Stephanie Abbott

Stephanie Abbott
Episode 72

Join host Japhet De Oliveira in this episode as he sits down with his guest, Stephanie Abbott, for an insightful conversation surrounding an early passion for healthcare, adventurous foods, the power of faith amid trials, personal patient experiences, and moments of God’s tangible love.
Libsyn Podcast
"The entire time I went through my cancer journey, I was able to look for signs … One day, I was leaving the office here, and on the fifth floor, there was a Bible verse. It's 1 John. It says, 'In Him, there is no darkness, only light,' and so days where I was just going to the dark, I had to say, 'Hey, wait a second. It's only light.'"

Narrator: Welcome, friends, to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira with his guest today, and discover the moments that shape us, our families, and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira: Welcome friends, to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. If you are brand new to this entire process, this is the way it works. I have 100 questions. I have a guest who's sitting opposite me right now. They're smiling, which is, as always, a great sign that it's going to go well. You may even hear a little bit of that laughter inside there.

I ask the first 10 questions. They then choose between 11 and 100 to where we want to go. As we get closer to 100, it becomes a little bit more vulnerable, a little bit more open, and it's about stories and experiences that shaped this particular leader in front of me into the person that they are today. Let's begin straight away. I'm so excited. Could you share with us your name, and does anybody ever mispronounce it?

Stephanie Abbott: Yes. I am Stephanie Abbott, and I was formerly Stephanie Stewart, so nobody messed that up. Now instead of Abbott, I get "A-boot" sometimes. I'm like, "Oh, that makes sense."

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. Well, Stephanie, what do you do for work?

Stephanie Abbott: I am the Chief Experience Officer for Adventist Health.

Japhet De Oliveira: Brilliant. For anybody around the world, because we have listeners all over the world, what does that really mean?

Stephanie Abbott: I help improve the consumer experience across our longitudinal journey, and that is partnering with some amazing partners on our consumer team, digital and marketing.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's fantastic. Great. What did you do before that?

Stephanie Abbott: I've been in the world of patient experience or human resources now for about 13 years in healthcare.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, fantastic stuff. Well, well done. That's brilliant. In the morning when you get up, and drink of the day when you begin, do you have water, coffee, tea, a liquid green smoothie?

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, I wish I could drink those liquid green smoothies.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, OK.

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah, I'm not doing that. I start with water first. I have Hashimoto's, so I have the little pill that you have to take every single day, and you can't have anything in your system, so you have to chug water. I'm really worried about my skin, so I'm always trying to chug water. I start with that, and then depending on my mood, I might go for coffee or tea, but I don't like coffee for coffee. I like coffee for the creamer.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh.

Stephanie Abbott: It's not healthy.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's interesting. I have seen you with this huge container. It's like a keg of water.

Stephanie Abbott: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: I like it.

Stephanie Abbott: I don't know how Adventist Health is going to feel about a keg of water on my desk. Let's go with it's a gallon container.

Japhet De Oliveira: You drink that every day?

Stephanie Abbott: I do.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's impressive.

Stephanie Abbott: I do.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's really good. That is really good. All right, location, tell us about where you were born.

Stephanie Abbott: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but we didn't stay there very long, so don't ask me about it. We lived in New York, Staten Island for a couple years. Don't remember that, and then I've been in Florida, that was where I spent most of my childhood, starting around four.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, OK. Then, when you were a child, what did you imagine you were going to grow up to be?

Stephanie Abbott: I always knew I was going to go into healthcare.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah. My dad was the CEO, CFO, chairman of the board, mergers and acquisitions, he did all these different roles. This was back in the day before computers were really a thing, and so it was this word processor, I think, and so he would sit here and type a bunch... Sorry, you see me typing with my nails right here on the table.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. No, that's great.

Stephanie Abbott: He's typing a bunch of stuff, and then he'd enter, and it would print on the computer, and so he would do each page. I would sit at the table with him at 10 years old and read these legal documents with him, proofreading, and he's like, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, comma. Blah, blah, blah, blah, period." I'd be like, "Oh, can I just go outside?" I just want to go ride my bike, but my dad was so passionate about healthcare, and he had so many different roles that I just assumed, I was like, "You know what? I think I'm going to go into healthcare, and I'm going to be a CEO one day." That was the dream.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. That's pretty great. That's really great. Your dad knows this, right?

