Having waged and won her own personal bout with the disease, the Sandy Springs resident has taken up the cause on behalf of the countless other women at risk.
“My treatment was transformative,” said Stone, 38. “The biggest lesson I learned was that it is important to be bold in the care of yourself.”
Stone’s newfangled boldness meant trading in her career as a litigation attorney at a Fortune 500 company, Nash Finch Co. in Minneapolis, in April to take the reins as executive director of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Atlanta Affiliate in Buckhead.
“But, it means something different for every person,” she said. “And, I challenge everyone not to wait for a cancer diagnosis to be so bold.”
The married mother of one — with a little help from friends — recently recounted the details of her story of discovery and trials by fire.
Out of the blue
Stone was 35 when she got the news April 30, 2010: Stage 3 breast cancer.
A clinical breast exam performed by her gynecologist yielded the red flag and diagnosis later confirmed by a mammogram and several biopsies. Moreover, the type of cancer she had was “very aggressive,” having already spread to her lymph nodes.
“I am confident no one is prepared to hear the words: ‘You have cancer,’ and I am no exception,” said Stone. “I was young, in good shape and had no family history of breast cancer.
“However, my initial reaction was that I would do everything I could to beat the disease.”
The depth of her resolve would come to be tested in the harrowing times that followed.
‘Bald girl’ humor
Stone needs only to stroke her streaked blonde locks to instantly revisit the long days and nights when they were not there.
Sixteen rounds of chemotherapy — over a five-month period — kicked off the treatment process. A mastectomy followed by six weeks of radiation and several breast reconstruction surgeries were other pit stops on the road to recovery.
Stone’s advice to someone facing the same? Laughter as extra medicine.
“Keep your sense of humor,” she said. “Believe me, there are lots of funny jokes that only a bald girl can get away with telling.”
“And, take advantage of all sources of support, knowing that you do not have to go through this alone.”
Members of Stone’s own support system are credited with picking up the slack for their protagonist in every way imaginable.
Despite the precarious situation, Olivia Diamond does not recall her kid sister deviating much from the personable, strong-willed person Stone has been since childhood.
“She never backed down or got frustrated during the whole ordeal,” said Diamond. “Actually, I think she took the diagnosis better than I did.”
Calling Komen home
Stone’s cancer is in remission — that, she readily volunteered, is where she plans to keep it.
As mentioned earlier, she tossed her legal career in favor of joining Komen, an entity whose connection with her runs deep.
Stone ran her first Komen Race for the Cure event just a few weeks after her diagnosis.
“While signing up for the race, I learned that a key drug that would be used to treat my aggressive cancer called Herceptin was made possible by funding from Susan G. Komen,” Stone said. “Without Herceptin, my chance of survival would have been very poor.”
Fast forward to the present and on any given day one is likely to find Stone diligently promoting Komen’s mission, including efforts to reach area women most in need of its services and raising funds to provide screenings for uninsured women.
Her work as executive director has raised morale within Komen circles.
“Cati brings passion, energy and professionalism to Komen Atlanta. … I believe she is the leader who will position us for tremendous growth over the next 20 years,” said board member Kim Hartsock. “Being a survivor gives her a unique perspective on what we do. She can connect with our grantees and survivors in a way that many of us cannot.”