I was drinking my cortadito on a beautiful February morning shortly after arriving at my office in Robb & Stucky, when I received an email that read, “We have a 20,000 sqft home in the Bahamas and we want to know if you could meet us in Miami to discuss the design and furnishings”. One week later I was touring my new client and their architect through two of our Robb & Stucky showrooms.
It was a wonderful new project, I received floor plans and immediately started working on ideas and design concepts. Soon thereafter, we were making plans for me to travel and see their home at the Bahamas. Unbeknownst to my client or myself, the world and my life was about to change drastically in 2 weeks.
On March 17th 2020 I got “the call”, I could faintly hear my doctor’s voice telling me – “You have breast cancer and I need to see you tomorrow”. At that same moment the world was already in chaos talking about a Global Pandemic which no one yet understood its magnitude or what was about to come. The next day was a blur, but I remember receiving a phone call from my boss, Oscar, telling me to pass by the office to pick up my personal belongings as Miami was shutting down for quarantine. The week could not get any worse or could it?
As it turns out, back at home we were in remodeling mode and we had removed our entire kitchen that last week of February. But with the shut down, the raging pandemic and my illness, we were not able to get workers, deliveries or installations anytime soon and we were left with no place to cook. This was a new beginning in my life.
For the next couple of weeks while the world was shutting down, I was instead being forced to endure the reality of my illness as they put a port into my chest and underwent x-rays, bloodwork and other “routine” cancer screenings in what seemed to be endless doctor appointments at the Miami Cancer Institute. At this point, I had not heard back from my new clients nor could I go to the office to keep my mind busy, but I was not about to lose faith.
A few weeks had passed when one day I woke up and decided that I was going to use my cancer to inspire and motivate others to live the best life they could and to find the happiest version of themselves. I decided that I was going to use my expertise as a designer to DESIGN the way I was going to heal and use that path to eventually give back to my community. I put together a spec book to guide me through this Cancer Journey. I assessed the project (my health), developed a plan, hired an amazing team focused on results, met with every expert, researched all the details and put everything into action with a full team of therapists, doctors and surgeons.
My mindset was without compromise and the change in my condition was almost immediate. That next day I got a call from my clients to restart the project. Although I was not able to travel and see the project, Deborah, my design partner on this project, and I, at once immersed ourselves in our home-offices, working on the design and on every detail for this home until the wee hours of our days. At the same time I was also finalizing details of my own home remodel. Design became my THERAPY. Months went by and throughout my hair loss and my chemotherapy sessions, life for me had a different rhythm, but my clients never found out what was going on at the time.
Most people believe Interior Design is putting pretty things together but as my life experience can tell you, everything we do on a project, from understanding the psyche of each client and the flow and bones of the home, to hiring the appropriate team that will provide the best furnishing solutions and details to make each home safe, all while thinking of the client, is extremely important so that family and friends can live, love and be their best selves in their home. Our job is to make a difference in how people live their daily lives.
Interior Design has brought me 30 years of creating amazing projects and now it brought me therapy during the most challenging time of my life. It was life changing and today, after receiving a clean bill of health, I continue my journey with a new perspective in life and a new team which now includes a nutritionist, acupuncturist, physical trainer and therapist.
It takes a village to do most great things in life and for me I had a team at home, at Miami Cancer Institute and at Robb & Stucky, and together with all my family and friends they made sure that I would thrive and finally heal. I was one of the lucky ones. I am eternally grateful to Robb & Stucky and my boss, Oscar, for the support throughout my journey with breast cancer. They have truly been my second family.