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: OK. This is inspirational. That's fantastic. Great. Habits, then. Are you an early riser or a late night owl?

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, I am a morning person. I am not a night person. I am sleepy.

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, it's good we're doing this early in the morning as well, then. That's fantastic.

Stephanie Abbott: Yes, but it's interesting because my husband's completely opposite.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, yeah?

Stephanie Abbott: I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first thing in the morning. I want to play. I'm like, "Come on, man! Let's talk about this. Let's talk about our days." He's just like, "Leave me alone."

Japhet De Oliveira: Your kids, are they early or...?

Stephanie Abbott: It depends. I would say that once they're up, they're up, but they seem to both be him, a little crabby in the morning until they've had some time to wake up.

Japhet De Oliveira: You're the joy in the morning?

Stephanie Abbott: Apparently.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. Hey, personality. Would people describe you as an introvert or extrovert, and would you agree?

Stephanie Abbott: I would definitely agree, extrovert.

Japhet De Oliveira: I'm surprised. OK.

Stephanie Abbott: I'm sure you are.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. All right. First thing this morning, then, early this morning, what went through your mind?

Stephanie Abbott: I was excited about the day today. I haven't been feeling well the past few days because I had the flu. Well, I didn't have the flu, I got the flu shot.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's exactly it, yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: It just put me on my tushie, so today was the first day I woke up and I opened my eyes, and I'm like, "Today is going to be a good day!" Then I got really excited for this podcast because I feel good...

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great.

Stephanie Abbott: ... because I was like, "Oh, man. I'm going to have to pull it together for Japhet because I can't let him down."

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. All right. Hey, you've been a leader in so many different spheres. This is a leadership question. Are you a backseat driver?

Stephanie Abbott: Yes. I think a lot with my role, and if I'm leading people or if I'm trying to influence a bunch of people, I am not the smartest person in the room. If I am, I need to find a different room to be in. My approach with leadership is really to get the best minds in the room to make the decision. I am really good at strategy. That's one of my strong points. I can see all the points that we need to do to get there, and not everybody can. I am good at creating that swim lane for others, but letting people that are really actually doing the work fix the problem, and then I just help guide the process.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great.

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah. It's not about me all. It's about them.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. That's fantastic. Right. Well, that was the first 10. Now the floor is open. Yeah. I know. Where would you like to go between 11 and 100?

Stephanie Abbott: This is like playing the lotto. It's fun. I feel like we should have bingo balls. Can we get a bingo ball machine next time?

Japhet De Oliveira: Sure. Sure. I'll work on that.

Stephanie Abbott: OK. My best friend and I played high basketball in high school, so I'm going to go with her basketball number, 11.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, nice. 11. Brilliant. All right. Well, tell us about the most adventurous food or meal that you ever eaten?

Stephanie Abbott: Oh.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, OK.

Stephanie Abbott: We took our daughter, my husband and I, she was about three at the time, and we went to Roatan.

Japhet De Oliveira: Which is?

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah, I don't even know where.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, OK. All right.

Stephanie Abbott: I don't know. It's somewhere down, Caribbean, South America, somewhere over there.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right.

Stephanie Abbott: Somewhere over there. I'm from the Florida. We just go west where the water's pretty, and we just play around in that area though. Geography is not my strong suit.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right.

Stephanie Abbott: We ended up going to Roatan, something like that. Then in there they had the iguana. I like lizards. I think lizards are super cool. They're just neat.

Japhet De Oliveira: OK. Right.

Stephanie Abbott: We found this lizard that my daughter was feeding, and she was playing with these plants, and I named him Iggy because in my head, I'm looking at my husband, I'm like, "I want to take this thing home." My husband's like, "We're not taking this lizard from Roatan home."

Japhet De Oliveira: Good call.

Stephanie Abbott: Then this lady comes over, and she goes, "You see the black lizards?" I said, "Yeah." She goes, "Keep your daughter away from the black lizards because they eat meat." There goes my three-year-old.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh my goodness.

