Good morning, readers! Just in case you missed it last month, welcome to our “Coffee Talk” series, a Q&A feature of the women in our community with inspiring stories to tell. As often as we can, Kristen and/or I will be sitting down to chat with a lovely lady we genuinely look up to, and the highlights of conversation will be posted here for you to read. These women are beyond amazing, and we hope that you can in some way relate to or learn from the lives they lead and the words they share. That said, grab yourself a cup of joe and join in today’s #realtalk about the revolutionary #girlboss movement, kicking cancer to the curb, and what it means to “have it all.”
I’m thrilled to introduce our November guest, the one and only Megan Silianoff! In short, Megan is a 35-year-old ovarian cancer survivor, the author of 99 Problems but a Baby Ain’t One, and the founder of Houston’s coolest boutique PR firm.
Her Story Goes: Welcome, Meg! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat. Before we get into the #realtalk, what’s in your mug?
Megan Silianoff: Coffee! It’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.
HSG: Same here, girl. How do you take yours?
MS: My friend recently introduced me to the americano, and I love it so much more than regular coffee. My go-to order right now is a Starbucks americano with a steamed soy topper.
HSG: Okay, so, I’ve read your memoir—and I must say, it’s absolutely hilarious… Even though it touches on a very heavy subject. At the young age of 28, you were diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. What was it like to be given such life-changing news?
MS: Honestly, it came out of nowhere. The first two weeks were very scary. After getting the initial diagnosis from Northwestern in Chicago [my hometown], there were two weeks where I was like, “Shit, am I going to die?” But then the minute I got a second opinion, the situation became more hopeful. They told me I didn’t have breast cancer (which was up in the air at first), and that I didn’t need chemo. Once I was pretty sure that I was going to live, I knew I’d be okay.
HSG: Wow, I can’t even imagine. How were you able to maintain a positive attitude throughout the whole recovery process?
MS: Staying positive almost came naturally to me. It was such a scary time, and because of that, I felt a visceral need to lighten up the mood. There’s only so much seriousness that a person can take, you know? Humor was my defense mechanism in a sucky situation. Plus, I wanted to make my loved ones feel better, and I could do that by joking about it.
HSG: Is that why you started writing?
MS: Yep, pretty much! When I first found out I had cancer, I didn’t know how to tell everyone. The initial shock was still fresh, so I defaulted to letting my mother break the news to our friends and family. But every time I heard her telling someone over the phone, she would start crying. The whole thing was really depressing. And it was my ovaries they were talking about! A very personal topic, you know? That’s when I knew I needed to take some power back and tell people in my own way. Blogging wasn’t very popular back then, but I had heard about the Caring Bridge blogs and decided to write my own. I remember my Mom being happy about that until she picked up on the tone in my posts…
HSG: You mean the same witty laugh-out-loud humor in your memoir? What’s not to love about that!? It sounds like your positive outlook was integral to your healing, because you’re now cancer-free!
MS: Yes, I am! It was a long 5-year process of not knowing what to expect, but I got through it! We moved to Houston for Danny’s job while I was in remission, and it’s definitely a comfort to have MD Anderson close by.
HSG: Not long after you moved, you founded your own PR business. Tell us a little bit about where the inspiration for Mad Meg Creative Services came from.
MS: Once we settled in to our new city, I worked in staffing at first but quickly got tired of that. I wanted to continue writing, but just not about cancer. So I started my personal blog, Greetings From Texas, which chronicled my adventures in Houston. From there, I was able to get a few copywriting jobs. I began doing social media for several companies, and before I knew it, I was getting more opportunities in the creative industry and building this completely different skill set. But it wasn’t until Danny and I were going through our divorce that I thought, ‘I’m gonna need to bring home some bacon.’ Which, honestly, is one of the main reasons I started Mad Meg.
HSG: You used to work for your family business in Chicago. Did you ever think you’d start your own?
MS: My dad owns staffing firms, and most of my uncles and cousins have their own businesses. I grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs; it’s kind of a theme in my family. So that definitely helped give me the idea to start my own. I never thought I’d find myself in the PR industry, though! I figured I would end up in the family business. But I love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
HSG: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?
MS: Good question. I really like helping small business that don’t have a clue what they’re doing [when it comes to branding]. To run a successful business in today’s world, it’s imperative to have a solid brand and a clean website—and I enjoy helping clients get there. I also love working with my team of girls, and serving as their mentor. We’re always building Mad Meg’s brand as a team, too, and that’s really fun.
HSG: Sounds like it! I’m curious, what’s your take on the #girlboss movement? Do you consider yourself a #girlboss?
MS: I love the term #girlboss! Some women don’t, and I get why. But my standpoint is, we are different than men. Equal, yes, but different. The way I’m going to be a boss is different than the way a dude will be a boss. And I’m proud of that! So, yeah, I love the term. It sets us apart, in a good way.
