Welcome to The Empowered Spotlight.
This is the exceptional, the extraordinary, the enchanting, the enduring, the EMPOWERED. Stories of intelligence, vitality, power, grit, savvy, successful, and the flat-out inspiring.
Today, The Empowered Mom Spotlight is the story of strength, soul and spirit.
A woman of strength, soul and spirit. In truth, the light that shines from within her illuminates everyone else… and does it boldy, beautifully, brilliantly.
Meet Cristen Cervellini-Calfo.
To know her, you know laughter. Her warmth fills rooms and her heart knows no boundaries. Knowing her, you know determination and courage. And love. A love so giant it defies the odds.
But then, Cris knows odds. Cris BEATS odds.
Cristen Cervellini-Calfo and her husband, Tony Calfo, wanted six kids. A house full – Team Calfo.
She’s reminded of one of her favorite sayings, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”
The odds begin: the struggle with infertility – beating the odds there resulted in the birth of their first little boy, Tonino. “Little Tony” was born healthy in 2003.
Team Calfo begins. Now on to the teammates.
More odds. In 2005, Cristen suffered a miscarriage, losing one of the two babies she was carrying. But faith strengthens her, as always – her guiding light. All is well as she moves into the eighth month of her pregnancy. That’s when she found it. The lump in her breast. Tests confirmed their fears. But she looked fear and cancer head on, defying the odds and choosing to carry the baby to full term and then undergo treatment.
Just before Christmas 2005, the newest little Calfo team member was born. They named him Vinny, after her late father. A good, strong name. For this Christmas angel needed strength. Vinny had been born without an anus and with a deformed foot. He was immediately rushed away to specialists. Little Vinny would be spending the night with those planning surgeries, not nestled in the warmth of his mother’s arms.
But Cristen’s worry extended beyond one night without her newborn, she says, “I had this panicked feeling that neither of us were going to make it, and God was going to be merciful this way. There would be only one motherless child.”
But little Vinny takes after his mommy. He defied the odds and survived the surgery to install a colostomy bag. Miraculously, Vinny came home for Christmas.
Inhale. Exhale. Odds defeated? No, Tony’s mom, Fran was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy just 24 hours before Cristen’s lumpectomy. Fran’s cancer had not spread – the surgery to remove the lump went well.
But it was not to be with Cristen. Stage 3 breast cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy were a must.
That’s when they noticed Little Tony asking questions. Questions they frankly didn’t know how to answer. But they knew they needed to – in terms he could understand.
And once again this incredible, empowered Mom steps up. Cristen sits down to write a book – to address these very questions her son and thousands of others like him are asking about their parent who has cancer. The words in this book will flow in a practical, believable and gentle way.
Cristen’s story begins with a small boy named Tony asking his Dad, “What is cancer Daddy?” Daddy patiently and lovingly answers all of Tony’s questions about Mommy. When Tony asks why Mommy is losing her hair, Daddy answers, “It means she is getting better.”
Cristen Cervellini-Calfo, the author of “When Mommy Loses Her Hair: It Means the Medicine is Working”, utilizes her own experience as a young mother with breast cancer to help other women with children explain in a direct, yet subtle way what is happening to “Mommy”.
The book simply exudes peace. From the words, to the gentle, soothing illustrations of Marla Varni-Lloyd, all woven together by the powerful, yet tranquil message that Cristen carefully crafts. All to help calm the anxiety and lack of understanding young children might feel – yet not able to verbalize. The reviews say it all: This book delivers “the much needed ‘calm in the midst of a great storm.”
Lastly, this book is a reflection of Cervellini Calfo’s strong Catholic Faith. Her “faith, her will, did not cause her to turn inward, rather it caused her to create this beautiful book. She has used her experience with cancer to make life easier for other Mommies, Daddies and little Tony’s who are asking complex questions about cancer treatment.
After making it through all that to good health, Cristen was happy and perfectly happy for a long time.
But the odds are back.
Doctors have found it again.
The Cancer is back.
This time: Stage 4 Breast Cancer. And it’s metastasized.
But she fights on. Bound to beat the odds.
She now in full-time treatments of radiation, chemotherapy (what she calls stupid chemo.) She wants to be able to do the laundry, run the errands, do homework with her boys. And she doesn’t want to throw up.
So she uses laughter to deal with it all. And she deals with it in what she calls ‘Cancer Fun.’
Funny pictures, fun events at the chemo treatments and funny things with the kids – like posing the boys with her wigs on their heads.
And laughter, laughter – and a love so abundant – her house is full of the support and love of an over-flowing stream of friends, visitors and family. In fact, she brings visitors with her to chemo, to keep her company, have fun, tell jokes, enjoy every precious moment of life.
As always – Cristen Calfo is bound and determined to beat these odds –and wants others to believe and pray and fight the odds too. She will get well – and beat this again. She’s more determined than ever.
Cristen, you’re the fighter, the beacon of light, the pillar of strength and an incredible inspiration to so many.
She signs my copy of her book, ending with ‘Thanks for all the support, and for fighting with me. Love, Cristen.”
Yes, I stand here –PROUDLY FIGHTING WITH YOU…and loving every ounce of you that I can.
Please, Fight with Cristen too.
Fight with Cristen – and with the millions fighting the battle against cancer. Get your copy of her tender, beautiful, inspiring book and help her fight. Get your own copy now. Follow this link right now: When Mommy Loses Her Hair: It Means the Medicine is Working on Amazon.
Today, Cristen continues her fight with valor, with grace and with humor.
You can learn more about Cris and The Calfo Family in the Ventura County Star Newspaper. Cervellini-Calfo was awarded the 2010 Hardest Worker in Ventura County — all the while heading up a busy household nicknamed “Camp Calfo.” Ventura Columnist Colleen Cason knows readers can’t get enough of this dynamo and penned another article. Keep reading here about Cervellini-Calfo’s extensive charity work . She gives so much back, saying “she is inspired to do more because of the gratitude she feels for everyone who supported her family during their darkest days”.
Dark days become luminescent with the light within her. And Her Beautiful Spirit and Shining Light will most certainly beat the odds.
Cristen Cervellini-Calfo is the essence of an Empowered Mom.
So it’s fitting she glows in her brilliance in our very first “ Empowered Spotlight. “