Elisabeth Woods Leonard is proof that it’s not about what happens to you, it’s what happens next.
After losing her mother to lung cancer in September of 2000, Elisabeth started the Elisabeth R Woods Foundation (Leonard and her mom share the same name) in her mother’s honor with a mission to research more ways to fight Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Leonard is determined to empower women who are battling lung cancer and seeks to be a voice for those affected by the disease.
Starting this foundation allowed Leonard to channel her pain into purpose. “I had met scientists and researchers from all around the country and gained as much knowledge about the disease so that I was more than a voice behind the title. Scientifically, I knew what I was talking about,” Elisabeth said.
Even in the darkest periods of Leonard’s life, her mother’s wisdom and inspiration gave her strength. Just three years after her mother’s passing, Elisabeth lost her husband and was left with three young children to raise on her own. “My children were my reason for moving forward. They are my life force. I had to put my armor on and prevail. Maggie was only 18 months old, Elisa was 11, and Mary was 9. I was in a downward spiral — I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I just knew in my heart that I had to find the tools and the energy and strength to put my armor on and gain strength for my children.”
Elisabeth says that everyone has their struggles and days of despair, and has ingrained in her daughters the importance of taking care of their mental health.
“She’s a big advocate for talking about mental health. She’s very adamant about people talking about their depression and anxiety,” said Elisa, one of Elisabeth’s daughters.
Elisabeth’s advice to anyone going through a trying time is to be kind to yourself and prioritize self-care.
“It’s important to love yourself, to be accepting of yourself, and not judge yourself. If I make mistakes, I try to not get mad at myself and accept who I am and not let others pierce that. And deflect anything that will get in the way of my self-care.”
To learn more, visit www.elisabethrwoodsfoundation.org.