I spent my entire career in marketing and public relations, which was an industry my type-A, overachiever personality excelled at. Although it was stressful, no amount of pressure could have prepared me for the terminal diagnosis from breast cancer given to my 26-year-old sister, Elizabeth “Liz” Overturf, who lost her battle two years later. That kind of relentless and exhausting stress was like nothing I had ever experienced. Her long and horrific battle with breast cancer — due to a misdiagnosis at the age of 23 — was indescribable, as is living every day without her.
After her death, I started a communications company, but quickly felt I needed more meaning and purpose in my work. So in order to create a legacy for Liz and help others in the process, I launched Uptown Liz (on what would have been her 30th birthday); an online shopping Web site that supports charities all over the world.
Uptown Liz was founded to promote products from companies whose proceeds directly give back to charitable organizations. Through our online database you can search by cause or product with the knowledge that every time you link to a company and make a purchase you are making a difference. Our mission is to build a bridge between compassionate consumers and concerned companies in order to improve the world around us. We like to call it "retail philanthropy" — the opportunity to purchase quality products that benefit worthwhile causes.
Uptown Liz has taken off faster than I could have imagined. The business is rewarding, and while my strong work ethic has always served me well, the grief from the loss of my sister can be exhausting and overwhelming.
One of the things that helps me stay focused and balanced is long distance running. I try to approach life the same way I run a marathon; in small, manageable portions.
I also found a wonderful grief counselor, who has been a great source of comfort to me. Grief from extreme trauma is isolating and can make you feel like you are losing your mind; not having peers who have experienced anything similar makes it more difficult.
When faced with stress, I think it’s important to be open. Women sometimes worry so much about what other people think that they do not reach out. I’m an open book; I’m not ashamed of my grief, that I go to counseling or that I have bad days. It’s not abnormal or a sign of weakness, and by sharing our stories it’s one of the ways we can help and learn from each other.
My company is a little over a year old and I already have some products named after Liz. Her story and the story of my company are featured in the new FranklinCovey planners supporting breast cancer awareness. While the pain of missing my sister is with me every day, it inspires me to keep growing Uptown Liz in the hopes that it will change people’s lives.
Click here to read more about my sister.
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