Matteson was diagnosed with breast cancer in fall 2014 at the age of 57. During the months that followed, Matteson underwent several surgeries, endured chronic pain and discomfort, and suffered from situational depression.
“Four surgeries in under four weeks is a lot to overcome personally, and a lot to keep your business going… I don’t work for a major corporation, so I don’t have the (Family and Medical Leave Act) and those types of benefits. I am an owner-operator – you can’t stop working for six to eight months.”
Her diagnosis, surgeries and following two-month recovery took place during some of the busiest months of the year for Fiber-Seal of Milwaukee. Missing work was already difficult as the owner and operator of her own business, but the timing presented an even steeper challenge.
“You are just trying to educate yourself and juggle all of this. You just don’t have time to educate yourself, make a decision and move forward and implement that decision.”
“I had owned the business for over 35 years and I was not going to let a cancer diagnosis be the demise of my business.”
Matteson’s employees and family members stepped up to keep the business running smoothly.
“Our IT/accountant shifted over and took office responsibilities, so our office person could be on the road going into clients’ homes while I was in the throes of deep recovery.”
She also relied on strong professional connections she had made throughout her career and didn’t sugarcoat the situation at hand.
“I didn’t want people to hear, ‘I’m sorry, she’s out of the office.’ I wanted people to know the honest truth.”
“I feel that I’ve always been a fairly purposeful person – I like to learn, be stimulated, have a purpose. Your purpose changes throughout your life. All of a sudden, I had to be my own purpose and make that a concerted focus. I can’t run my business if I’m not taking care of myself in this case.”
Now, four years later, one of Matteson’s newfound purposes is sharing her story, raising awareness and advocating for breast cancer research and prevention. Earlier this year, she was selected as the honorary breast cancer survivor for the Milwaukee American Cancer Society’s annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that there are free services out there for small business owners, like talking to other cancer survivors and getting help for situational depression. As a person who doesn’t work in a big business, these types of resources in our community are vital.”
Company: Fiber-Seal of Milwaukee Inc.
What it does: Fiber-Seal of Milwaukee Inc., which is a licensed distributor for Dallas, Texas-based Fiber-Seal Systems, provides fabric protection treatment services for furniture and upholstery at residential and commercial properties in southeastern Wisconsin.
Career: Matteson worked at U.S. Bancorp (formerly First Wisconsin) as a credit analyst soon after graduating from college. She started Fiber-Seal of Milwaukee in 1980.