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Near Death Survivor And Heart Transplant Recipient Named Female Leader Of The Year with Cherie Aimée
Let’s talk about our guests because I don’t even know how to begin this. I heard her story.
Her name is Cherie Aimée.
This is part one because there are many parts of her story that once you hear this, it’s incredible. It’s inspiring. It’s wonderful. Certain people will go through amazing or traumatic things and come back and they’re destined to be a messenger and to be one of God’s angels. Cherie is that person for everybody on this planet. She’s that special. What do you do when you have cancer and you have a heart attack and you have a heart transplant all within a few years? Heart transplant, heart attack, and cancer and she goes back and forth and beat all the odds.
What I love most about talking to her and hearing her story is where she’s at mentally and how inspirational she is despite the crazy series of events her life took her through.
I thought I had it bad. They took the skull off my head, they put in my stomach but that’s nothing compared to her. Check out Cherie Aimée’s story.
Welcome to the show, Cherie. How are you doing?
I’m great. How are you guys doing?
We’ve climbed Mount Everest to make this happen. We’ve rerouted the internet and I’m happy that we finally got you on. Seany, how are you doing?
I’m good. You made it happen.
Cherie, why don’t you open up and let everyone know a little bit about who you are and we’ll get into your story because it is an amazing and powerful story.
First of all, I want to thank both of you for having me on. It’s an absolute honor. For anybody reading, I want to share that this is the first time that I’ll be opening up more of the behind the scenes of the physical and the emotional side of what I went through in my journey. Most people know me as Cherie Aimée who had a near-death experience back in 2010. I spent several years on a bionic heart. Ultimately, about a few years later, I received a heart transplant in 2014. The reason that I ended up having this near-death experience was after my wedding day in 2008, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My story, thankfully enough, has been featured on national media outlets such as The Dr. Oz Show and an NBC show with Megyn Kelly. I’ve been in a featured documentary over in Japan and featured on news channels in Australia.
It’s the story of me, someone who was a programmer and started my own tech firm. At the height of its success and what I thought was success, I was diagnosed with cancer. Who am I? The question can feel overwhelming sometimes after you’ve been through a tragedy such as me, you, Sean, and your guests. I like to answer it as I’m someone that had a huge spiritual awakening through a health crisis. It took many miracles for me to still be here alive now talking with both of you on this show. My mission is to share the wisdom that I experienced and gathered through my tragedy to help others to number one, truly become aware of the miracle of life and to live each day the best as if it were your last. Help others get a new perspective on life, some of the challenges we face every single day and to put those into a perspective of your greatest purpose here on Earth.
That, to me, is what my purpose is here. It’s to wake people up to their own lives and to their own magnificence. That came out of the biggest tragedy of my life. I do travel around the world. I speak. I have done many keynotes around the world. I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of surgeons and doctors. I’ve spoken on the topic of innovative technology. I’ve spoken at near-death experience conferences. I work with patients. I work with business individuals. I would say that my business, who I am as a person, and the projects that I associate with are me shining my brightest in the world with my brand-new heart. That sums me up.
Cherie, thank you for sharing all of that. There’s so much to unpack in there. You have this wonderful, powerful perspective but it was a process to get there.
Who people see now is after years of inner work, healing physically and emotionally. A lot of forgiveness work. It started with cancer. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the height of my business success. I was running my own company. I had about twenty people working for me. I just turned 30. I was at the top of my world. I had done everything that I was taught to do. I’d gotten good grades in school. I went to a great college. I was successful in business. Eventually, my dream to be an entrepreneur, I had launched this business. For me, to then finally be getting married and I was marrying into a family where my husband already had four kids, I wasn’t just embracing my husband, I was embracing a whole new family. This was an amazing time in my life. I had worked really hard to get there. A couple of months after my wedding day when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, starting with those words, “You have cancer.” That, to me, was probably my biggest fear in life staring at me straight in the face.
Explain what Hodgkin’s is so the community knows what exactly it’s going to affect and what it does do.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma affects your lymph system. They had found it by accident. I happened to have a chest X-ray. There was a type of cloud formation in my chest. They tried not to panic me a little at the start, but I did eventually go to see a pulmonologist who did diagnose it as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hodgkin’s is a rare type of cancer, but it’s 98.9% curable. If you get it, they say, “Congratulations, you got the good type of cancer.” It’s one of those things where you’re like, “I guess I should be happy.” What curable means is that there is a regimen that they can give you. Sometimes that includes chemotherapy, sometimes it’s radiation, sometimes it’s both. It means that they’ve had a success rate with that. When the percentage is as high as 98.9% or 99%, it’s a tough decision to make if you were someone who I was, which I was into the holistic community and natural treatments. I was a part of this movement that became strict with the mentality of natural remedies that the community began to turn their noses up to modern medicine. There was a part of me that fell into that. I was a different person back then and I was easily convinced of things and susceptible to going to one extreme or the other.Whichever decision you make, you have to go all in 100% mentally in that choice. Click To Tweet
When it came to food and healthy choices and all of that, I did fall in with the crowd that was extreme. What that meant was we would say things like, “If I ever get cancer, if I ever knew anybody that would get cancer, I would 100% heal it naturally.” I knew nothing about cancer back then and neither do many people until you’re diagnosed with it or someone in your family is diagnosed with it. You learn very quickly all about the different types of cancer, the different types of treatment and how one body may respond to treatment better than another body. You start to see how complex cancer is. When I was diagnosed, number one, I felt like a failure instantly. Mostly because of the community I was in that was extremely judgmental when it came to health. I felt I had failed them and I felt I had failed myself.
On top of the diagnosis, I was feeling complete and utter shame. I also was confused as to the treatment because I felt pressured to not put any chemicals in my body. I remember one day going to my doctor and saying, “I’ve made a decision. I’m not going to do chemotherapy and I’m going to treat this naturally.” I said this as well to my naturopathic doctor and my chiropractor who had always been promoting healthy remedies and that modern medicine was bad and this and that. What I discovered was that even my natural doctors, the moment I said that, I’ll never forget the look of fear in their eyes. I was like, “What? This is what we’ve always talked about.” They said, “Cherie, you have to get the chemotherapy.” I was like, “What about all of this natural remedy? All this healthy this and healthy that, juicing?” They said, “I know but there are not enough studies to show that it can heal cancer. You need to get to chemotherapy.”
That was a massive awakening in my spiritual journey and my journey to self-discovery. Learning to think for myself and not taking what other people say as truth freely. I had been in the industry. I had been paying so much money to natural doctors that were adamant in their teachings. When I came to their practice after all these years and then I was diagnosed with cancer, it also woke them up. I saw that I was a patient that they had for years that took all the right supplements and did the chiropractic treatments. I was into art and creativity. I was into the Bikram Yoga three to four times a week. I was a picture of health and I still got cancer. That was a massive awakening for my cancer journey emotionally and that was the beginning of the emotional and physical trauma of going through cancer.
I’m glad that you took us through that process and shared that with us. It highlights how anyone, no matter the health practices they’re involved in can become completely blindsided by cancer as was in your case. I’m sitting here thinking this could happen to anyone. Listen to this amazing woman who was involved in this holistic healing community and her world got shifted. How did you come to terms with having to shift your perspective and accept that you would have to do chemotherapy despite your background in alternative health and holistic healing? That must have been a challenging decision.
It was extremely difficult. I’d love to put this in a pretty way, but the reality was I felt abandoned from the holistic community. One of them was a good friend of mine for many years. She had such a difficult time with my diagnosis and the fact that I was going to be doing chemotherapy treatment that she could not see me or support me the entire few months of chemotherapy. When I mean I felt abandoned from that community, everyone was in so much shock that they had to justify that there must’ve been something I did to cause it. They had to label me and put me in a box separate from them to not have to deal with the reality of the situation. The reality that cancer can happen to anyone because there is a multitude of possibilities. It’s not about how many times a day you’re eating a cup of almonds nuts and blueberries.
I definitely rocked everyone’s world. I did have a conversation with someone close to me and they gave me the best advice. They said, “Cherie, you have years of experience in eating well, holistic therapies. This cancer diagnosis does not define you, your habits, or anything. It’s something that has happened and now this is your opportunity to face it.” They said to me, “The biggest advice I can give you is that whichever decision you make, you have to go all in 100% mentally in that choice. For example, if you’re going to go with holistic, mentally be all-in holistically. If you’re going to go with modern medicine and chemotherapy, your mindset needs to be 100% this is going to work.” Not as they’re giving me chemotherapy, my mindset is like, “They’re poisoning me.” There’s a difference.
I had to learn to shift my mindset, to love the treatment, to see modern doctors treating me with modern medicine as my healers. I had to embrace them. I had to embrace the treatment. I had to send love to the medicine that was being injected into my bloodstream. I had to be 100% okay with whatever decision I made. When I was able to look at the statistics, I did research on both sides. I called every center for holistic treatments for treating cancer and this and that. The research that I found is any of them that were treated, number one, they were not Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It showed me the difference that not all cancers are alike. We say the word cancer doesn’t mean it’s one disease. There are many different types of cancer out there. I did my research and then on top of it, the ones that were healthy. You would need a lot of money to go away and stay at these centers for months and to receive the treatment.
I remember saying, “What is my life? What do I have access to whether I like it or not?” I took a hard look at my situation. I took a hard look at my support system and I analyzed what is around me and what could I do to utilize the resources around me, to make the best of it emotionally, and come to terms with it. I did. I eventually came to the decision that I was going to be okay taking the chemotherapy, but I was going to work with my doctors to see how much of whatever holistic treatment I knew of I can utilize. It allowed me to get creative because treating my cancer holistically didn’t mean I had to choose one or the other. That’s what a lot of life, in general, will teach you that things are either black or white. What I realized was that as I had chosen to treat it with chemotherapy and modern medicine, I went all in with that. I made sure I showed up to my doctor’s appointments. I got all my testing. I did everything modern medicine needed me to do, but holistic treatments are more than just supplements. It’s more than juicing. It can be sound therapy and meditation. It can be Reiki.
There were all these things that I started realizing. The more I started listening to my own needs and focusing less on what other people’s judgments were or other people’s ideas of how I should treat myself. Instead, I looked within and I started asking my mind and my body what do I need to get through this? How can I create an environment that is safe, loving, thriving and positive to get me through this? What’s interesting is as difficult as chemotherapy treatment was, I had every single side effect under the sun. It was a very difficult few months. I love how close I came to myself. I love how I got to tune into my body and say, “What do I need? Do I need a nap? Do I need some lavender essential oil to calm my anxiety? Do I need to laugh? Am I feeling down?” If I was feeling down, I knew that wasn’t going to help me much. I remember my husband and me, we used to put comedies on every day.
For those few months, it was no longer about watching any movie. We would watch comedies every night to make me laugh in the midst of the biggest nightmare that I was living. There are little things that I started doing. Despite how difficult it was, I made it through moment by moment by tuning out the noise of other people that were confused about my situation. I only allowed those people in who could understand what I needed to get through those six months. That is the biggest advice I could give anyone going through any health tragedy is to create the environment that you need. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and say to people, “Your complaining every day about your husband is not helping me heal every day,” because when you have to fight for your own survival, you need every ounce of energy that you can get. You deserve that and the people around you should respect that as well.
That’s such a great message. I want to highlight something in there that stood out to me, which is you had to come into your chemotherapy with the mindset of you have to love what they were doing to you. I know it sounds simple and offhand, but I want to highlight how challenging it is to shift a perspective like that. Many people have so much to learn from you because you were able to put aside your entire belief system to create healing in you. That had to be hard and I’m amazed that you were able to come to terms with that.
I appreciate you for acknowledging that because it’s probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from both of my health tragedies was how to take care of myself. I was definitely a people pleaser and this was challenging for me to put myself first. That was unnatural for me. I felt like I was betraying everyone around me. The only reason that I stuck through to it was that there was a fight that took over inside me. There was a fight and I was faced for the first time with my own mortality. I literally felt death was knocking on my door. It’s unfortunate that it took that to get me to stand up for myself and for my needs. It’s always my hope in sharing my story that even people before undergoing any health issue, that you understand the importance of living a life that’s not depleting you, your energy, and your voice. What you need to thrive in a world that in itself is a gift. The gift of free will. We walk around every day with this amazing, incredible gift of free will here on this planet. We don’t even utilize it to the extent that we should because we’ve got programming all around us. Whether it’s from commercial ads distracting us to focus on outer beauty or whatever it is, we’re distracted in life that we don’t even know what it feels to stop and take care of ourselves. It’s foreign to most people.Listen to your own needs instead of focusing on what other people's judgments are. Click To Tweet
What caught my attention was the humor. You changed your fear into humor every night and caused your state of mind to be happy. That to me is resonating with me deeply. We all get caught in a funk and we all get caught up on a certain place, but you turned it into humor and that’s genius.
You touched on something that I’ve come to realize in my own experience is how important the emotional aspect of healing is. You were able to create an environment that you needed to facilitate your healing in that way. I would love to from here go into the next chapter of your story because the Hodgkin’s lymphoma wasn’t the end of it, was it?
It wasn’t. After six months of the chemotherapy, I was cancer-free and in remission. That was incredible news. I finished my last treatment on my birthday. I was then able to get back to my holistic life and go more in on the foods and drinking my smoothies and stuff like that. I was off the medicine. I had a little bit more flexibility to do more of the holistic treatments, more so to get my strength back. Here I began the journey of rebuilding my body, detoxing from the medications and all that stuff. It’s an interesting transition to what happened. Several months later it came on fast and I was having trouble breathing. I remember the day it happened. Also, I remember I bent over to pick something up. I stood up and I felt my diaphragm was restricted. I didn’t feel like I could fully take in a deep breath. The only other real time I ever felt like that was when I was younger and I had pneumonia. I thought, “Maybe I’ll feel better the next day,” which I didn’t.
I eventually had to see, was I getting pneumonia or something? After months of treatment with chemotherapy, your immune system is down. I got all my tests done. They were all fine. One of the chemotherapies I was on for them to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one of them is also used to treat breast cancer. It’s called Adriamycin. Adriamycin is known to cause heart failure. When you’re on it, they run a series of heart tests on you frequently. I always had these tests. They always came back okay. For whatever reason, they continued these tests even after you finish treatment and my tests were fine. This inability to breathe started getting worse and it started turning into panic attacks in the middle of the night. I couldn’t lay flat. I couldn’t breathe. I’m like, “Is this anxiety?” The problem is when you come off of being treated for cancer, that’s already a stressful trauma.
Anxiety is not abnormal. It’s easy to be prescribed Xanax or something when you’re going through a huge, massive health trauma like a chronic illness. What happened though is that sometimes people don’t know if you seriously don’t feel well or if it’s mental. That’s the problem because the symptoms I was showing could also be a panic attack. With my history, it probably would have been a good idea to do a thorough scan of my body, which that was never done. I was taken to the emergency room a few weeks prior. Apparently, no heart tests were run even though my husband and I both asked for it. They were about to take my gallbladder out. I refused. I did not feel it was my gallbladder. The next three weeks after the local emergency room could not figure out what was wrong with me, I started declining rapidly. I tried to get in with my doctors’ appointments, but with the symptoms I was having, they kept saying go to the emergency room. I said, “I can’t go to the emergency room because the last time I went they tried to take my gallbladder out and something is seriously wrong with me and it’s not my gall bladder.”
I was never able to see the appropriate doctors. I tried going to the holistic doctors and I won’t even get into that. No one caught that I was in heart failure. A few weeks later, I’m not feeling well. I can barely talk. I’m whispering. I’m walking down the hallway and I told my husband that both of my arms feel heavy. He’s like, “I’m taking you back to the emergency room.” I don’t remember this day at all. This is what he’s told me. He threw me in the car, rushed me back to the emergency room of my local hospital. Within ten minutes I flatlined in his arms in the emergency room. That is when I underwent cardiac arrest. Doctors tried resuscitating me in the emergency room. After about five, ten minutes they were ready to call my time of death. One doctor in the entire emergency room refused to give up on me. He ordered a continuation of CPR. They still received no heartbeat from my heart, even with CPR. They ended up doing CPR for over 90 minutes. During that time, they didn’t discover until later, but my ribs cracked and punctured my lungs. I had internal bleeding.
A lot of things happened to me. By a miracle, this doctor ordered everyone to continue with CPR, over an hour and a half. He installed a temporary life support device. They realized there was nothing more they can do for me, but they had some connections down at New York City and at New York Presbyterian Hospital associated with the Columbia University Medical. They brought their entire cardiothoracic surgical team up in an ambulance to come to get me and hooked me up to their life support and brought me back down to their hospital in New York City. I immediately went in for a sixteen to eighteen-hour open heart surgery, which is an extremely long time to have your chest open. They could not figure out why my heart would not restart. I was attached to a temporary bionic heart that sat outside of my ICU bed and it acted as my heart by delivering oxygen to all of my organs. I remained in a coma in the ICU in New York City for a few months. That was the fallout from my cancer.
I can’t even imagine. Everyone thinks they have a story until they speak to you.
You’re in the ICU and you’re hooked up to a bionic heart. Did you spend several years on this bionic heart?
It wasn’t that one particularly because it’s big. It sits right outside your bed. My lungs had collapsed, I had internal bleeding and they finally realized it was because of the CPR had punctured my lungs. They had to cut off the oxygen to my lungs and put me on a ventilator. I was on every form of life support you could imagine. Every type of drug you could barely fit into my ICU room. That particular bionic heart is more of a machine. It’s a massive machine and it’s called the CentriMag. You cannot go home on that. That’s something that you’re not even supposed to technically be on it for long. That is one of the medical records that I might’ve broken. I broke several medical records in that ICU, which is why my case is often referred to in medical books and medical trainings.
Not always the records you want to be known for but it’s incredible that they were able to keep you alive. Every piece of that story sounds like a miracle after miracle. I’ve been to CPR training before. Most of the time they say after ten, fifteen minutes if nothing’s happening, it’s game over. The fact that they one, kept going and two, were able to save you is incredible. You go onto this bionic heart and then you’re immediately put on the transplant list?
I would say I was on the brink of seconds away from not surviving. That lasted for about a couple of months. It was not known if I would survive, then I finally started to show signs of recovery. At that point, they were able to take me back into open heart surgery and re-implant me with a portable device that would assist my heart in beating. That device is called an LVAD, Left Ventricular Assist Device. Often talking to the public, I say it was a bionic heart but it was a titanium pump that sits right next to your heart. It assists with the left chamber of your heart. There’s a motor and it assists in pumping the blood through so that your organs are getting enough oxygen. When you’re in heart failure it means one or both sides of the chambers of your heart are no longer functioning to capacity. Even when I came out of my coma, I was still in heart failure. Most people would either have to wait in the hospital to get a heart transplant or they would not survive. The reason I was placed with this portable bionic heart was a few things.In the midst of your biggest nightmare, you can watch comedy every night to make you laugh. Click To Tweet
Number one, it’s a miracle that this device even existed. While I was in the hospital is when it became FDA-approved as what they call bridge to transplant, meaning it was FDA-approved to implant this in patients while they wait for a heart transplant. The transplant list is extremely long. You have to wait years for a heart transplant. Unless you’ve ever known anybody that’s needed to receive a donor organ, you don’t understand the complexities. How you move up that list? How you can bump down off of that list? Who’s considered higher on that list? There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of how you get an organ and where you are placed on that list. For me, because I had a history of cancer, with any organ transplant you have to go through immunosuppressant drugs, which then make you susceptible to things like cancer. There is a policy that you can’t have a transplant for the first few years after being diagnosed with cancer. This all happened because of my cancer treatment. I had finished up my cancer treatment. I was on that bionic heart as a bridge to a transplant because I needed to put a five years in between my cancer diagnosis and getting a new heart.
