Charlene Coughlin: Cancer Butt-Kicker

My friendship with Charlene Coughlin goes back to our advertising days. Charlene is everything I’m not: Extroverted, socially connected and energetic. If Meyers-Briggs profiled us, we’d be total opposites, which is why we get along so well.

Charlene worked with me on a personal branding photography session and she rocked what was possibly the coldest winter day in Cleveland.

What many people don’t know about Charlene is her personal story, having survived thyroid cancer at a young age. Keep scrolling to read more about her journey.

About Charlene, In Her Own Words

I've been working in advertising for years now but was looking for opportunities to get more involved in the community — not only to volunteer but to really help move an organization forward. I didn't grow up wealthy and truly believe giving back is essential, especially when you have time, talent or dollars to give. When I found Providence House, I knew I found the organization that I wanted to dedicate all three to.

Selling services and goods all day is a great gig, don't get me wrong. But deep down it was important to me to do something more....something bigger. Something that can truly help to change someone's life.

Thyroid cancer survivor Charlene Coughlin rests at a coffee shop in Cleveland

On Cancer

I had cancer almost ten years ago. I often play it off as not a big deal but having thyroid cancer met removal of half of my thyroid which now leaves me some days struggling with anxiety, depression or just exhaustion. It's weird but the busier I stay and the more I feel myself doing something for someone else, those three things tend to go away.

Every day I worry about my cancer returning. Every single day. I take thyroid meds in the morning so there's not an opportunity in a day to not think about cancer. But I know if I let that consume me I'll never be able to move forward and help others, or advance my career.

Thyroid cancer survivor Charlene Coughlin wears MantraBands bracelets engraved with motivational phrases.

Pondering the Journey

I would say one thing I've really learned is the importance of building a strong group of friends and relying on them. Sometimes it's for something as simple as a funny .gif to cheer you up, other times it's for a deep conversation or a crying session. The other thing I learned is that it's ok to ask for help. Going to therapy has been (literally) life-changing for me. It took me awhile to find the right therapist but once I did, I've been able to really look at things differently.

Personal branding headshot of Charlene Coughlin by photographer Michelle Loufman

Wisdom from Her Journey

Know when you need to ask for help. Not everyone is the same. And it's okay to say no - which is particularly hard for me personally but sometimes extremely necessary.


Thoughts on the Future

My hope is that I can continue to stay involved in Cleveland and really continue to help Providence House and other non-profits break the cycle of poverty that our city is struggling with, yet not talking about.

Image of notepad, Adweek magazine, an iPhone and a cup of tea from Cleveland Tea Revival.

Something You Wish Other People Knew About You…

While I love social media, I also really sometimes hate it. It leads to anxiety for me personally and I know others feel the same.

(Amen, sista!)

Charlene is laughing because I accidentally stepped in dog poop as I was backing up to set the composition for this shot. Joke’s on me.

Charlene is laughing because I accidentally stepped in dog poop as I was backing up to set the composition for this shot. Joke’s on me.

Personal branding photo of Charlene Coughlin in front of the Cleveland sign, near downtown Cleveland.

Charlene is one of the most dedicated Cleveland fans I know. If she’s not at a game, she’s exploring the hottest local shops and restaurants. You can follow Charlene on Instagram and Twitter.

Book a Personal Branding Session

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Michelle Loufman