HSG: As you mentioned, you are the writer behind the popular blog Greetings From Texas and you’ve authored three books in the last 5 years. What advice would you give to aspiring writers and bloggers who want to get their work out there?
MS: That’s simple: Just get it out there. Write. You should see my first blog posts—they were so bad, it’s hilarious. But I think getting started is the hardest part. Especially if we’re talking about books. The challenge of writing a book is actually sitting down and writing the darn thing. Forget about getting it published for now; that comes later (and is much easier, in my opinion). With blogging, it’s a little different. Before you jump in, you almost have to have an idea of how your blog is going to be different than every other blog out there. How many versions of Cupcakes & Cashmere do we need, really? The best advice I can give for aspiring bloggers: Find what makes your blog different and run with that.
HSG: Thanks for the advice! On top of everything else, you also have an adopted daughter, Macy, who just turned 4. What’s she like?
MS: Oh man, she’s crazy and hilarious and wild and hyper. Um, yeah, our relationship is… I don’t know, it just makes me laugh. She’s kind of a reflection of who I am, and who her dad is. Let’s just say, she gets a taste of her own medicine.
HSG: You seem like a really laid-back, easygoing person. How does that translate into parenting?
MS: If anything, I’m too laid-back. But it always surprises me to hear that I come off that way, because I don’t think people would say that about me if they were inside my head. My mind is always racing! But yeah, people who see me with Macy have joked that if they didn’t know any better, they’d guess she was my second kid instead of my first. I see that as a good thing, though. I grew up with a strict mom, so that’s probably why I lean towards the opposite. When it comes to parenting, you really have to take everything with a grain of salt—or else you’re going to lose your mind.
HSG: What would you tell someone who’s considering adoption or is going through the process right now?
MS: I would tell them to try to keep a sense of humor about it. I’ve always said that [the adoption] was harder for me than cancer. It’s such a long, tedious process. Danny and I were lucky, because we knew I wouldn’t be able to have kids when I was diagnosed, so there was immediate closure. But I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for someone who’s been through the wringer of trying to get pregnant and going through IVF–and still, maybe, holding out hope for their own baby. But with just about anything else that is tough or serious, you have to handle it with as much levity as you can. Also, it’s important to trust that things will unfold in the way they’re supposed to. Not an easy thing to do, of course, but necessary for your sanity.
HSG: Business owner, mother, author, blogger… You definitely wear a lot of hats. How would you respond to the modern notion that women can “have it all”?
MS: We can’t have it all, and honestly, I don’t want to. I don’t even know what that means, exactly, but it sounds stressful. You have to know what your priorities are, and focus on those. As a woman, of course I want to do so much. Especially during the holidays! I want to bake cookies and decorate my house and cook every night, but I don’t always have that choice as a working woman with a kid to take care of. And that’s okay. I love my life. Knowing that you simply can’t have everything and instead embracing what you do have is “having it all,” in my opinion. It all has to do with perspective.
HSG: Amen, sister. I’m not even a mother yet, and I still struggle to find a perfect balance between my personal and professional lives. Where do you turn for relaxation when you have a ton on your plate?
MS: Women are obsessed with finding the “perfect balance” in everything, but it’s easier to just figure out what works for you—and do that. For me, meditation is a lifesaver. I try to meditate twice a day when I’m stressed, because it puts my priorities into focus.
HSG: Lastly, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment?
MS: Wow, that’s tough. Professionally, I’d say my proudest moment was being featured on the Everygirl, because I had been a big fan of their blog for so long. Also, hiring my first paid employee was a huge milestone for Mad Meg. That was awesome.
HSG: I bet. Thank you so much for hanging out with me, Meg! We have a few more somewhat random questions to end on, just for fun.
Name a daily ritual that you can’t live without.
HSG: What’s on your favorite playlist at the moment?
MS: Can it be a podcast? NPR’s ‘How I Built This’ Podcast is my jam! Look it up!
HSG: The best thing to do in Houston is…
MS: Get lost at Kuhl-Linscomb.
HSG: Name one woman, living or dead, that you’d love to have coffee with.
MS: Oprah for her wisdom, or Mindy Kaling because she’s funny and quirky and still a total #girlboss.
HSG: If you could give your 16-year-old self a piece of womanly advice, what would it be?
MS: Sixteen, jeez. I wasn’t worried about anything at sixteen! Um, pay more attention in driver’s ed? I’m a terrible driver, ask anyone!
P.S. Know someone you’d like to see on the blog? Nominate them for the next #HSGcoffeetalk by shooting us an email with their name and contact information. 🙂
Photos courtesy of Megan Silianoff.