Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor
Admittedly, it’s taken me about 40 years to recognize, but there are individuals who view life as a victim of circumstance. Conversely, there are the resilient. Those with an innate ability to rise. In fact, use their circumstance as a jumping block to create something beautiful. Story after story of breast cancer survivors exhibit this incredible resiliency and outlook on life. I’m extremely excited to share with you the story of Cari Hahn in Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor.
Cari took what some would call a terrible, even hopeless situation and turned it into intentional purpose and fulfillment. Giving back to others and creating hope even when, as she says, it felt like she had none. As the founder of Karma, Candles & Kind, she utilized her therapeutic candle making hobby and pivoted into a thriving business focused on hope and giving back.
Recently, she and husband Matt, added repurposed fire hose products to the candle business becoming Clutch & Kindle. Realizing their platform provided not only hope in cancer diagnosis, but also as a forum to break down the mental health stigma specific to first responders.
You really can overcome hard things. This is why we share our story. To give others hope. People are capable of much more than they believe. Don’t be hopeless.
Cari was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 40. Through chemo treatments, raising twin teenage daughters, and supporting her firefighter husband, enjoy hearing Cari’s story of resilience and self-reflection. She’s labeled as a breast cancer survivor but shows us this is only one of many embodied labels.
As you can imagine, hearing the words, “you have cancer,” is a scary, confusing, even gut-wrenching diagnosis. After the initial shock wore off, Cari took the mindset her oncologist encouraged… trying to do everything as normal as possible.
“I’m going to be so good at cancer,” was her mindset. She is now telling me this five years removed with laughter and a bit of an eyeroll at herself.
However, this type A mentality did support her in getting through the 80-90 trips to the hospital for treatments. Additionally, the brave face she continuously put on for her daughters and husband. Even the full-time job she continued to work only missing a total of 3 weeks during her battle.
The problem wasn’t with this mentality per say. In truth, she agreed it’s what got her through a very low point. However, the brave face was exhausting.
After cancer, I was tired. Exhausted really. Physically, emotionally, deep into my being tired. Women are great care takers but just not so much of ourselves.
She went out to talk about motherhood in general.
Being a mom is so overwhelming in our society. Think of all we’re expected to do. We have a hard time practicing self-care. It feels selfish. I think the stress of this is related to the uptick we are seeing of sickness, even cancer.
BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR
Cari beat cancer. Only to have an entirely different battle take form.
First, she lost her job. Feeling hurt and defeated, confusion of what to do next set in.
Additionally, her husband, a firefighter for the last 22 years, was suffering with alcoholism fueled by coping with her cancer diagnosis as well as PTSD of a firefighter.
Matt is a first responder and there are just things they can’t unsee. He’s responding to the worst day of someone else’s life. The problem is most of them in that position (first responders) won’t ask for help or even talk about it.
Depression and helplessness set in for a bit. However, in typical Cari fashion, after a brief period of reflection, she shifted quickly to action.
I have a degree in art therapy, I just never put it to use. Candle making became my therapy. My basement transformed into a healing space for me mentally. The business was never about money, but rather allowing me to heal.
Playing with scents and creating became an outlet. She then began Karma Candles & Kind. As the candle and accessory business took off and Matt continued in his recovery, they realized this creative outlet was an incredible therapy for them both. In addition, it gave the couple a platform to share their story of encouragement and hope to others. Clutch & Kindle which means Perfect Fire.
As I look back on my cancer diagnosis, the treatment from my former employer, alcoholism with my husband, and all the things we’ve been through as a family, I wouldn’t change anything.
Cari and Matt have twin daughters, Carly and Grace, who are now seniors in high school.
Age appropriately, of course, Matt and I have always talked to the girls very openly. Sharing with them and creating a trusted space. They are wise beyond their years, and I think it has to do with our open discussions. We sat them down and talked to them about cancer. Always being transparent, even beyond cancer when I go in for scans and I’m scared. We talk about it. It’s important to be open and transparent. They know my truth.
The Hahn house has become the safe space for not only the girls but also their friends. Cari shared even recently on a Saturday night their house being full of teenagers. She sat in the midst of them on the couch in their living room feeling all is as it should be.
I’ve found that when you face your own mortality, you become much more intentional with the life you’ve been given.
This intentionality has had a direct effect on not only Matt, but the twins too.
As an example, Cari shared the story of Carly and Grace’s friends asking Matt to pray with them over something they were struggling with. Exemplifying the couple’s unique ability to connect, live intentionally, and share hope through struggle.
LEARNING FROM CANCER
After cancer, Cari looked at her lifestyle and made a few key changes.
First, prioritizing herself.
Take the time and fill your own cup. If you don’t, you can’t fill anyone else’s. Filling your cup is prevention for your own health. Stop putting yourself in last place.
Second, holistic living.
After cancer, I looked at all of our cleaning product, deodorant, and even make-up. And I take a lot of supplements. There are so many toxins and chemicals in our environment. Look at what you are not only putting in your body, but what you are around.
Lastly, understanding what impact her charitable giving is having.
October is a frustrating month for me. I don’t feel like we need to talk about cancer awareness at this point. We need research efforts for stage 4 cancer. Metastatic cancer numbers haven’t really changed in 30 years. Therefore, Clutch & Kindle donation efforts are intentionally made to organizations like Twisted Pink and IWIN- Indiana Women in Need Foundation. Organizations focused on research.
SUMMARY- WOMAN, MOTHER, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR
A cancer diagnosis becomes a forced reflective process. One which Cari is grateful for. In truth, it completely shifted the trajectory of her purpose.
You know you are in the right space when it’s what you want to do all the time.
While Cari beat cancer and Matt is 3.5 years sober, they both still live with an underlying sense of anticipation. Things could change in an instant. Their accountability comes in supporting others and sharing their story.
On a recent trip, Cari and Matt celebrated their 22nd Anniversary, 5 years cancer free, and Cari’s 46th birthday. As they enter a new chapter, soon being empty nesters, the couple is excited to be on this new venture together.
When Cari began her cancer fight, she told the oncologist, “I want to see the girls graduate.” As she approaches this milestone, she cheerfully shares her mentality… looking for the good in situations is what carried her through and continues to do so.
You really can overcome hard things. People will say, you are so brave and strong. But remember, sometimes brave and strong is just getting up and taking a shower. Or asking for help. That is brave and strong.
Thank you, Cari (and Matt) for sharing your story.
Want to support Cari and Matt’s business? Check out Clutch & Kindle.
Interested in the causes they support? Find those here:
Let light shine out of darkness.
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ENJOY THIS ARTICLE? CHECK OUT OTHERS IN THE MOM HUDDLE:
Check out more in the Woman, Mother… 2021 Series:
September: Game Changer Motherhood Advice
August: Woman, Mother, Author
February: Woman, Mother, Joyful Entrepreneur
January: Woman, Mother, Teacher
2020 Blog Posts: