What was it about my youth that set up a way for me to be able to capture the opportunity to become a CEO of an international firm, deal with single motherhood and kick cancer’s ass?

I think part of it was the hands off parenting style of my folks – that if something went wrong I needed to pick myself up and fix it.

I am also an incredibly persistent person.

If you were my therapist and you said, “Why did you stay in a really destructive, abusive marriage for such a long time?” – it’s because I refused to fail.

There are different reasons that I’m successful on different fronts.

Advertising – it was my pretty good intuition and ability to read and communicate with audiences.

“My ability to be incredibly even keel when other people are being emotional and the inherent fit between what I’m good at and what I’m interested in aligning with the job that I had to do.”

With cancer it was completely different.

“With cancer it was playing a complete mental game with myself. As a single mom I couldn’t die. It just was not a possibility because my kids did not have a second parent to fall back on or to pick up the pieces if I wasn’t there.”

At the same time, I thought to myself, if I define myself as a cancer patient that would become way too scary, loom way too large and take up way too much of my self-identity.

Every time I would go in for my treatments or my surgeries, I went by myself and I handled it myself because doing it myself allowed me to minimize how serious it was in my own head.

It was a complete mental coping game of putting it in a box and minimizing how serious it really was.

I had to live by the day and say “Ok that’s over and now I’ve moved on.”

I don’t think about myself as a cancer patient on a day-to-day basis even though it isn’t five years yet that I haven’t had a recurrence.

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Chief Strategy Officer at

After a successful career as the Chairman and CEO of a number of Advertising Agencies in New York, Anne Devereux-Mills is now the of chief strategy officer of Lantern, a San Francisco-based start-up that delivers mental health care through a mobile platform. Anne is also the Founder of Parlay House, a salon-style gathering of over 800 Bay-area women who meet to pull each other forward through a combination of shared experiences, meaningful content and peer-to-peer connections.