Catherine McCormack is an experienced Marketing and Communications Professional, a breast cancer survivor and advocate, a realtor, a wife, and mother who battles with Multiple Sclerosis. She began her professional career in Ottawa in 1996. Over the course of her career she has worked for Canada Trust, TD Bank Financial Group, McDonnell Haynes Advertising and Keller Williams Advantage Realty. She has a long history of volunteerism and in addition to her advocacy and spokesperson work for Breast Cancer; she has served as an Ambassador for the MS Society of Canada for a number of years.
A breast cancer survivor, and avid kickboxer, she took it upon herself to spearhead a successful, high profile event while going through treatment in 2011. Kickbox for the Cure ‘kicked off’ Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Toronto, raising $250,000 in Corporate Sponsorship and donations in support of Rethink Breast Cancer in just three short months. Her experience with this and her advocacy and spokesperson work for both Breast Cancer, and the MS Society of Canada have inspired to seek out an opportunity that supports Breast Cancer Awareness, Education and Survivorship Support. In her role as the new Executive Director for the World Breast Cancer Organization, she is looking forward to doing just that. She also continues to practice real estate with Keller Williams, and is enjoying what both roles bring, balancing business, and finding a way to give back to two causes she cares deeply about.
When people find out that she has been battling MS and breast cancer, most are shocked and don’t understand how she can be so high functioning. They are baffled by her energy, fitness and drive. While she certainly has had her days through both of her respective battles, she continues to believe that the only way through these challenges is to face them head on with humour, courage, and a positive attitude.
A little over five years ago, she took up the sport of race-walking, inspired by her mother who reinvented herself at the age of 60 when she trained to power-walk a half marathon. Inspired by her mother’s drive and the elation she felt when she achieved her goal, Catherine embarked on her own quest to join her in a half marathon. Little did she know she would eventually go on to win half marathon walks and eventually meet her coach, Canada’s national racewalking coach. When she asked to train for the Canadian national championships in 2010 at the ripe age of 38, he put together an aggressive training plan which was very challenging considering her young family (boys were 4 and 6 years old). They supported her and she managed to place 5th at the 2010 Canadian Track and Field Championships, competing alongside young women in their 20s. She was elated that she could accomplish this in spite of her battle with MS.
She firmly believes that sport has been responsible for her remission from the symptoms she suffered with MS. It has allowed her to stop taking the daily, painful injections that she was told would stave off progression of the disease, yet were a daily reminder that it was there, even if she was having a good day. She is thrilled to say that she has been asymptomatic for more than five years, and sport is her new drug. When faced with the diagnosis of aggressive, locally advanced breast cancer in late December of 2010, she attacked it with the same level of defiance that she did with her MS diagnosis. Her motto has always been that she has MS, but it doesn’t have her. This motto can also be applied to her cancer battle, though her subtext, “denial is a useful coping mechanism” doesn’t quite work when your long hair falls out and you face yourself raw in the mirror.
Her professional skill set ranges from her foundation in marketing and communications, to fundraising, event management and planning, business development, and public relations. She is also a nationally ranked track athlete who applies the same discipline and drive on the track to all that she tackles. You can follow Catherine on Facebook through Catherine-Gariepy-McCormack, World Breast Cancer Organization, or Kickbox for the Cure. You can contact her via email at email@example.com
Here is a link to an article she wrote for a special Toronto Star insert (page 7), which details her story: http://doc.mediaplanet.com/all_projects/7788.pdf.
*What inspires you?
- I am inspired by taking my own experiences and the challenges I’ve faced and making every effort to turn them into something positive and constructive. I truly believe that we are not given anything we can’t handle, no matter how tough; it’s what we chose to do with the hand of cards we’ve been given that make a difference.
*As a small business owner, what achievements make you most proud?
- I’m most proud of the work that I have been able to do in support of both of the diseases I’ve been afflicted with. As an MS Advocate, I have aimed to prove through my accomplishments in sport, and maintaining a positive attitude that you can have MS, but it doesn’t have to have you. The event that I spearheaded during my breast cancer battle, Kick-box for the Cure is also an accomplishment I’m extremely proud of. Between my focus on putting together the event, and my sporting accomplishments (I competed at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in the 20K Race-walk just three weeks after my 8th and final chemo, placing 4th), I was able to manage my cancer battle while maintaining a great quality of life in spite of it all. In terms of my real estate career, I love the city I live in, and the community I’ve been a part of for over 13 years, and the Keller Williams brokerage, who are more like a family, have been so incredibly supportive throughout the journey that began shortly before I joined their Leslieville/Beaches Toronto team.
*What advice would you give to other aspiring small business owners?
- Take a leap of faith, believe in your dreams and vision, and avoid the nay sayers. Anything is possible if you put your mind and passion into it.
*What new things can we look forward to from your business in the upcoming year?
- I look forward to continuing to grow my real estate business, and I’m thrilled about the opportunity to make real change, and provide much needed support through my role as ED with the World Breast Cancer Organization. We are hard at work planning for our next conference which is slated for June of 2015 and will be taking place in the fantastic city of Calgary, Alberta.