Stephanie Abbott: She's on my hip the rest of the day. Later that day after we did the tour with these amazing lizards, and now I'm sad because I'm not taking Iggy home with me, and I have pictures of his amazing face, we went to this hut restaurant. Right? You would not stop in the United States in there, but in Roatan, why not?

Japhet De Oliveira: OK. All right.

Stephanie Abbott: It was on the hillside. It had this gorgeous view of the water in the countryside. Guess what was the special of the day?

Japhet De Oliveira: No.

Stephanie Abbott: Iguana.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh.

Stephanie Abbott: That is what they eat all the time because there's iguanas everywhere. It almost tasted like they tried to make it like taco meat, but it has really thin bones in it, so you're eating taco meat and then picking out bones. I could only do that for about two bites to say I tried it. I'm like, "I'm not doing that."

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, I think that that may be the most adventurous answer we've had on this particular question, so that's great. Well done for sharing that. It was, what's the most adventurous food? You definitely hit home on that. All right, great. Yeah. Where do you want to go after 11?

Stephanie Abbott: All right, let's go with my basketball number, 21.

Japhet De Oliveira: 21. All right. Oh, this is great for you. Share the best compliment you've ever received.

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, so actually on Monday...

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: No, not this Monday, last Monday...

Japhet De Oliveira: OK. All right.

Stephanie Abbott: ... I ended up going to a conference, and I ended up sharing my story. It was a 30 minute TED Talk where I was a keynote speaker, and it was a very vulnerable moat for me. I was crying on stage, almost to the point that I was not able to pull myself back, but one of my friends and mentors was in the front, and she was looking at me all bugeye like, "You got to pull out." Right? Afterwards, we had so many people come up and just tell me thank you for sharing my experience. There was this gentleman in the elevator that he looked at me and said, "I just want you to know that if I was your dad, I would be so incredibly proud of you." I just started crying. I'm such a daddy's girl, so to hear that, it was just phenomenal. Of course, I called my dad. I'm like, "Listen to what this guy said."

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's beautiful. That's fantastic. Oh, those are great moments to treasure, right?

Stephanie Abbott: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: It makes you also connect back to purpose, right? Because I think also in healthcare as leaders and executives, you don't always see the differences that you make every single day, right? We inspire to achieve these big goals, but it doesn't happen every day, and so we have to really fill our cup with those small moments that make a difference.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, I love that. That's good advice to anybody in any industry, actually. It's fantastic. Right. That was 21. Do you want to go up or down?

Stephanie Abbott: Let's go to 25.

Japhet De Oliveira: 25. All right. Share the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. Can you paint a picture for us on that?

Stephanie Abbott: OK. Am I going to say my children's face?

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: That could be it, or then I'm also thinking nature. I'm going to go with my children's face for the first time. I always knew I was going to be a mom, but I knew I was going to be a late mom because I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to enjoy my life until I get to that age, and I'm stable, and things like that," but nothing prepares you for that moment when you see your child for the first time. As a mom, and hopefully many people agree with me, when you feel your child move inside you, you care about them. You love them in a sense, but you don't know what that love is until you actually see them, and then it's this complete overwhelming feeling that you've never had before.

That happened immediately with my daughter, and then with my son, I was so worried about having my son because I loved my daughter so much. I'm like, "How could I ever love something as much as I love my daughter?" Then the second I saw my son's face, it's like your heart just doubles in size.

Japhet De Oliveira: Absolutely, expands.

Stephanie Abbott: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah. That's fantastic. I think it's beautiful to imagine the anticipation and then the reality of it.

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's great. Good. All right. That was 25. Where next?

Stephanie Abbott: 33.

Japhet De Oliveira: 33. All right. Tell us about the best gift you've ever given someone else. Huh?

Stephanie Abbott: I think I have two.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Stephanie Abbott: Two.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right.

