As a breast cancer survivor, Kara Gorski of Alexandria, VA co-founded braGGs Reconstruction Bras with her sister to empower women who have undergone a mastectomy with breast reconstruction. You can watch Kara and her fellow finalists compete for a $10,000 bonus onstage this Friday, May 15 during the Know Your Value event in Washington, DC. The contest is part of the nationwide Know Your Value effort to provide dialogue, training and resources for women to learn and communicate their value in the workplace.
Why are you a believer in the Know Your Value movement?
For me, knowing your value means knowing what you value most. It took me a long time to discover this truth and even longer to figure out what it is in life I value most. And some days I still struggle with it. My mission is to empower women to live life fully and be present each day, dreaming big along the way. And to help them realize that the only way to become truly fearless is to embrace their fears.
I believe the Know Your Value movement is the embodiment of these ideals, giving women tools to implement them in the workplace and life. Raising your hand at the table, not being afraid to express and ask for what you want, and simply knowing what is important to you in your life and then being your strongest advocate—these are all fundamental precepts that as we women we need to encourage and foster in each other. What I love most about the movement is the collaboration it fosters among us as women. Together, we can bring awareness in ourselves, support awareness in our sisters and level the playing field at work and home.
What guidance would you offer to millennial women who are just beginning their careers?
Question. Always, question. Question yourself: why I am doing this? Is this something I want? If I do this, what will the consequence be for me? Where do I want to be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? What do I want from life? If I don’t get it, what will be the worst that happens? When I fail, how will I react and what can I learn? Question those around you: why is he or she asking me to do this? What will he or she get if I do this? What will I get if I do this? Is this person’s intention good? Who is most important in my life? How am I treating them? How are they treating me?
Go with your gut. When you have a weird feeling about something, listen to that feeling. It is 110% correct. But the key is making sure you are listening. Don’t just hurry past that feeling. Be tuned in enough with your body that when your gut says, I don’t think so, you listen, contemplate, reason and move forward accordingly.
The Know Your Value live event is only several days away. How do you feel about being onstage in front of hundreds of people?
I’m so excited! I can’t wait to be surrounded by hundreds of hard working, smart-as-a-whip, inspiring and motivated women. The energy from these wonderful women is just awesome. I can’t wait to just sit there and experience the day with them. It is a blessing.
You’ve written about how your breast cancer diagnosis taught you to live in the moment. I’m also curious how your experience overcoming breast cancer might have impacted the way you approached your career?
It’s a 180. After my diagnosis, my professional life and career took a 180, by my own choosing. Again, it’s about knowing what you value most. I was a practicing economist doing work I loved, still love. It is awesome work. But I was working constantly, managing clients and staff, while also balancing family. I hadn’t really ever stopped to ask myself what I wanted, where I wanted to go with my professional career.
Cancer put a new perspective on that. Suddenly, the work I was doing was kind of unimportant in the scheme of things, at least to me and at least in that moment. Those things that were most important to me, the ones I knew I could not disappoint in any way, were waiting at home for me. I lost my mother to this same disease when I was seven. I know how hard it is to go through that as a child. And I did not want my own children to go through what I had gone through, even worse, at my own hand. I know someday I will leave them, but any amount of extra time with them is priceless. That means I have to try like hell with everything in my power to prevent that from happening to them. So, I changed my professional direction. I cut back. I stopped and took stock of life. I started to take care of myself. And I asked myself those questions I mentioned above.
Through your work with braGGs, you help other women cope with the challenges of breast cancer. How has helping other survivors and previvors served as a healing professional aim for you?
About a year and half ago, a woman named Amy came to my home to try on our bras. She had been at a loss with her “new” body. Her reconstruction was asymmetric. One implant was higher on her chest wall than the other and she had really been struggling with how she looked. I watched my new friend strip down in my bedroom—as we all willingly do with ease and complete disregard after this journey—and throw on our bra. She looked in the mirror and her eyes lit up. She couldn’t believe how balanced her breasts looked. I watched her entire attitude change: she stood taller, walked around a bit strutting her stuff. She was confident and comfortable. She smiled. I cried.
All of the work—the sourcing, the pattern-making and grading, the frustration with vendors, the website issues, the manufacturing problems, the personal financial investment—many days culminate in me tossing my hands up in their air, hanging my head and asking, is it time? Is it time to throw in the towel and move on? And then I think of Amy. And I just can’t. Helping other women deal with these challenges, and empowering them to be fearless and live fully, to go out and know their value like they’ve never done before, is unbelievably rewarding and healing for me. But it’s more than that. It ignites the core of who I am. It lets me show up and give happiness.
You can also learn more about Kara and the other finalists here.