Today, even after countless lectures at High-Tech companies, podcast interviews and meetings with senior people, Yana still feels the impostor syndrome. On the other hand, to anyone who has met her or even encountered her on social media, it’s quite clear that she has entrepreneurial DNA.
With a smile, she talked about how much colour and fashion play a part in her life and even served her in lectures and job interviews - "I interviewed for the position of Marketing Director at the Haifa port in front of dozens of candidates. I deliberately came to the interview wearing tailored black pants, but with a fluorescent orange knit top – and it’s clear to me that it played in my favour. Colour has power, both in recall and in the fact that it lowers the walls and breaks the barriers between people, it directly creates a more personal conversation. In the end, people do business with people."
And the colour entered her life for a reason.
When the ground falls under your feet
Yana started on the natural ‘young persons’ path – got her master’s degree, had a wedding, and got pregnant. She was "feeling on top of the world", but then in the third month of her pregnancy, she discovered a lump in her breast.
From the age of 27, she lived with the knowledge that she was a carrier of a gene that puts her at risk of getting sick, after seeing her mother's struggle with breast cancer with all its costs, and already at the initial discovery she realizes that this is a serious issue.
"On Sunday morning I showed up at the hospital – at that time Facebook and Instagram were just in their infancy, and there were no communities and information and support there. Today some women write to me only two hours after the diagnosis to consult with me, and those who search about breast cancer receive a lot of comments and articles with crucial information."
At first, the test came out fine. Yana emphasized that there are doctors who send women home without an X-Ray, but it’s very important to insist on them to be 100% sure, it can save lives.
This is also important for me (Gali) to clarify - you can't take chances on these things; our health is in our hands. If you feel that something is wrong, don't give up on another test.
After more tests, it was discovered that they sampled only a certain part of the tumour, the other part of which is indeed cancerous, and she went into surgery to remove the tumour. "After I finished and I thought it was over and behind me, I went home, but after two weeks we found out that there was still cancer, and we entered the race again. After ten minutes in the doctor's office, I was sent for chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation, and all while I was still pregnant. I decided that I won’t do the treatments. The doctor called me and begged me to do it, she told me - 'Your girl will be an orphan'. I was sure then that I was the only woman in Israel who had cancer while pregnant, I was afraid that something would happen to my baby."
She wrote a letter to her unborn baby and told her about her decision not to do the treatments - "I wrote to her that I hope that I will still get to the day when I hear her say and write the word - 'mom'."
She had hopeless optimism, and despite the opposition of her environment, she remained in the same decision, with her partner by her side. In retrospect, she realizes that was a big mistake.
This is exactly what led her to open a WhatsApp group - "The Bold and The Beautiful", right after her recovery, which accompanies women who are dealing with breast cancer during pregnancy and after giving birth, to advise and give them information from the perspective of someone who has been in their shoes and understands them.
It’s difficult to understand the weight of the impossible dilemmas that a woman in this place has to go through, and it’s important for her to be the person she needed in the past, to accompany them and also help them curb the blind optimism that led her at the time - "They wanted me to give birth at week 38 so that I could start the treatments faster and I refused that too, and in the end, I gave birth by cesarian section at 41 weeks with another tumour that I had in the same breast - the situation only got worse."
Immediately after giving birth, she entered chemotherapy treatments - "When they asked me if I was tired, I didn't know whether to associate it with the fact that I had just given birth, or that I was undergoing treatments."
When I asked her how she dealt with all this together, and how she continued to function, she shared that a lot of it is thanks to the home she grew up in, which was full of joy and love. It allowed her to develop great mental resilience from a young age.
The treatments lasted a year, and in the end, she underwent a mastectomy. She went in there knowing that she was going to have a plastic reconstruction, but things started to get complicated, and there were a lot of problems with the implant. She emphasized that the reconstruction process is not a simple thing, but a very complex one, which is not always successful, and therefore some women choose not to do it - "I think my over-motivation was also at fault in this case, because right after the operation I went back to business - doing sports, going out for work, I didn't let my body and soul heal. Cancer is not a gift, but it does bring gifts with it. When I got sick, I learned to rest." After six months of trying, she decided to remove the implant, and walked around for five years with a prosthesis, before she could do the reconstruction again.
From recovering to dreaming
Yana experienced great frustration as someone who just wanted to buy a swimsuit and underwear, and couldn’t find a selection in Israel for women who had a mastectomy: "When I asked about a bikini, the saleswoman looked at me in shock and said ‘Yana, be grateful that you’re healthy, what are you thinking of going to the beach now?’ It brings to my mind a difficult sentence, but a true one - some people are buried at the age of 90 but die at the age of 25. Longevity is important, but who said that we’ll all reach retirement age? I realized that living is now. This is exactly what led me to dream and enter the world of entrepreneurship."
This led her to search abroad and fly to New York for a whole store dedicated to women after breast cancer.
Just entering the store touched her deeply - it was a treasure, a whole world to be discovered.
"It took a while before I decided to take action because like many of us, I was in a very rewarding job - Marketing Manager at Haifa Port, with good conditions, but I woke up in the morning with no passion. In the end, often people who work a job they don't like but earn a lot of money in it, compensate with money– they spend their money on vacation, clothing, and a car as compensation. But these things are rarities– the vacation will end, and the clothes will wear out. But most of our lives are spent at work so, at least for me, work shouldn't be what ends up in the bank, but rather what you feel in your heart. Bringing meaning into our lives can be through many other things, such as a hobby or volunteering, but we need to ask ourselves the hard questions and answer honestly from our gut feelings - what really brings me joy.
When Yana finally asked herself, the answer was right there. So, she returned to Israel and opened a store in Haifa, "Yana Fashion", followed by another store in Tel Aviv, with everything that inspired her in the store in New York - "If there was a hidden camera in the store, you would see women entering the store stooped and sad, and leaving cheerful, with a smile and energy - and this is the goal."
And from that same sense of purpose, she continued and created projects such as "Getting through cancer in style", where she takes women who are undergoing treatment for a fun day of style, make-up, and deep conversation so that they get the strength they need to continue their fight, and the "Pink Party", a celebration of life alongside the disease.
Paying it forward
Now, after all of that, Yana came out with a huge appreciation for life, for happiness in the small and big moments. She is grateful for everything she gets to experience and feels that her mission is to convey exactly this message that she experienced firsthand: "Don't wait. Don't wait for a slap, don't wait for a loss, don't wait for something to crush you to start living, valuing yourself, and putting yourself first."
The proportions are the key to this change - it doesn’t mean that negative emotions should be suppressed and not expressed, but it’s in how long we dwell on them and relive them.
The more we take care of ourselves, we will manage to be more immune and take care of our venture, family, and others. This moment of breathing fully with ourselves and being there for ourselves is not an option - it’s a basic need that keeps us healthy, and not drowning in stress - because life will always provide us with challenges.
I too (Gali), as someone who supports and needs to be strong for the entrepreneurs I work with, experience painful and sad moments sometimes, and that judgmental voice rises inside me as well - after all, I am the one who needs to be strong, how can I allow myself to feel this low?
But then I allow in the voice of self-compassion, breathe it in, and remind myself - you are allowed. You're allowed to feel, because that's what makes you human, and it's also what helps you understand the places where the entrepreneurs need your support and listening ear the most. The key is not in avoiding the difficult moments, but in how to get out of those places.
And finally, get yourself checked– Breast cancer screening and ultrasounds every year. Even when there’s no family history - it saves lives. It's not what we always feel like doing, it can trigger complex and anxious thoughts, but burying your head in the sand won't make reality go away, and life is too precious to wake up too late.