My mom, Gail, died after a brief illness in 2005. I was a month away from finishing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Tufts University. My dad created a personal gift for my sisters and me: necklaces engraved with our mom’s thumbprint on the front, and her birth date and the date she passed on the back. They would serve as a reminder that our mother is always with us.
Less than three years after my mom’s death, in 2008, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at just 27 years old. I underwent genetic tests to find out why this might happen to someone so young, but there were no links or answers. I wore my mom’s necklace every day through surgery, chemo, and eventually, recovery. On the most difficult days, I held it in my hand — stacking my thumb on hers and envisioning holding her hand again.
My diagnosis impacted my professional path and inspired me to cofound Evolved By Nature, a green chemistry company that helps brands create cleaner, better-performing products. I discovered that starting and growing a business isn’t easy. Through all the celebrations and challenges we have faced, I’ve always known my mom has been with me. And the necklace has served as a constant reminder.
Through this journey, I’ve learned that it’s important for every entrepreneur to have something that encourages and inspires them. We need a source of support and a reminder of why we do what we do. This is now how I use my mom’s necklace. When I’m not wearing it, it hangs on the wall next to my bed. It’s one of the first things I see when I wake up, and pushes me to do what I think would make my mom proud — in life and in business — and to leave the world a better place.