Today I read a quote from Jim Maclaren, a bright young scholar and athlete who lost his legs - and ultimately his life - because of two freak accidents:  "... suffering can also be the greatest possible invitation to transform — but only if you accept that invitation, and only if you go through a complete catharsis, and only if you actually change yourself because of what you've experienced. But that part is up to you. Only you can execute a catharsis in your own life. Suffering without catharsis is nothing but wasted pain. And you should never waste your pain, never waste your suffering. It's powerful stuff, the most powerful stuff there is. Use it. Transform from it. Learn. Grow. Be better."

At some point in our lives, we all confront the suffering brought on by sickness and ultimately death - our own and those of the people we love. It demands enormous courage to take that suffering and, rather than be defeated, find a way to be transformed, to grow, to be better. Sandra Masters, educator and public speaker, shares the raw emotions of her own struggle to cope with her husband's battle with cancer.  


“And they lived happily ever after…”   

That was the tag line my husband Scott used on late December 2006.  And so began our voyage.   We were going to get it right this time because he was my Captain and I was his Northstar and we knew our love was deeper than the ocean and we would sail away with calm seas and fair winds.  But a demon sea monster –Melanoma - had other ideas.   In June of 2011, three years into our marriage my Captain was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic Melanoma in the brain. 

We have been braving the storm ever since. 

Three years post diagnosis we have endured 4 cyber knife procedures to his brain, a grand mal seizure necessitating a craniotomy, a cardiac window/ cardiac  ablation, a pacemaker,  11 rounds of radiation to the scapula, 5 targeted immune therapy  chemo  courses and a  scleral buckle surgery,  and we are still here, treading water.  We are unrecognizable to ourselves and to each other.  We are drained, depleted, demoralized, but not yet defeated.  Our life was once filled with glorious days on the ocean boating and scuba diving.  Our nights were spent enjoying cocktails and dinner parties, charting our future on a quiet island.   Now our precious and ever dwindling time is spent at the hospital, with the oncologist, the radiologist, the cardiologist, the electro-physiologist, and the neuro surgeon.   We are trying to borrow more time using whatever strength remains for collateral.  It is not the fairy tale life we set course for.  But it is then only one we have, and we will let out the main and tighten the mizen.


Sandra Masters is an educator in the Palm Beach County School system. She has also become a regular speaker on cancer education. She is married to Scott Masters.

Quote from Jim MacLaren from an interview with author Elizabeth Gilbert.

-- Contributed by Christina Holbrook, for Gutsy Gals

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Sandy Heydt of Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa sent us this photo, with the caption: "My Gutsy Mom!"

Want to recognize the "gutsy-ness" in an important woman in your life? We offer three varieties of notecards: "Rocket Girl", "Girl on Fire", and (what Sandy sent her Mom), "The Definition of a Gutsy Gal". Your purchase will help us with our mission of recognizing Gutsy Gals, through our Awards and Educational Programs.

Go To: Gutsy Gals Store


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“If I had stopped and considered my chances of being successful in the Fund industry, purely from the point of view of numbers,” says Jocelyn Cortez-Young, CEO of Minerva Capital, “I wouldn’t even have tried”. 


Cortez-Young operates in the heavily male dominated investment world of funds that manage third-party money. Only 2-3% of these funds are managed by women and that is a number that has not budged in over 15 years.  Her company,  Minerva Capital,  focuses on Impact Investing which is a relatively new concept, and one that is catching on quickly.  It requires strict social metrics: each company that Minerva invests in must have 20% women at the management or board level; provide 20 hours of training per month to staff on all levels; hire at least 20% of the staff from the local community. Minerva is based in Miami, and invests in companies in Latin America.

It is surprising -- and refreshing --  to hear Cortez-Young speak less about the allure of financial gain for herself, and more about the importance of having a purpose.

With the numbers against her when it came to successful women in her field, and skeptics around every corner, she ultimately had to fall back on her own values and sense of purpose to give her the courage required to build her fund up to the prominent position it now holds.

“It may sound strange, but I wasn’t in this for the money -- I need to have a greater sense of purpose to what I do. So I flipped my thinking around, aligning my work with my values. Every time I began to falter or lose courage, I would go back to that idea: forget about the numbers and focus on aligning what I do with passion and purpose.”

Minerva Capital was recently chosen to be one of the 10 funds recommended by the US Government to speak to foreign embassies about their program.

These days, opportunities abound to speak and present in front of large groups. From The Aspen Institute and CNN, to private investors around the country and the world, to women’s professional groups -- people are interested to know about the work of Minerva Capital and what it is like for Cortez-Young to be one of the 2% of women in the field. When I ask her about this, she groans in dismay:  “I still have a very hard time with public speaking!  It definitely keeps me up at night. But like everything else with this work, I go back to making it about my passion and my purpose and even that becomes just a little easier!”


Jocelyn Cortez-Young is the founder and CEO of Minerva Capital Group, a double bottom line impact investment firm focusing on emerging markets. She holds a BS from NYU, Stern School of Business, an MBA from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, and an Executive Education Certification from Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy. She lives with her husband and son in Miami, Florida

Christina Holbrook, for Gutsy Gals Inspire Me

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Filmmaker Joan Sadoff began her "Mississippi Project" over 23 years ago, interviewing women involved in the civil rights movement. While her film STANDING ON MY SISTERS' SHOULDERS is not current enough to be entered into our 2015 Gutsy Gals Award, the message is so powerful that I've asked Joan to share her story with Gutsy Gals. 
From the time I was 10 years of age I wanted to be a social worker.  My mother's friend who worked for Jewish Family Service in Detroit would often visit us on her way home from the office and regale us with stories about people who had sought help from JFS.  I would listen intently as she described her clients and the problems they were facing in their lives.  I was mesmerized by their stories and challenges and decided that one day, I too, would pursue this profession.  And I did.
My interest in stories experienced by "real" people continued through my professional work as a clinical social worker, an interviewer for the Holocaust Project in Philadelphia, PA and reading autobiographies and biographies.  What could I learn from these stories that would be personally and professionally helpful?  Whose life lessons would impact my life?
In October, 1991, while watching a PBS special on civil rights during the Kennedy administration, I found the stories I wanted to tell....the stories of black and white women involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and how their courage helped to change the history of this country.  Where to start?  What to do with the findings....Should we do a documentary?  A book?  Should I leave my job and do this full time?
The Mississippi Project began 23 years ago and continues to be my passion.  Innumerable trips to the south introduced my husband and me to extraordinary people ( we started by stopping people on the street with questions about their experiences as eye witnesses to the events of the 1960's) and followed our instincts......everyone knew someone who knew someone.  "Standing On My Sisters' Shoulders" (documentary) has appeared in 28 film festivals and won 14 awards; it was screened at the Kennedy Center in Washington,DC.  The companion book, "Pieces From the Past" has been distributed in the United States and South Africa.
The experience of following one's instincts.....taking a risk....can be life changing; it has been for me.
And yes....I did leave my job!  

-- Joan Sadoff, MEd; MSW, Filmmaker

-- Christina Holbrook, for Gutsy Gals Inspire Me!
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