Stephanie Abbott: My dad is completely retired, but he still runs this get together for veterans. It started off in, I don't know, when I was in high school where it was just the Marine Corps. It started off where it was a couple hundred of them. They would have these events every single year. I stopped going to these events because everybody was trying to hook me up with their sons that were in the Marine Corps, so stopped going to them, but then it ended up expanding into this huge thing where thousands of people are now going to, and they're meeting, and they have five star generals coming. It's super cool, but he works on this at home, and so he had an office chair that was just beat up. It was coming apart. I'm looking at this thing like, "Why doesn't he go and go get another one?" But, on a retiree budget, they don't have a lot of money. I just ended up buying him a new chair, and just threw out the other one, and just showed it, so just the look on my face was pretty good.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's beautiful.

Stephanie Abbott: Look on my face?

Japhet De Oliveira: Look on his face.

Stephanie Abbott: The look on his face was great, but probably mine too.

Japhet De Oliveira: I understood what you meant.

Stephanie Abbott: There you go.

Japhet De Oliveira: Everybody else did as well. We're with you. That's good. No, that's true. That's beautiful. Oh, that's great. Now you did say two. Did you remember the other one?

Stephanie Abbott: I did. I was pretty impressed with myself when I found this company that makes... What are those boards? The beanbag game, what's the beanbag game called?

Japhet De Oliveira: I've seen people play this beanbag...

Stephanie Abbott: Corn hole.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes.

Stephanie Abbott: Corn hole.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes. Yes.

Stephanie Abbott: My husband was so good at corn hole.

Japhet De Oliveira: OK, good.

Stephanie Abbott: When we started dating, it was Mondays he played corn hole, Tuesdays he did this, Wednesdays he did this. I'm like, "Do you have time for a girlfriend?" He's like, "This is just single Brian," right? Anyways, he was so good at it, and his favorite team is the Michigan Wolverines, and so I found a company that would deliver customized boards. We flew home to Michigan, because he's from Michigan, and so I had these boards delivered to his parents' house. I mean, they were 115 pounds because they were wood and painted, right?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: I'm super impressed with myself because I don't have to do anything. I'm calling his dad like, "I need you to pick up this package on the front door," but he was pretty excited to see that gift.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's great. Hey, love that. Knowing the people, what they really want, secret of it. Fantastic. All right. That was 33. Where next?

Stephanie Abbott: Let's go 39.

Japhet De Oliveira: 39. If you didn't need to sleep anymore, what would you do with the extra time?

Stephanie Abbott: Oh my gosh. I would run the world. I always say that if I had more time, I would study foreign language and just travel. I would love to learn about different cultures and really see what God has created for us. It's just finding the time to do it, and I hope I don't have to wait until retirement.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's true. That's true. That's good for everybody. I'm trying right now to learn Spanish. Yeah, I understand.

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah, I was so good. I was fluent in that.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Stephanie Abbott: Then, when you just stop, I mean, I can understand sometimes the gist of the conversations, but now to respond, it's a mess.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's good. All right, 39. Where next now?

Stephanie Abbott: 41.

Japhet De Oliveira: 41. All right. What are you excited about in life right now?

Stephanie Abbott: I just finished cancer treatment.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes.

Stephanie Abbott: I got my diagnosis November 12th, 2021 and finished cancer treatment November 15th, 2022. Tomorrow will be one month, right?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: I had the privilege of going through this experience because I really think about my faith. I have a very strong faith, and I was able to turn it from being a negative into a positive. The whole time I went through chemo, and surgery, and radiation, and now this awful medication that's throwing me into menopause, while I was going through that, I documented how I was feeling and then how also the system or the healthcare process was making me feel. I'm in the process right now of writing a book, and so hopefully that book will come out in first quarter of next year.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great.

Stephanie Abbott: In this book, it's really a call to action for healthcare leaders to know, here's how we fix processes in healthcare, and here's also how it makes the patient feel. From that, I'm already starting to be able to talk about it at certain venues. I'm really excited that God chose me A, to get cancer, not many people say it's a blessing, but I'm going to live, so my whole thing was, I just want to survive. I want to survive, I want to thrive, and I want to make a difference for millions of people in this space, and so that is what I'm excited about for the future.

Japhet De Oliveira: That is great. That is great. Taking something that's very difficult and making actually something good of it.

