ITW n°42: C&M founders of Oncovia.
This week I interviewed the 2 adorable sisters C & M, founders of Oncovia .
Oncovia is THE site that brings together all the products, for, I quote, “living better with Cancer”, a great initiative, thought up by 2 young women who unfortunately experienced K while accompanying their mother.
Today come and discover who is behind this great site, which will allow you to find all the essentials to gently arm your battle, while staying at home, the girls even offered us exclusive discounts on their entire great site to discover in the Hair & Eyebrows and Feet & Hands Kits booklets!
Let's get started:
Who are you ?
First names: Cindy and Marine
Ages: 33 years and 30 years
Professions: Founders of Oncovia
You decided to create Oncovia together, how did this idea come about?
Our mother had breast cancer when we were young and carefree. No longer living at home, we wanted to do everything we could to help and support him in our own way. Seeing her struggle to try to remain feminine, to wear makeup or to dress normally pushed us to react. At the time, I was working for a pharmaceutical laboratory and made long lists of suitable cosmetic products, and Marine sometimes crossed up to two departments to find the products she needed. After a few years, we really needed to feel useful, to go further and support all patients.
Why did you decide to create your own resale site for K-adapted products for K fighters?
We quickly realized that the products recommended by nurses or socio-beauticians could be very difficult to access and that walking through the door of an orthopedic center to buy a bra was, once again, a difficult ordeal. Already having to deal with fatigue and stress, the K fighters did not, in our opinion, have to endure further long car journeys to find a wig or even silicon varnish. We wanted to simplify this search and bring together all the useful products on the same platform.
We wanted a site that was resolutely practical, feminine and within reach of all budgets.
How have you divided your roles at Oncovia, who does what?
CINDY: We both started doing everything but we quickly had to divide the work a little: Marine takes care of all the customer service, logistics and navigation on the site and I take care of the products part , supplier relations and communication. But all major decisions are of course made together.
To better understand the impetus for this wonderful idea, can you tell us more about your personal “experience” with Mister K?
Can you summarize for us your story of being close to K fighter?
CINDY: It all started in January 2004 when our mother told us she had breast cancer. I was 22 years old then, I lived in Belgium, very far, too far from Avignon, where she began her treatments. She initially refused to undergo chemotherapy for fear of side effects, it seems to me. Several hundred kilometers away, I felt completely helpless and tried to understand his choices. Following her recurrence in 2006, she finally decided to undertake the full protocol. A true warrior! The family's morale then fluctuated depending on its markers. In 2008, I moved to Switzerland, I would finally be able to spend more weekends with my family. Our bonds were becoming stronger and stronger. Despite everything, the cancer was progressing too quickly. After 5 years of fighting, she left us, the day before her 50th birthday, the day before my wedding.
MARINE: It’s a pretty vague time for me. Our mother overprotected us so that we could continue to live a “normal life” and not be affected by her illness. She told us that what did her the most good was for us to succeed. For 4 years, it was an interrupted flow of good and bad news: one day she sent us a selfie of herself in the hospital with her “chick cut” (when this hair started to grow back), after a puncture, telling us “life isn’t beautiful!” » and six months later she returned to treatment after yet another recurrence.
What K did your mom have:
CINDY & MARINE: breast cancer in 2004 with a recurrence in 2006 which transformed into cancer metastasized to the bones and liver.
Do you know what treatments she had?
CINDY & MARINE:
Mastectomy in 2004 followed by radio session.
Recurrence in 2006 with chemo sessions (Taxotere and FEC 100) + re-radio
Hospitalization and punctures for treatment of pleurisy
In short, the grand total!
What was your feeling/point of view as a loved one when the announcement was made, how old were you?
CINDY: I was 22 when my mom called me on the phone to tell me she had cancer. I lived in Brussels, a new city for me where I didn't know many people and I only wanted to go home and hug her. I felt completely helpless without really knowing what to say to comfort her on the other end of the line. On the contrary, it was she who, as always, had soothing words to de-dramatize the situation.
MARINE: I was in prep school and I was 19 years old. I remember very well the moment she told us. It was a Saturday noon in January. I had just arrived from Lyon where I was doing my prep. She had already known for a few weeks but she wanted to wait to announce it to us all at the same time with Cindy on the phone from Belgium. It was a moment of great sadness. We spent the weekend locked up at home with my little sister, who was only 11 years old, glued to our mother. When we had to leave on Sunday evening, it was hard. I didn't want to leave her. She left me no choice. She dragged me to the train by force and made me promise that her cancer would not compromise my studies. I held my promise.
What are the nugget phrases that we could have said to him or/and to you during the K and which could have been avoided? or that you yourself should have avoided ;)..?
Your questions, your fears, the sentences you would have liked to ask but didn't dare to mention..?
CINDY: When talking to people around me about my mother's cancer, the first reactions were often “don't worry, breast cancer is very curable”. I probably wanted to believe it too, especially since she wanted to spare us as much as possible from all the difficulties she was experiencing. During all these years, she wanted to be overprotective of us even though her worries could sometimes be perceptible. As the more sensitive subjects were discussed with derision in the family, I vented to my two sisters who were going through the same thing as me.
