Pain Into Purpose

By Kristine Hansen, Nikki Kallio, Shayna Mace and Jessica Steinhoff | Photography by Hillary Schave unless noted

Failure, cancer, loss, trauma — all are devastating setbacks. Five women share how they were able to come to terms with life-altering changes, and push forward. 

I Was Changed Because of Cancer

The last thing Diane Anderson expected to hear in 2002 was that she had breast cancer — at 44, she was an active and otherwise healthy mother of three girls. Nor did she expect that it was just the beginning of her health concerns: In 2013, doctors found a “suspicious” spot on her lung, and in 2023 she developed a four-centimeter meningioma — a benign but potentially cancerous brain tumor — which required an eight-hour surgery to remove.

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Trauma Turned My Life Around

Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Jevon Diming experienced generational trauma: several cousins were killed by gun violence and her nephew, Pierre, was a victim of gun violence.

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How I Live With Unimaginable Loss

Kristin Keir never thought on a sunny morning last September that it would be the last time she would see her partner, Dax Bakken, alive.

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Once Homeless, Now I’m Prospering

After being stalked in Milwaukee as retaliation for reporting a sexual assault of a family member, Lai’Kita Buie knew she could no longer raise her three children there.

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How I Thrived After Business Failure

Figure skating taught me how to recover from failure,” says Natasha Vora, CEO of the Madison-based eyewear company Optical X. By the time she turned pro at age 16, she’d fallen — and gotten up — thousands of times. This served her well when she was denied acceptance to UW–Madison’s business school.

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