed.
4 . Ensure that you do something to fill your cup. Don’t run yourself into the ground. I enjoy reading and ensure that I do some reading for pleasure each and every day.
5 . Breast cancer is hard. But there’s always going to be someone else who has it harder off than you. Pick your head up, be grateful for the life you have and kick cancer’s ass.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want people everywhere to feel knowledgeable about how to perform a breast self exam, what abnormalities they’re looking for that are concerning, and how to advocate for themselves should they find something abnormal. I was every person to feel empowered to know their bodies, and if they feel something abnormal, to say something!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I was diagnosed with cancer right at the beginning of the pandemic. The expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” rings true for me. Treatment was difficult, and it was isolating, but I was able to come through it feeling stronger, and knew that it wasn’t going to be able to keep me down. I felt empowered enough that I knew I needed to use my voice to empower others to know their bodies, and increase the likelihood of early detection of breast cancer to improve overall patient outcomes.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would want to share a meal with Katie Couric because she was a powerhouse before cancer, but after breast cancer, she showed that you can do anything you put your mind to, including advocating for more research and funding for breast cancer. I want to follow in her footsteps in terms of education and advocacy.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit my website www.thepink-warrior.com or follow me on instagram @thepink.warrior.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Courtney Shihabuddin of The Pink Warrior Shop Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.