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Exploring Life & Business with Jami Buchanan McNees

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jami Buchanan McNees.

Hi Jami Buchanan, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I found my calling entirely by accident! I had just begun my career as an Independent Insurance Agent selling Worker’s Comp and General Liability Insurance to business owners in Southern California. I struggled every day. One day, a long-time client suggested that I take over all his insurance and asked me to become the broker on his Health Insurance policy too. He began talking to me about his wife who was a cancer survivor and his special needs son. The conversation touched my heart and I felt, “This is it! This is what I want to do! I want to have conversations like this every day!” I dropped all other lines of Insurance and focused solely on Health Insurance.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I was in the right place at the right time. The Affordable Health Care Act became law and everything changed in the Health Insurance industry. I was a smashing success as The Health Insurance Lady. The phone never stopped ringing! Business was booming. But there was no amount of success or training that could prepare me for my own cancer diagnosis. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Suddenly, I was having to navigate my way through Health Insurance with my own life-threatening diagnosis trying to figure out which doctors I had access to and the financial impact of a catastrophic illness. Needless to say, I learned more about the Health Insurance Industry and the medical services in my region than I ever anticipated.

As soon as I received my diagnosis, I decided to embrace the experience. I was determined to lean in and learn profound life lessons from cancer. But first, I would change the language around my experience. This would be an adventure and a journey. Instead of referring to my cancer as angry and aggressive, I deemed it ambitious and outgoing. It’s easy to try to numb yourself or push away the fear that accompanies cancer, but I chose to face it head on. Each day I would take 15 minutes to “sit with cancer”. I would talk out loud as if cancer was in the room with me. I would articulate my fears then brainstorm solutions. This brought me peace. But there were fears for which I had no solution. Those fears I chose to turn over to my Creator and then let go. This simple 15 minute per day intentional ritual caused my cancer journey to be a beautiful life experience.

My doctors recommended a radical surgery to remove my entire bladder and the creation of a new bionic internal reservoir from healthy intestine. The medical technology still leaves me in awe. It’s been five years since my diagnosis. I am cancer free-ish. My doctor says that my current scans and tests don’t say I have cancer, but they don’t say I don’t have cancer. So, we will extend my testing for another several years and wait and see.

My cancer experience was amazing. My girlfriends who walked the journey with me became like sisters. My son, Sam McNees, was my caregiver and hero. Discovering that my region has limited cancer specialists was an eye-opener. Cancer patients leave our region most of the time to seek services in LA or San Diego.

As a cancer survivor and Health Insurance Broker, I am in the unique position to educate every person who calls in search of Insurance. I self-published a book titled Beautiful Cancer in hopes of offering some methods to make the journey easier. The book led to the opportunity to give a TEDx talk on the subject. All of this led to the opportunity to become the Chairwoman of Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center expansion. I maintain a part-time office inside the Cancer Resource Center. I take a lot of calls from people who have just been diagnosed and help them navigate their current insurance as it applies to their access to doctors and financial impact. I want to provide them some relief and hope.

I look back on the first conversation I had with a long-time client about Health Insurance and his family’s needs. That was the first step into a calling that would fill my soul with the honor of walking part of life’s journey with people who need help with they feel hopeless.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Working closely with the people at Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center, we determined that we wanted to give new patients something they could take home that would bring them hope. We reached out to several cancer survivors, current patients and caregivers. We asked them “what would you want to tell someone newly diagnosed with cancer”. I compiled the responses, included some inspirational quotes and we created a self-published book, “Words of Hope.” This tiny book has touched the patients and families with cancer. Since the first book was published, we created a book for cancer Caregivers titled “Words of Encouragement”. We are currently working on a book titled “Grieving Cancer.”

It is my honor to be the creative conduit to pull together these exceptional nuggets of hope and inspiration.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
It makes me happy to have been able to use a devastating diagnosis and my experience to serve others…

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