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  • Writer's pictureAmy Boyle

“Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.” Meet Toni – Week 8 of 52

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

The above quote: : ““Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.”

This is from ― Gregory Maguire, A Lion Among Men

Meet Toni: We met through an incredible organization Women on Fire which we both belong. You will see quickly that this lady is fanning her flame and continuing her adventures. Somethings in life may be a part of what you are going through, but who you want to be in is entirely up to you!

In her own words.

“I have a lung disease. It wasn’t diagnosed until graduate school when they removed the lower left lobe if my lung. After the surgery, I decided keep the disease in the background, informing what I did but not defining it and not defining me.

Except for a persistent cough, most people did not know about my lung issue. If they mentioned the cough, I would usually allude to a bad cold or bad lungs and leave it at that.

I had and have a very active life. My first career was in academia. At 40, I got an MBA and moved to the city of my dreams – New York City – to take a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the world’s largest professional service firms. At 50, I became a partner. A year later, I became PwC’s first Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) and sat on the Firm’s 13 member U.S. Management Team.

©Amy Boyle Photography 2018

I retired early and took two years off to play. I went to China and Thailand and took up yoga. I also did some consulting which led me back to full time work at The Conference Board, a not-for-profit business membership organization where I became their CDO and SVP of Human Resources. I also took classes at FIT in image consulting. I’m interested in people’s first impressions and how opinions are formed before we open our mouths.

The combination of my jobs, and living in NYC, allowed me to combine many of the things I love – diversity and inclusion, travel, theater, fashion and art.

©Amy Boyle Photography 2018

I retired a second time and returned to Chicago. Last year, a sleep test revealed I should be sleeping with oxygen. And more recently, I started wearing oxygen with exertion such as climbing stairs or for walks. So my new first impression now included oxygen.

I was embarrassed to wear oxygen in public. I didn’t want people to think or treat me differently, to think I was old or limit my chances for dating. (Dating possibilities are already bad enough.)

I am grateful for the mobility my small oxygen concentrator affords me. With optimism, curiosity and my concentrator, there are very few limits.

©Amy Boyle Photography 2018

When Amy presented this opportunity to be featured in her blog, I asked her to take some pictures of me wearing oxygen. I began thinking of this “my oxygen debut.” Much to my surprise, I liked the woman in Amy’s photos. And I barely noticed the tubes.

It also made me realize how grateful I am to live in a time with small oxygen concentrators rather than large metal tanks. With the concentration, I am able to do most of what I have done, but at a slightly slower pace. I am also (trying) developing a daily meditation practice to help with my breathing and to get better at self-compassion.

My plan is to continue doing the things I love until I can’t. I just booked a two week trip to Japan in the spring. I have always wanted to see the cherry blossoms.

So, I signed up for a tour of Japan, in the spring, and I’m off!”


*** Please follow along on instagram as well and learn more about Toni. This year for my birthday , I am embarking on a weekly photo essay project highlighting 52 Phenomenal Women. This is week 8 of 52. Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!***

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