Creating a legacy and empowering others

January 23, 2023 Chelsey Sleator
As Chairman of the Board for Livestrong, Candice Aaron has empowered millions of people to take ownership of their cancer diagnoses—including herself.

Candice Aaron was diagnosed with advanced thyroid cancer in 2006 when she was only 31 years old. She was up for partner at her law firm and decided no one needed to know. She went in for surgery on a Thursday and was back in the office by the following Tuesday, wearing a turtleneck to cover the incision.

“I didn’t tell many people in my life at all,” explains Candice. “Cancer is upsetting and scary, and as a human you don’t want to put that on others. It’s common for cancer patients to think about others’ feelings instead of their own.”

She then went through radiation treatment and a six-week-long process to prepare for it, but still kept her situation on a “need to know” basis. But, a few months after treatment, she had an awakening and realized, “I think I just had a life transforming experience.”

While she still wasn’t ready to share, she did reach out to a few foundations that support people with cancer and offered her professional services pro bono. That’s how she first connected with Livestrong, whose mission is to answer the question, “What everyday cancer problem can we solve today?”

The organization was looking for fresh perspectives, so she was asked to join a new Young Leader Cancer council for people that were leaders in their industries or communities and had a connection to cancer. Accepting the role ended up putting Candice in the media, outing her cancer diagnosis for the first time.

“I was like, ‘What am I sitting here worrying about?’” recalls Candice of how she reacted to the exposure. “So, I went from a very private person to really stepping in and owning it.”

It was at a Livestrong event where Candice sat in a room full of people and said out loud for the first time, “I am a cancer survivor.”

“It felt great to be part of a community that totally gets it,” explains Candice.

Shocking phone calls

In 2012, Candice got what she refers to as the most shocking call of her life. The chairman of Livestrong asked her to join the board. “I didn’t think that of all the people, that I would be the person they would tap for that,” she explains.

And then in 2015, after only one term on the board, Candice got the second most shocking call of her life. She was asked to become the chairman of the Livestrong board. With other board members with large public personas and staggering personal wealth, Candice again couldn’t believe she was the one they picked.

“I had the challenge of transitioning Livestrong out of the Lance era,” explains Candice, regarding the exit of Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong.

The foundation struggled for many years as it rebranded and switched its fundraising model, but Candice is proud to say that today, as a $50 million organization under her leadership, the foundation serves more people than when it was a $150 million organization.

‘I know who I am, and I know what matters to me.’

Board work is only part-time work. Candice estimates that she spends about an hour a week on it, sometimes more when there are leadership changes. So, when Candice was considering a new career move in 2019, finding a company that would be supportive of her purpose was a top priority.

“When I was interviewing with Schwab, I told them my role with Livestrong was a non-negotiable,” explains Candice. “I needed to work somewhere that was supportive of my purpose so I could bring my whole self to work. I’m the person that people call when they get diagnosed with cancer. I’m everybody’s cancer tour guide. And I can bring that to work too.”

Schwab is supportive of employees serving on the boards of non-profits, even offering a special 2:1 match for every dollar the employee/board member donates to the organization (up to $2,000 per year). And after three years in the compliance department where she currently serves as Chief Compliance Officer of Schwab Banking and Trust Services, Candice explains that she feels fortunate to work somewhere where her priorities are valued.

'This is all we get'

Candice’s experience with cancer taught her that all you can do is choose how to live in the very moment you are in. “Do I want to do that quietly and tucked away? Or do I want to step into my full self and be the person that helps others during their dark or quiet moments?” she asks. “Do I want to leave that big mark in the world if this moment ends? Yes, I do.”

In her role with Livestrong, Candice empowers the 32 million people in the world with cancer to own their cancer experience and to run it the way they want. “I’m most proud of that,” she says.

In addition, under Candice’s leadership, Livestrong has helped 80,000 survivors regain their strength with the launch of the Livestrong at the Y program, and it’s also helped 1,700 patients with the launch of the Livestrong Cancer Institute. Livestrong also established a free fertility preservation program for patients before they’re treated and free fertility treatment when they’re ready to have a child. 17,000 cancer survivors have utilized this benefit, resulting in literally thousands of humans who wouldn’t be walking around without the support that Candice’s leadership and Livestrong provide. Now that’s a big mark.