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Well done for that. Well, I would imagine that was part of your story that you shared just recently at this conference, right?

Stephanie Abbott: It was.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: It was.

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, thank you for sharing that. That's fantastic. All right, so that's what you're excited about life right now, 41. Where next?

Stephanie Abbott: 48.

Japhet De Oliveira: 48. All right, here we go. Tell us about your best personality trait.

Stephanie Abbott: My best personality trait?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's a good face, and that would be...

Stephanie Abbott: It's hard to really think about yourself to brag about yourself.

Japhet De Oliveira: I know. These are hard questions.

Stephanie Abbott: I'm sitting here thinking about it like, "I don't know." I would hope that I try to let people see the best in themselves. Also, I think that... I guess if I'm just thinking about me is I am a get it done-r, and although that's an incredible strength, it's also sometimes a weakness.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's good. I like the wisdom behind that. All right. All right. That was 48. Where next?

Stephanie Abbott: 51.

Japhet De Oliveira: 51. All right. Tell us about something that you know do differently than most people. Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: I think about my leadership style, and I am totally comfortable making decisions if I have to. I will make them right then and there because the experience behind me gives me those right answers, but that's not how you motivate people. I like to do things a little bit slower by going to the people that are actually doing the work and engage them in process improvement and thought, right, to say, "Here's where we need to go. How do I fix it?" I might know how to fix it, but I'm not going to tell them that because that doesn't engage anybody, so I always try to make sure that other people are included, so I feel that's a little bit different about my leadership style.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. Good. Good. Thank you. Where next? That was 51.

Stephanie Abbott: 51?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: All right. I'm getting nervous.

Japhet De Oliveira: No.

Stephanie Abbott: How much time do we have left? I'm like, "I don't want to get too high."

Japhet De Oliveira: We're doing fine. We're doing fine.

Stephanie Abbott: All right. I can always go back down.

Japhet De Oliveira: You can go up or down at any point. Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, let's go with 18.

Japhet De Oliveira: 18. All right, brilliant. Let's go to 18. Here it is. If you had to just eat one meal for a month, what would you choose?

Stephanie Abbott: I didn't have to worry about gaining weight?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah. Nothing at all, just one meal. Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: I don't want to be that one that's on the episode of... What was that guy that ate the McDonald's every single day?

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, I thought it Subway, or was it McDonald's? I don't know. I know there was a Subway guy.

Stephanie Abbott: There was a Subway guy, and there was a McDonald's, and he ate it three times a day, and he was so sick, and his cholesterol with through the roof. If I have to be healthy, I'm going to do a Caesar salad. That's my go-to. I love Mexican too, but if I could not have to worry about gaining weight good and being healthy, I would eat chicken nuggets and french fries all day.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. That's quite a contrast between the Caesar salad and the french fries and chicken nugget. Good. Do you have any sauce with that?

Stephanie Abbott: I really like barbecue.

Japhet De Oliveira: Barbecue. Oh, yeah. That's the go to.

Stephanie Abbott: I'm from the South.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. All right. Where next?

Stephanie Abbott: We were at...

Japhet De Oliveira: 18.

Stephanie Abbott: I know, but we went to 53, right?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yep. Let's see. Yeah, we did. All right. No, we went to 51.

Stephanie Abbott: Let's go 53. I don't know. That number is calling me.

Japhet De Oliveira: Can you tell us about at least one important person in your life?

Stephanie Abbott: Family?

Japhet De Oliveira: Anywhere.

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, man. Oh, yeah. You can't call it out like that because then you have to be more specific because then people will be like, "Well, why didn't they call me?"

Japhet De Oliveira: Exactly.

Stephanie Abbott: I would say probably the most important person in my life is my husband. Through this cancer journey, I really saw how lucky I was to be married to that man. You always wonder why it did work out with somebody else. You see those memes, and it's just like, "Oh, praise God." Right?