MARINE: Not really any nugget phrases, or ones that I should have avoided, but I would always regret not having had more time with her at the end. I was studying in Korea. One day she called me asking me to come home, to take my time but to come home. I left the next day. When I arrived, I didn't really understand that it would go so quickly, since she had told me to take my time getting home. I would think she would still be there for Cindy's wedding, scheduled for 6 months later. The very evening of my arrival she fell into a coma.
What did you do to change his mind? Did you manage to find the right words?
CINDY: His greatest happiness and our greatest comfort was finally being together again. Forget about the illness for a few hours, laugh out loud and discuss trivial things. We organized tea/cake/DVD afternoons under the duvet. And when a wind of madness swept through us, we launched into wild choreographies that made him smile again, without words. Just to forget.
MARINE: What she wanted above all was to continue living as normally as possible. One summer when she was in the middle of chemo, she absolutely insisted on going to Italy, to the south, near Naples. The day after his chemo, we took the car and left. 16 hours of driving without her saying anything. Arriving in Amalfi, she spent a lot of time sleeping, but for nothing in the world did she miss the sunset on the beach crowded with noisy Italians with loud music. We were all sipping a little cocktail together, as a family. It was a pure moment of happiness!
How was your life in the medical profession? Did you find the answers you were looking for, did you manage to understand everything?
CINDY: I find it a shame that the medical profession does not address children at all. I completely understand that doctors do not have the time to speak to all their loved ones, but they should set up discussion groups with children so that all these treatments and medical terms are clearer and less anxiety-inducing. Looking back, no I absolutely did not have the answers I was looking for. So I spent my time reading articles on the internet to try to understand what was happening to him.
MARINE: I had absolutely no contact with the medical profession. I just have a lot of resentment towards them. Our parents moved from Avignon to Nice in 2008. But for inexplicable reasons, his file took more than 6 months to be transferred even though his markers were at their highest. When his file finally arrived in Nice, it was too late. I always have the feeling that if it had been better monitored, we could have found chemotherapy that could slow the disease.
Was this same medical body there for you, to support you, answer all your questions?
CINDY: This medical profession which had ultimately been very distant towards us, “children”, has become extremely present and empathetic in recent weeks. I was very surprised that suddenly the psychologist, the pain doctor or even the oncologist wanted to see me. It was at that moment, in their office, that I understood that they were talking to me about death. The shock was brutal. Unfortunately it was a little too late to answer all my questions.
MARINE: Absolutely not.
Did you accompany your mother to:
- his doctors’ appointments?
- his chemos
- others ?
CINDY: Never to her doctor appointments, it was more our dad who accompanied her. I only did 1 or 2 chemotherapy sessions with her, she wanted to protect us from this environment. And I was therefore much more present at all of his meetings in recent weeks. On the other hand, I made all the trips to drugstores, Sephora and other institutes with her to improve her image.
MARINE: Like Cindy, I accompanied him to a few chemo sessions but ultimately very little compared to his 4 years of treatment. On the other hand, I always came with her to go to her specialized hairdresser, choose her wig, have it cut…
What was your first feeling when you first discovered the treatments (chemotherapy/hospital)?
CINDY: I hated those long, cold corridors, those hours of waiting and that feeling of being yet another patient in hospitals. However, we sense a certain kindness from the other patients and nurses. Mixed together are shared feelings of proximity, exchange and comparison. We reassure ourselves as best we can by telling ourselves that ultimately we are not the only ones going through the same journey.
MARINE: At first, we didn't see that she was sick, especially since she had refused chemo. She was overprotective of us. She took, for example, more than 2 years before showing us her little bald head. She didn't want to show us this image.
And then one day, you come for the weekend, and you see her in her bed, in the arms of your dad who is holding her to help her vomit. And then she won't be able to get up for the rest of the weekend. And this is where we understand the “effects” of chemo. So, I made a sort of assimilation between cancer and chemo. What made her sicker?...
Did you get information on the internet?
IF YES: What (internet) links would be useful to recommend to other K fighters?
CINDY: I spent a lot of time on the internet to understand, understand cancer, understand treatments and their negative effects on sites like INCa, the league against cancer. I avoided forums and sites that were a little too heavy. I was generally looking more for tips and tricks and products that other patients had found to help with their side effects.
MARINE: It was 10 years ago now and everything you could find on the internet is very different from now. It was mainly forums with horrible stories, so in practical terms I avoided the internet as much as possible.
What were your good plans to take your mind off things, get some fresh air, and recharge your batteries?
What did you tell yourself to go the distance / what did you do?
CINDY: Spending time with family was my way of calming down and reassuring myself. Ultimately, being far away and not experiencing all these challenges on a daily basis can be very stressful. A simple phone call could re-energize me and put a smile back on my face.
MARINE: One day a very good friend of our mother came from Lisbon to come see her. He was a person with an overdeveloped gift for feeling things. One morning she decided to make “a cauldron” to kill the cancer. We all sat cross-legged, in a circle around our mother, holding hands. I have a memory of her saying “incantations”. Since that day, she has been called “our witch.” We all played the game wholeheartedly, it was our way of making fun of the illness and giving us hope.
