Giving Something Back
The Pink Loofa Dog Project
By Temi J. Sacks

 

 

She had been the leading salesperson for the pet industry toy market, a mother of two young boys ages four and ten, and in love with this “wonderful guy” when her world was shattered by four words: “You have breast cancer.”  

“I was devastated when I was told that I had breast cancer,” said Leslie Yellin, Director for Strategic Accounts for Multipet International, the leading manufacturer of pet toys in the nation. “All I could think about was if I was going to die”

Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and Leslie knew then there was indeed a possibility of her inheriting the breast cancer gene.

 “To be closer to a top hospital, my mother had moved in with me, and so I was witness to her heartache and courage, the chemotherapy, mastectomy and ultimately, a cure.” 

When Leslie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she was filled with anxiety and fear. How would she inform her children? What would she say to the man she hoped to marry? How would this impact her very busy career?

After getting over their initial shock, her children asked two questions: “Are you going to lose your you-know-whats,” and “Are you going to die?”

“I told my sons I really hoped I wouldn’t ‘lose them’ and that we all die, but this was not what I was planning on dying from,” she explained. “That seemed to satisfy them.”

There was also that dramatic moment taken directly from the annals of the finest tear-jerker movies, when Leslie confronted her “wonderful guy” and told him he did not have to stick around if her diagnosis was too much for him to handle. “I’m not going anywhere,” said the man who in 2006 became her husband.

The day she was diagnosed was also the same day that Multipet was having its annual holiday dinner. Because Leslie was unable to speak without breaking down, her “wonderful guy,” Mark Hirschberg, the company president, explained the situation.

“From the day he was told of my diagnosis, Mark treated me like a sister, not an employee,” noted Leslie.

During her entire ordeal, Mark continued to treat Leslie like the star salesperson she used to be. Her salary and perks remained the same. Her time off was not affected. Not once did he suggest she take some official time off, or that maybe he would look into getting someone to cover for her. During her eight-month ordeal, Leslie knew she had cost Multipet a significant amount of money in lost sales. “Mark treated me with such dignity that I swore if I beat this thing, I would make it up to him,” explained Leslie.

But, for the next eight months Leslie’s priority was no longer in maintaining her leading sales persona — which kept her in the air and on the road for weeks at a time — but in beating this disease. Her treatments required ongoing radiation and lumpectomies in both breasts.

“I didn’t have the energy or the heart to be on the road. I went on maybe a handful of sales calls. I wanted to be near my family,” added Leslie.
Through the support of a wonderful family and loyal friends, Leslie was able to gracefully deal with her disease.

Almost three years later, with her prognosis for a full recovery looking good, Leslie’s routine includes tamoxafin daily, blood tests every three months and mammograms every six months.

Leslie kept her word by more than making up for the lost sales. But, she still wanted to do more — to give back to the breast cancer community.

“Having gone through this and come out a survivor, made me want to reach out and help bring awareness of this dreadful disease affecting one in eight women in the United States,” noted Leslie.

 Leslie went on to spearhead the Pink Loofa Dog Project, and Multipet’s ever-popular Loofa dog, which appears in the PetSmart TV commercials, was produced in a special pink-ribbon version. Proceeds from the sale of the pink Loofa dog go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“We need to spread the word about breast cancer awareness and research in as many venues as possible. We believe the pink-ribbon Loofa dog will help encourage awareness among our key audience… the pet owner,” she explained.

The pink-ribbon Loofa dog is available in stores nationwide and will make a great Holiday gift!  

For information about Multipet International please visit www.multipet.com

Temi J. Sacks is president of T.J. Sacks & Associates, a New York-based public relations agency that includes Multipet International among its clients. She may be reached at www.tjsacks.com


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