I met Beverlye Hyman Fead during our Raquel Allegra event at DIANI back in August. She was with her husband looking for an outfit to wear to her acceptance of the 2019 Perennial Hero Award at the Annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner in Washington D.C. I couldn’t help but ask her to tell me more. The Perennial Hero Award is presented each year to honor an individual who is actively contributing to create positive change. Beverlye was diagnosed with stage four cancer 17 years ago, and after overcoming the odds, has become an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, documentary film maker and an artist. I was inspired and so grateful that our paths had crossed and wanted to get to know more about this special lady, who is so tiny and yet so powerful. And so, here is my 19th installment of Pillow Talk with Beverlye at her beautiful home in Montecito, California.
When you were in school, what was your favorite subject and what did you want to “grow up” to be?
I loved English and Language classes. I wanted to be a singer, a painter or an actress. I hit one out of the three: I became a painter.
What contributed to you becoming the entrepreneur that you are today?
I really think of myself as an artist more than an entrepreneur. Even though I end up selling my products, it’s the creative part that is my favorite. Everything I did, there was always someone to learn from. When I designed ceramics I went to a very old factory in Deruta, Italy and designed the dishes and learned from the people in the factory how to do it their way and learned from the factory owner how to sell them. When I remodeled houses I learned from the contractors and my favorite architect, Don Nulty. When I started writing, I went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and there were people there that helped me. Perie Longo helped me with my poetry.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire?
Well, Caroline Diani for sure, and all women who have pushed through their beliefs and worked to see them out into the world.
What has been your favorite part about creating your different ventures?
It’s thrilling to be able to create something, and of course, it’s always the beginning of a project that is the most exciting. I never realized I knew how to produce a documentary depicting stage IV cancer survivors, but because of my passion, I was able to do it. I dreamed of doing a TEDx Talk and speak about cancer and aging, and I was able to fulfill that dream in 2017. My painting, photography, writing, and designing ceramics and homes have all been one big canvas for me as well.
What has been your favorite role to date?
Every role I take is my favorite at the time.
What’s the most challenging part of your professional life?
Finding the time to do everything! I would also say that staying current with social media is tough for me. As my current business is writing and speaking, one of the most challenging parts is trying to break into large conferences and well-known publishers.
What inspired you to write three books and how has that journey been for you?
It’s been the most amazing journey of my life. My first book called, I Can Do This, Living with Cancer, was such an amazing experience for me. I was told I had two months to live, and so I went to a poetry class at the Cancer Center and started writing what I thought was for my children, but it then turned out to be my first book. I love putting down my thoughts and having them help others who read them. I am now re-issuing, I Can Do This, Living with Cancer with an update for the 17 years since I was diagnosed and how powerful those years have been for me. My second book was, Nana What’s Cancer, written with my 11-year-old granddaughter, Tessa Hamermesh (now a 21-year-old senior at Northwestern). My third book is called, Aging In High Heels, and is about the funny reality about aging.
What do you think is the single most important ingredient to success?
Perseverance and never giving up.
What has your latest venture been?
This September, I was awarded the 2019 Perennial Hero Award in Washington, D.C., given to me by Alliance For Aging Research. Being recognized for a body of work at the age of 85 made it much more meaningful to me.
How do you try to manage your work/life balance?
That’s the hard part! I do a lot of computer work and writing after my husband goes to sleep.
What do you see yourself doing next to express yourself professionally?
I am bringing back my first book and sharing my story with Stand Up to Cancer’s Inspirational Stories Series which will be featured on their website in January. I am also writing a book of poetry about aging, and I always love continuing my photography. I love them all. It’s too hard to say what will come first.
How do you manage the fear and doubt that inevitably creeps in when you’re paving a less trodden path?
There is always fear when you take the path less chosen, but you have to push through it. Thirty-five years ago I left a long marriage and moved to a new city (Montecito). I knew no one and without giving myself the chance to be afraid, I moved. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life. I think you have to envision something, push fear aside, and move ahead.
What have you been most afraid of trying in your career, but you did it anyway?
Having my first art exhibit! I then, having sold many of my paintings that night, gained confidence that contributed to thinking of myself as a painter.
Was there any opportunity that you had in your life that you didn’t take?
There were many opportunities that I missed, but then I wouldn’t have been available for the ones I took.
Any sleep rituals that you use to help quiet the mind after a long day?
If you find one, please call me! Sometimes, I bring my phone by my bed and listen to meditation apps.
What’s the biggest gift you give yourself to recharge?
Sitting at the beach near where we live and then having a massage. In that order.
What’s your favorite indulgence?
Room service in a wonderful hotel.
What gifts has moving to a new city brought you?
New life-long friends, new inspirations, and a new start.
What’s the first thing you do after you wake up?
Drink hot water and lemon.
What’s the last thing you do before bed?
Wash my face and put on moisturizer after brushing my teeth. A very simple routine.
What contributed to you becoming the woman that you are today?
So many things!
I read a quote from someone that said, “Creativity comes out of loneliness.” I was often left alone as a child, and I think that gave me all that time to think about creating. Also, my father was very creative, and I see myself following in many of his patterns. I came of age as the “Women’s Lib Movement” was also coming of age, and that changed my thinking about what a partnership should be. I’ve known some very inspirational women in my life and they showed me the way many times when I lost mine.
What was the most pivotal moment in your life?
When I bought the first house I ever owned by myself at age 50 in Montecito: a brand new town.
How did you continue to pursue your work in the midst of a cancer diagnosis?
It changed my focus to write instead of paint. I also wanted to immediately help as many people as possible who had also been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I needed to write more than ever. Cancer gave me motivation because I realized how precious time was. It made me realize how every minute matters.
What did you do to help you meet the challenges of your treatments?
I brought everything I had to the table! I changed my diet; I had green juices three times a day, I did acupuncture weekly, I visualized my tumors gone. I exercised my body and my mind. I did whatever I could.
What platforms aided you in your mission to share your story?
American Cancer Society, The National Sarcoma Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer, The Jennifer Diamond Foundation, Samuel Ocean Cancer Center: Cedar Sinai, The Leslie Ridley Tree Cancer Center in Santa Barbara, Town and Country Magazine, Santa Barbara Magazine, Montecito Journal, CNN Health, ABC News, KEYT, and most recently: The Alliance for Aging Research.
What has been your favorite part about sharing your story?
Inspiring people to believe that their own story can have a happier ending than what they thought. My prognosis of two months to live has turned into 17 years. I often receive notes and thoughtful comments about how I inspired many people struggling through dark times. That is worth everything to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say: “You have no idea what is waiting for you, good and bad, but the bad will make you stronger! Keep yourself wide open and focus on what today means. Put one foot in front of the other and keep walking, no matter what. Re-invent! Exercise your body and your mind. Keep a glass half-full attitude at all times, and above all, pay it forward!!!!”
I’m not crying, you’re crying! Thank you, Beverlye, for every drop of your mighty mind and body. Your strength and spirit are a road map for us all, at any age to know and embrace every single blessing that is in front of us, especially our creativity and ability to give. I am so grateful to know you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your openness in sharing your incredible journey. Congratulations on your recent award and I can’t wait to see what you do next! You are an inspiration to us all and I’m so excited to share you with my readers.