Were you able to have an “almost” normal life, see your friends/relatives?
CINDY: Yes absolutely. My life didn't really change, I continued to see my friends, a real breath of fresh air. I was just going down south a lot more regularly to see my family. And my phone bills just went through the roof but I needed it.
MARINE: I didn't immediately tell my friends that our mother was sick. I needed this bubble, to have this “almost” normal life for a while longer. It was like I was waking up from a nightmare.
In your daily life, were you able to escape from the “illness” to move forward and be productive?
CINDY: Life goes on no matter what! Of course I had bouts of slack, some very low moments and some very high ones. The K is a real emotional elevator. You have to hold on to get through all these challenges. In all cases, we were able to take the necessary step back to launch Oncovia. Patients need us with a smile, a listening ear and great morale!
MARINE: As I was saying, she wanted us to live our lives and she kept telling us that what did her the most good was for us to succeed. So I cling to that. It had become a goal: to succeed so that she could heal. I remember that every time I had the answers to my competitions I was with her and she was the one who was the most stressed!
Were you able to talk freely about it to your loved ones? Did you feel supported/supported/understood?
CINDY: My greatest confidants over the years have been my husband and my sisters who were all going through the same ordeal. My husband fully supported his mother who was battling a brain tumor and was also going through very difficult times. So he understood all my feelings perfectly.
MARINE: I created my bubble with my friends. I didn't talk about it at all. I had the feeling that they couldn't understand. On the other hand, with my sisters, we never stopped talking about it. We could talk to each other without taboo, without fear, without judgment and we knew that we shared the same pain, the same fears. The three of us were already very close, but this ordeal brought us even closer and made our relationship “mature”.
What advice would you give to other loved ones to gain courage?
CINDY: Be present as much as possible, in your own way, so as not to have regrets.
MARINE: Always believe it! It's incredible how much strength sick people have, in general, much more than their loved ones! Being there for them, in difficult times but also in good times to succeed in forgetting the illness during chosen moments.
What has this ordeal changed in your lives (world view, surroundings, disappointments? great discoveries despite everything?)
CINDY: This ordeal changed a lot of things in my life, in the way I approach things. I no longer wanted the same things. I had to feel more “useful”, helping people in one way or another. This is why I left a comfortable place in a large group to launch Oncovia, to give a few minutes of joy of life to these patients.
MARINE: I learned to put things into perspective a lot. We had the “perfect life”, a great close-knit family. And then suddenly a part of your life, of you, is taken away. Nothing will ever be as it was before. We learn that nothing is owed. So you have to take advantage of it, not have regrets, not miss the beautiful moments and even provoke them!
What practical tips can you recommend to us, from your daily life and yours?
CINDY: we had fun giving her a little blush regularly. Otherwise, she never went out without a manicure (a treatment which she absolutely never did before) with the famous protocol: 1 coat of silicon varnish as a base + 2 coats of dark varnish + 1 coat of top coat
MARINE: above all, do not blow-dry a synthetic wig!! It really doesn't look very good! J
CINDY: our gifts were all found: cashmere sweaters and ultra-soft bamboo t-shirt
MARINE: Our mother found a lot of comfort in art. She took painting and sculpture lessons. And having accompanied her once, I was able to see her during a lesson thinking of nothing other than her sculpture! Good and also, incidentally, make fun of me (I really wasn't good)!!
4/ food (did you prepare good dishes for him)
MARINE: Before I left for Korea, I came home for a month to spend time with her. She wanted crème brûlée. She barely ate it but, as a result, I made crème brûlées every day for a month. As a result I gained 3 kg.
After such a life experience at a young age, we understand perfectly the birth of your project, accompanying your mother I imagine to what extent the very essence appeared as obvious, tell us the story of Oncovia, what brands/types of products can we find there:
CINDY & MARINE:
Throughout our mother's treatment period, we saw the struggle of finding all the right products. By creating Oncovia, we wanted to offer all people suffering from cancer a solution that would make their lives easier. No more searching left and right for what they need. When we tell them “you need a silicon varnish”, afterwards, they ask themselves a lot of questions: but why? what is silicon? where to find it? what brand… ? So many questions that Oncovia can answer. On the same single platform, they can find wigs, scarves, lingerie, prosthetics, cosmetics, makeup and lots of little extras. Today, we offer around fifty brands and more than 1,200 references with prices for all budgets. We are always on the lookout for new products, the most suitable products... We try to have the most complete catalog. We also dedicate a lot of time to customer service. It's important for us to take the time to listen to everyone and give advice. We all need it especially in these moments!
It's now been a little over 4 years since we launched Oncovia and it's an extraordinary adventure. We meet incredible people and when we receive little words of thanks from our customers, we are more than happy to have been able to bring them a hint of well-being.
With Oncovia it’s a bit like continuing to help our mother.
Links to follow you:
Thanks girls for taking the time to respond.
Lots of beautiful positive thoughts to everyone!!
@ very quickly