Kris Hart – VP of Global Brand Management, Harrah's Entertainment

Executive Survivor: Kris Hart, vice president of global brand management at casino operator Harrah’s Entertainment, was still breastfeeding when she found out she had breast cancer.

By Taylor Mallory

“It’s a bit of a shock to see a woman with no hair. But once people started talking to me, they realized I hadn’t changed a bit,” says Kris Hart, 43. Earlier this year she had a career in full swing along with twin infants, a toddler and a loving husband. She had it all – including breast cancer. So Hart made an executive decision: to keep control over her life. She worked through chemotherapy and only took eight weeks off after a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. And since she found wigs itchy, she shaved her head, fearlessly telling the whole world about her personal struggle.

Here’s her story.

PINK: What was your reaction when you heard “cancer”?
Kris Hart: I was startled and angry. But it ultimately depends on your DNA. You can choose to be a victim – or frame things in a more positive way: So this has happened; let’s get all the facts and fight it. That’s natural for me. It was about learning my options and where to go, gathering as much information as I could without feeling too much urgency so that I’d make smart choices.

PINK: How did your family take it?
K.H.: I was most worried what my 4-year-old would think. The day my hair started falling out, I had my head shaved. I said, “Mommy is sick, and the medication makes her lose her hair, but it will be OK.” He came up to me, rubbed my head and said, “You’re so beautiful.” Little kids can be such old souls. They have such instinctive emotional responses.

PINK: How did you tell your co-workers?
K.H.: I work in a fairly large organization, so rumors get out quickly. I knew I was going to work through the treatment, because I couldn’t imagine just sitting around thinking about it. So instead of letting other people control the conversation, I wrote an e-mail explaining what was happening. And people came out of the woodwork. I got cards and e-mails from people I didn’t even know. Some people’s parents who’d been through cancer even e-mailed me.

PINK: What have been your greatest challenges at work while dealing with this?
K.H.: I have always had an innate sense of organization in my head. Since the chemo, and even now as it’s still in my system, I’m fuzzy. I can’t retain things, and I’m not as quick as I used to be. I can’t remember names as readily as I could. That’s really frustrating.

PINK: How can colleagues help when a co-worker has cancer?
K.H.: Be specific about how you want to help. Everyone says, “I’m here for you.” But very few people will ever take you up on that. So say, “I’d like to bring dinner for you on Wednesday.” Also, recognize it’s not only the physical victim but the whole family that needs support. Someone called my husband to go have drinks. He was thrilled to get away too.

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