People 08 August 2018
Like most people, Tiffany Davis hoped she’d never have to battle cancer. But now she’s facing her second battle with the deadly disease. The thirty-two-year-old from Miami, FL graduated with honors in the top 10 percent of her class from Miami Jackson Sr. High and went on to Florida A&M University to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration.
Before fighting cancer became her “career,” Davis was a Financial Counselor at a local hospital. “I have started some entrepreneurial projects. I'm a brand ambassador for a health and wellness company as well as a Certified Lash Technician and looking into going into beauty school.” But cancer doesn’t care about any of Davis’ credentials or successes. Cancer is an undiscriminating beast.
Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was twenty-eight-years-old. It was December 19, 2014. She discovered a lump under her left armpit, and due to her family history of breast cancer, she told her gynecologist that she was concerned. That’s when she found out that what she feared was true.
Getting through chemo, double mastectomy and radiation was only possible with the support of her family and friends and even strangers, “Once I decided to share my journey through social media, I received a lot of support. My family and friends also accompanied me at every chemo appointment. I never had to go through any of this alone.” Davis says her family is everything to her. “They are super supportive. I am the oldest of three siblings from my dad and I’m my mom’s only baby.”
“Once I decided to share my journey through social media, I received a lot of support. My family and friends also accompanied me at every chemo appointment. I never had to go through any of this alone.” -Tiffany Davis
She beat breast cancer and dared to breathe again. Then during a routine blood workup, her breast oncologist delivered a devastating blow - a leukemia diagnosis. On a January 2017 visit her labs were normal, but by June they were not. After repeated tests, a PET scan, blood work and finally a bone marrow biopsy, it was discovered that it was Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This was July 31, 2017.
The AML was caused by the chemotherapy treatment she endured during her bout with breast cancer. It was something Davis had been concerned about since her first cancer diagnosis. When she beat cancer the first time Davis said she felt relieved, but was fearful of reoccurrence. “I tried to do holistic remedies to keep me as healthy as possible. I believe in doing modern medicine in combination with holistic remedies.”
Finding out later that she had leukemia she said, quite simply-- sucked. “I couldn’t believe that I would have to endure this for a second time.” She had witnessed other women who had had recurrences and hadn’t survived. It was terrifying to watch women so young die from this disease. “Even though mine wasn’t a reoccurrence, I knew what difficulties I may face. I had already gone through so much at a young age, but as I mentioned before I don’t back down easily.” Davis knew what had to be done and if chemo treatment was the plan of action, she was going to do it.
“In my heart, I know that everything will work itself out" - Tiffany Davis (Photo Courtesy, Tiffany Davis)
Davis has moments when she doesn’t know if she’s strong enough or has the patience to wait for good news. She gets tired and faces disappointment again and again, but there is no other option than to keep fighting, “In my heart, I know that everything will work itself out.” Sharing her story with others uplifts her and is a part of her healing. “There are so many people going through so many things in life. I’m just brave enough to share mine.” Having an amazing support system is key. My family and friends are the bomb if I may say so myself.”
If you ask Davis to describe herself, one word rings loud and clear - resilient. “Despite what I am going through I still push through adversity.” She has faith that this is just one chapter of her journey and does not define who she is as a person. “I continue to strive and go after the things I want. I’m a very hard worker and don't believe in handouts so I continue to push myself to be a better version of me.” Yet, strength to push through what Davis has lived through might seem impossible to others.
A bone marrow transplant from a genetically matched donor is Davis’ best shot at survival. What she needs now is a match, and finding one for her is no easy task. African Americans have a greater genetic diversity than other populations around the world, which makes finding the right match particularly difficult.
What makes the search even more of a challenge is the fact that so few members of the African American community sign up and register on the Be The Match registry. Because of that, African American patients have only a 23 percent chance of finding a matched donor, whereas the chance of a match for Caucasians is nearly three times that. The solution is singular and simple, more African Americans have to step up and join.
"African American patients have only a 23 percent chance of finding a matched donor, whereas the chance of a match for Caucasians is nearly three times that."
Raising awareness around this and other ways people can support those with cancer has become Davis’s mission. Cancer changed her, and she wants to change that the African American Community is under-represented in the life-saving registry. “Being able to help others, despite me fighting my own battles,” has been the most inspirational part of this otherwise harrowing journey.
Davis says it’s imperative that people sign up to be a part of the registry as an African American. “There is not much diversity within the registry so it makes it hard to find that perfect match or a match at all,” Davis explains. “Imagine all the people that I know that are not a part of the registry. You can potentially be a match. Be a match and save a life.”
She believes that lack of education about what being a donor means and how easily one can donate is the reason that more people don’t register. “Many people think that they have to go through this invasive process and that’s not the case.” A simple swab is all it takes. No cutting or needles is required.
People can register as marrow donors online on Tiffany’s behalf at: https://join.bethematch.org/tiffstrong
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.