As president/CEO of the Chicago-based Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC), Emilia DiMenco oversees the operation of a national organization with grace and poise. And when she first became involved with the WBDC, you wouldn’t have even known she was sick.
“I became a loaned executive from Harris Bank to the WBDC on July 1, 2010,” recalls Ms. DiMenco. “On July 3, I went in for a routine mammogram, as I had always done, and learned I had breast cancer. I was expecting a small problem, because I had been so diligent in getting annual mammograms, but the diagnosis resulted in chemotherapy. radiation and surgery.”
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is hard enough, but to go through all the testing and treatment, you’d think a person might be inclined to hide from the world. But that’s not Ms. DiMenco. She faces adversity like it’s nothing.
“To be honest, everything has been a challenge,” she admits. “I grew up in a working class community with parents that didn’t speak English; my divorce lasted 13 years; and I’ve always had a demanding job…not that I’m complaining.”
Ms. DiMenco says the only hard part through all of it was worrying about her family. “My son was only 19 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my mother was 83. I’m her primary caretaker, so I was really worried about both of them. That was the only thing on my mind. The rest was tolerable.”
This incredible woman and breast cancer survivor was even very kind as to ask me about my health problems and offered a great piece of advice: “If you have dreams and aspirations, you have to be focused. You can’t be distracted. You can’t take your eye off of your goal. Work toward that.” And that’s just what I’m doing.