Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

Janette and her husband, Jay

And not a lot of situations can conjure up fear quite like a breast cancer diagnosis when you’re the mother of three young children. But our October Cormany Community Change Maker, Janette Slusher, fought and won her battle with breast cancer, and then co-founded her own non-profit, The Healing Chair, to help other women (and men!) fight their battles. “After going through a serious illness or life-changing event like this, there comes a time when you want to help others, and it can be extremely transformative at a personal level to be able to use the experience to help others who will follow in a similar path,” Janette says.

After a successful 17-year career in the investment industry, Janette retired and shifted her focus to her husband, Jay, and their three young daughters. Only a few years later, when her girls were ages 12, 9 and 6, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fear is almost always one of the first emotions to set in, and it was no different for Janette. “Of course I was scared, but my courage to stay strong, to remain positive, and to keep fighting, came from having a strong faith and support system, and my desire to be a strong role model for my girls – to stay alive and healthy so that they wouldn’t have to be without their mom,” she remembers.

After Janette’s diagnosis, she underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstruction surgery. Her recovery wasn’t just about focusing inward on healing and getting well, however… beneath all of the physical and emotional challenges she was working through each day, Janette saw opportunity. “I realized this was an incredible opportunity to teach my girls how to stay strong and positive during a very difficult time, and that our attitude has a huge impact on how we get through disappointments and difficult times,” Janette recalls.

The ongoing support and kindness from her family, friends, neighbors and church community inspired Janette, and made her believe that she “could and WOULD get through this.” And once she DID get through it, she was eager to pay it forward. “Turning a difficult time into something beautiful can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the giver and the receiver,” says Janette. Her first thought was to find a cure for cancer – but after determining that curing cancer was a bit outside of her wheelhouse, she decided to find a way to use her unique experiences and gifts to help others fight their battles with breast cancer. She just needed to find the right opportunity.

The Healing Chair

The Healing Chair co-founders and support team visiting Natalie, the first recipient of the Team Slush chair for the Kansas City branch

Soon after, a good friend called Janette and another friend, who was also a breast cancer survivor, to tell them about The Healing Chair, a small non-profit organization in St. Louis dedicated to helping people diagnosed with breast cancer. The Healing Chair’s mission is to offer comfort and support, in part, by delivering (free of charge) electric recliner/lift chairs to be used during recovery from mastectomy surgery. The chair, a healing blanket, and a journal full of heartfelt messages and stories from others who have used the chair before are delivered by a caring support team a few days before surgery. After about four weeks, or once the recipient is back on his/her feet, the organization picks up the chair and delivers it to another person in need.

Being a survivor herself, the concept of The Healing Chair seemed like the perfect opportunity for Janette. So, in the fall of 2015, Janette and her partners, Amy Taitt and Marcia Moroney, used their collective “gifts” to launch the Kansas City chapter of The Healing Chair. They started with just one chair and one recipient, but with a few fundraisers, diligent networking, and A LOT of passion and generosity, Janette and her partners have been able to deliver over 250 chairs to mastectomy patients in the Kansas City area, and now have 33 chairs in rotation! Each of the 33 chairs, which cost about $1,000 each, have been named after a sponsoring organization, or in honor of a family member in the case of a private donation. Janette was among the first to name a chair. “When we launched the charity, I was able to use my R+F earnings to purchase one of our first chairs, due to my team of Preferred Customers and Consultants, so therefore, I thought it was a great way to honor my team and PCs (and all those who supported my cancer journey), by naming my sponsored chair “Team Slush” (also the name of my R+F team!).

After two years, the Team Slush chair has a lot of heart-warming stories, but one of Janette’s favorites is having the opportunity to deliver the Team Slush chair to her cousin Robyn, who lives in Dallas. Janette’s cousin Cheryl and her friend Pam came along to keep her company, sharing the drive from Kansas City. After delivering The Healing Chair, blanket and journal to Robyn, and sharing hugs and supportive words, the group headed back to Kansas City.

The Team Slush Healing Chair went full circle when Pam helped deliver it to Robyn in Dallas in 2016, and then Robyn returned it to Pam in Kansas City a year later when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

A year later, Robyn would help deliver the Team Slush chair back to Kansas City for Pam, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s just one example of why Janette believes it’s more than just a chair… The Healing Chair brings people together, and creates a sense of community, and a network of friendships and support that keeps the group connected long after the chair has moved on.

To hear Janette tell it, she’s the lucky one. She loves seeing how relaxed and hopeful recipients feel when they receive a healing chair, and are comforted by survivors with full heads of hair, who have been through the same thing, and come out safely on the other side. She truly believes she gets more gratification out of it than they do. “They are just at peace,” she says.

 

According to her friend Tracy Kruse, Janette has always had a kind heart, and been a strong role model. “Janette gives her all to everything she does, especially when it comes to supporting philanthropic organizations in our community. Even though she has more than enough on her plate with her own charity, she is the first one to volunteer and support other organizations with a mission to do good. She works tirelessly with her own organization, and at the same time is a role model for her family,” says Tracy.

Janette says she’s always been passionate about teaching her family the importance of giving back and serving others, and ensuring that they understand the world outside of their “bubble.” The Healing Chair became a way for Janette to help other breast cancer survivors, and also an opportunity to spend time with her family instilling those important values. “I realize that my girls are watching me, and learning from my actions and behaviors, so being able to be a role model by serving others has always been super important to me, and they have learned how fulfilling it is to serve others as well!”

Janette not only looked fear in the face; she used it to find purpose and direction. The Healing Chair allows her to do what she loves – use her gifts to help others, and to support one of her strongest beliefs… to whom much is given, much is required.

Janette’s daughter Morgan and her friend prepare to make a Healing Chair delivery

Her Rodan + Fields business has been a big factor in enabling Janet to focus on paying some of her blessings forward. “I loved being able to leave my corporate job and stay home to raise my kids. I have always loved working, and began to miss it after my kids got a little older. I’m so grateful R+F fell into my lap, as it’s given me the ability to have a really great life  – to have a non-traditional career that provides fulfillment, financial success, time, freedom, and the means and resources to give back and spend time on my charity. Life is good!”