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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

When Life's Plan A Fails, There's Always Plan 'Pink'

When Life's Plan A Fails, There's Always Plan 'Pink' Credit: The Pink Fund

The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series: 

In 1982, I left the workforce to marry a wealthy, Harvard educated attorney and settle down in the suburbs. We had it all. Then everything came crashing down around me.

One late summer day in 1997, I drove up the driveway to our mini-mansion in Bloomfield Hills, my five children ages four to 13 safely strapped into my gas-guzzling Suburban, to find a small note tacked to the front door.

Pulling it off, I read that our home was to be auctioned off in 30 days.

That night I had a very unpleasant conversation with my husband, during which I learned that the business deal he was pursuing was being fronted with our money. We were broke. The nightmares I was having were coming true. 

In those wee hours, I mentally prepared my "plan B."

As a former Girl Scout, my motto is: "Be prepared."

Within weeks I sold a concert Steinway piano for cash, liquidated my paltry IRAs (and paid the penalties), and the whole life insurance policy I had taken on myself when single. I cobbled together enough cash to rent a home, hire attorneys to help me navigate divorce, and avoid bankruptcy.  I took my children and left.

Getting back to work was a huge challenge. The world of work had dramatically changed since 1982, and while my skill sets were strong, I felt like I was having a Rip Van Winkle experience. But one thing never changed: I had a knack for sales, and I was determined to make a comeback.

Sitting in the backseat of a cab on my way to LaGuardia for a major sale, my cell phone rang. It was my OBGYN delivering news: A recent biopsy I had done was positive for breast cancer.

While my early stage disease was unlikely to take my life, it did take my livelihood. It detoured my career plans to the off ramp while I underwent two surgeries and six weeks of radiation treatments.

That summer, our mailbox was stuffed with late and overdue notices, threats from bill collectors and threats of foreclosure.

With my loss of income, combined with no savings and a $1,200 a month COBRA health insurance premium, our family faced the potential for catastrophic financial losses, and the reality that we might join the ranks of the homeless.

My attempts to get help were met with blank stares from hospital social workers. There was not a single resource available to help us pay a few bills, and the woman who once had the groceries delivered was standing in line at the local food bank.

It was then that I experienced a shift in thinking, from trying to get help to deciding to give help.

With $50 and an energy surge I could not explain, I was determined to make a difference in the lives of other working women in treatment for breast cancer. I created and executed a "Plan B" for these women, which would provide up to 90 days and $3,000 of non-medical financial support for bill payments to their creditors, and give them a little breathing room to  focus on treatment.

Since that summer in 2005, my company The Pink Fund has provided more than $1.5 million in bill payments for 1,500 families nationwide. We have also been recognized by Ford, Encore.org, Money Magazine and Live Strong for our work.

Our trademarked Dancing with the Survivors signature fundraiser will roll out in six cities this September and October, with plans for 2017 for a larger year-long event. We are also in the beginning stages of launching a very special traveling exhibit and walk, designed to engage more eyes and raise more dollars to fund families in need.

With 37 percent of cancer patients experiencing the effects of "financial toxicity" while in treatment, it is my distinct pleasure to be their Plan B.

About the author: Molly MacDonald is the founder, president and CEO of The Pink Fund, as well as a breast cancer survivor herself. Follow The Pink Fund on Twitter @ThePinkFund and on Facebook.

Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at sgausepohl@purch.com to learn more about our contributed content program.