Taking the Stage

NB|AZ supports organization helping cancer survivors share their second act

Cancers may have stages, but Judy Pearson knows the most important one is where survivors can share their newfound purposes in life.

Through A 2nd Act, a nonprofit organization she created in 2016, Pearson gives others the spotlight at its Survivors Telling A Real Story (S.T.A.R.S.) performance. The annual celebration and fundraiser is Pearson’s own second act. What started as a way to put her storytelling talents to use for others after her own battle with cancer, has grown into a multi-faceted network for women to discover, share and heal.

When Pearson was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she attacked it the way her strong work ethic had trained her: through research. She studied the cancer, the treatment and the reconstruction.

“But at no point did it occur to me to research the survivor aspect,” says Pearson, who expected to go back to her regular life as a non-fiction writer after chemotherapy. It wasn’t that simple. Not only had her body changed, but there were questions of why. She had found her tumor after a clean mammogram. After her breast was removed, however, doctors discovered a larger tumor they never would have found otherwise. It was hard for Pearson to ignore that there may be a deeper purpose.

“The human mind is hard wired to make sense of things, so my needing to find a reason wasn’t…unreasonable,” she says. “Then I was meeting other survivors who had the same questions—and doing amazing things in their survivorship.”

The seed for A 2nd Act was planted. What if she could share the power of storytelling to help survivors find their purpose, and raise money to help them do even more positive things?

Since launching, the organization has expanded beyond the S.T.A.R.S. performances to include networking events and workshops that help survivors discover what they may be uniquely qualified to do in their second act. And now, it offers micro grants to help bring those purposes to fruition.

Pamela Keefe, NB|AZ Vice President and Non-Profit Relationship Manager, says there aren’t a lot of young organizations with the depth of A 2nd Act.

“There are many that focus on helping when you’re first diagnosed, or with such things as cleaning, cooking or running errands. Judy has taken that a step further. It’s deeper, to the core of your soul,” Keefe says.

Pearson says NB|AZ has been an amazing and supportive partner. “We’re just little, but every time I walk into a branch, every time I talk to Pam—or anyone else for that matter—I feel like I’m the most important nonprofit in their book of business,” she says.

For Keefe, working with nonprofits goes beyond opening an account. “We’re always trying to find ways to add value. How can we partner and elevate the community?” she says. “It’s these types of things that you can’t really put a price tag on.”