I mean, I lost all my hair. I was completely bald, my husband's bald, and so literally we got two bald heads in house. I remember I had ended up shaving my head because I didn't want to be in a meeting and it just start falling out and stuff. I was like, "Oh no. I'm going to control the situation," so I shaved my head. I came out, and my eyes were all red and puffy. He's looking at my head, and he goes, "Man, you got a good shaped head." I'm like, "What?" He's just like, "I thought our kids had my head this whole time, but maybe they have yours," and he's looking around.

I've always taken really good care of my hair, and my nails, and my skin, right? That's been my thing that my mom taught me, and so when you go through cancer and you lose all that, it's really hard. I remember my husband saying one day to me, he goes, "You focus so much on outer beauty," he's like, "but you're gorgeous on the inside, so maybe you should be focusing on the inside beauty right now and not just outer." I'm sitting here like, "What? Who are you right now?" It was just so cool.

Then again, about a month ago, my hair is really starting to grow back, and it's filling in. I said, "Look babe, I'm starting to look like your wife again," and he goes, "You always looked like my wife, you just didn't have hair for a while." I'm like, "How did I get so lucky?" I wish all women felt as beautiful with hair or without hair. Hopefully many women have that same support with their husband at home, but I'm so blessed to have him.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. Beautiful. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Good. All right, where next?

Stephanie Abbott: I liked that one. Let's go to the next one. Maybe the next ones are good.

Japhet De Oliveira: Literally one number up?

Stephanie Abbott: One number up.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. 54. If your life were a book, what would be this chapter? What would we call this particular chapter?

Stephanie Abbott: Cancer Picked the Right Chick.

Japhet De Oliveira: Cancer Picked the Right Chick. All right. That's great.

Stephanie Abbott: I am going to make a difference for millions of people in this space with what I learned, and I can't wait to do it. I did a podcast a while ago, well a few months ago. In that podcast I said, "Cancer was a blessing for me," and somebody on LinkedIn was like, "Well, cancer's not a blessing." I'm like, "OK, well for me, I learned so much, so I wouldn't change it," so Cancer Picked the Right Chick.

Japhet De Oliveira: All stories and experiences that we have can shape us in different ways. Yeah. I'm with you on that. That's great. Good. All right. That was 54.

Stephanie Abbott: Let's go to 60.

Japhet De Oliveira: 60. All right. If you wouldn't mind, when in life have you felt most alone?

Stephanie Abbott: I would say at the very beginning of my cancer treatment. As a patient... It's not just cancer patients, right?

Japhet De Oliveira: Sure.

Stephanie Abbott: I think it's patients that are your high acuity patients that are fighting for their life, the world keeps going, and your world stops.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes.

Stephanie Abbott: I remember sitting in my car in the parking garage getting ready to go in for tests, and people were telling me about other things that were going to be going on in their lives and all this stuff was going on at work. The world just kept going, and I was just stuck. I remember just crying hysterically in my car for a few minutes until I got myself under control, just thinking, "This isn't fair. People do not understand what I'm going through, and I am fighting, and I am so by myself."

It stinks because your family wants to be your biggest supporter, but they can't fight for you, and you have to do all the fighting for yourself, and it's a completely lonely space. I will say though, for breast cancer, it's like this private club that nobody wants to be a part of, but we've got a lot of friends when you're in it. You randomly run into people, and you're just like, "Oh, you had that too? I'm a survivor." It does get better, but the very beginning of a serious diagnosis is an awful space to be.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. I think that would be true for anyone. That's very true. Yeah. That was 60. Stephanie, where next?

Stephanie Abbott: 65.

Japhet De Oliveira: 65. All right, here we are. Oh, this is great. Share one word that you could use to describe your past. Then, can you unpack that one word?

Stephanie Abbott: Interesting.

Japhet De Oliveira: OK. All right. Interesting it is. Unpack that for us.

Stephanie Abbott: I think about my life. I was raised in a Christian home with my grandparents and my father, and then my dad met my stepmom at 10 who became the mom that she didn't really have to be to me. I went to Christian school for first through 12th grade, so I had a really strong faith. Then in my twenties, I would say, I really enjoyed rebellion.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, good. All right.

Stephanie Abbott: It was like I really wanted to experience life, but I knew what I was doing. I had no intention of losing my faith. It was at that point that at my wedding, somebody gave my grandfather a mic, and he started saying, "Well, when Stephanie was in her twenties, we were really worried about her." He started going off. I'm like, "Take the mic." I'm kicking my best friend, my maid of honor. I'm like, "Get the mic," and then he's pivoted, right, and he was like, "but then she came back."

I think about, and then in my career, I've been in HR. I've really done... Even though I haven't had a leadership development title, leading patient experience is a lot of leadership development. I've just had all these different hats that I've had to wear, and I've worked for some amazing organizations. It's just been such an interesting point.

I will tell you too, that I'm trying to have a better relationship with my real mother, but I saw a lot of things as a four year old, a 10 year old, a 15 year old that people shouldn't see. I think all these experiences that I've gone through over the past 38 years has just shaped me into this human being that now, I have such a stronger faith. I think too, when your children do something wrong, you're disappointed. Right? You don't stop loving them. I think it's the same way with everything I went through. Jesus might have been a little disappointed, but I'm back. Right? Things just pivoted, and I wouldn't change anything.

Japhet De Oliveira: Interesting is a good word. I like it. I like it. Brilliant. All right, well we're down to the very final two questions. We are down to that time. You get to pick two numbers right now, or just one number, what would you like to do?

Stephanie Abbott: I'm going to go with number 95.

Japhet De Oliveira: 95. All right. 95 it is. This is the question. Tell us about how you see your faith and life intersecting.

Stephanie Abbott: Oh, this is the best question. When I got my cancer diagnosis, I went into just this rabbit hole of despair. I ended up calling one of my girlfriends who had gone through breast cancer 10, 15 years ago, something like that. She goes, "Think about just your influence and your drive of what you could do in this." She started to pull me out of the funk.

I'm a millennial. I'm a good millennial, I've been told though, so whatever that means, but I love memes. I found this meme that said, "Dear Jesus, why are you putting me through troubled waters?" It said, "Because, your enemies cannot swim." I sat there, and I thought. I'm like, "OK, I know that's for me, but I don't know what the heck that means." I know what that means now. Right? He's given me this amazing blessing of where I'm going to take this awful experience I went through and make a difference for others.

The entire time I went through my cancer journey, I was able to look for signs because again, I'm looking for memes, right? One day I was leaving the office here, and on the fifth floor there is a Bible verse. It's 1 John. It says, "In Him, there is no darkness, only light," and so days where I was just going to the dark, I had to say, "Hey, wait a second. It's only light."

Then when I was at the wig store and I was realizing my hair's about to fall out... I love my hair. Anybody that knows me, I love my hair. It's always been 18 to 22 inches. It's super long. Then the idea that my hair was going to fall out, I just started crying at this store, and I was about ready to hit my knees on the floor just crying hysterically. As I started to feel myself falling, I looked up, and on the wall was Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you." That kept me from falling, as I literally stopped, and I was like, "Oh, wow. There's something with this. There's more to this." Throughout the entire journey, I looked for those moments where I felt God putting his arms around me so that I could feel safe and have hope.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's beautiful. I like that a lot. All right, this is your very last question. Which number do you want to go to?

Stephanie Abbott: 93.

Japhet De Oliveira: 93. Hey, this is great. Paint a picture for us of what success looks like. Yeah.

Stephanie Abbott: I just want to make a difference. I want to make a difference for millions of people in the space that I just learned, but ultimately, I want to be the best wife I can be and the best mom. There was this quote that I love that is hanging on my wall. It's Mother Teresa, and it says, "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family."

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's good.

Stephanie Abbott: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good counsel for everybody. Yeah. All right. Hey, Stephanie. Thank you so much for your time. Appreciate the honesty, appreciate sharing some amazing stories and experiences that shaped you into the great leader that you are today. I want to encourage everybody to do the same thing. Sit down with a friend, get some coffee, or tea, or a gallon of water, and just ask good questions. Listen, you learn, I learn, we will all grow for it. God bless. Stephanie, thanks again.

Stephanie Abbott: Thank you.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for The Story & Experience podcast. We invite you to read, watch, and submit your story and experience at The Story & Experience Podcast was bought to you by Adventist Health through the Office of Culture.