I’m sitting over here in absolute awe. The intricacy of all the different pieces that had to fall into place and they lined up perfectly, it’s an amazing story because you’re the bridge between modern medicine, holistic healing, and how sometimes you need a little bit of everything.
When you were breathing and you were being resuscitated, your brain was lacking oxygen. Were they scared of you going brain dead or possibly having a stroke?
When they were doing CPR, they had no idea if I would come out of that coma brain dead.
They would have said you’re a vegetable.
That’s where more layers of miracles took place. First of all, the fact that one doctor is the only one in that room that felt the need to continue with CPR is insane as it is. Imagine that split decision when everyone else in the room is like, “She’s gone,” and you’re the only one saying, “No, we can make this happen.” Even an hour-and-a-half later, no heartbeat. You’re like, “We got to keep going,” and you don’t know if this patient is brain dead.
I’m thinking of everything going on with your body. You’re just body at that time because there’s nothing going on and then they kept beating on you.
I did have the opportunity later to ask that doctor what made him continue. He said to me, “I don’t know. I felt I could bring you back.”
It’s incredible this whole crazy whirlwind of an adventure you went on. There are no words that can sum this up. You’re here by a miracle.
There’s even a part two to this which is a whole other podcast when she starts talking about what she experienced in the coma.
I’m curious to hear how you went from you finally got the transplant and then how you took this story and transformed it into who you are now. Who you are now is powerful because of everything you’ve been through.
Who I am now is a completely different person than who I was prior to that day of being diagnosed with cancer in 2008. It’s incredible the woman that I have become because of all of this. The knowledge and the wisdom, the strength, the bravery and the courage. The daring to lead and use my voice, all of that was not me prior to all this. I was an introvert. I don’t think shy is the right word because I definitely had my close friends and I am successful in business. I didn’t own my voice. I didn’t even know what my voice was. I couldn’t connect to who I was because I was busy trying to fit in my whole life. I was busy trying to make other people happy and make sure that everyone liked me and that I didn’t rock the boat. Going through these two massive tragedies, it’s three if you count then the transplant.Nature is the epitome of resilience and of flow. It's the epitome of letting go, surrendering, and just allowing. Click To Tweet
What I didn’t share is the recovery and the rebuilding of my body emotionally and physically. I lost the ability to walk twice, once when I had to go home with the bionic heart because I was bedridden and in the coma for so long all my muscles atrophied. I had to relearn like a baby how to communicate my brain to my limbs again and walk and feed myself and all of those things, only to turn around and then have my heart transplant. There were complications during my heart transplant. I ended up with a healthy heart, but I did have complications during the transplant which left me bedridden in the ICU again. I had to learn how to rebuild my body all over again like a baby twice. I want to stress that who I am now is because of that resilience over and over again to not fight for my life but to fight to be heard. I had to fight to be heard from doctors. I had to fight to be heard from my family. I had to fight to be heard from friends. This has been a journey since 2008 of me finding my voice.
I heard a line that I love and you are the epitome of this, “I’m broken but I’m not defeated.” That’s who you are. You were broken but you did not get defeated. You lived through all of it.
It’s powerful, Cherie. I know we’re going to do part two. You have so much more to share with the world. I got one more final question for you, which we ask all our guests. What’s your inspiration?
To be honest, my inspiration throughout all of this and still to this day is nature. When I think about all the different stages I’ve been through and even how I get through life, I literally turn to nature. Nature is the epitome of resilience and it’s the epitome of flow. It’s the epitome of letting go, surrendering and allowing. The power of nature gives me the motivation and the inspiration every single day to trust and allow my life to unfold for my highest good and to trust that no matter what, I’m always okay.
I’m onboard because nature is one of my biggest inspirations. Thank you for sharing that. I love it too because it’s the most unexpected of inspirations at times. You would think it would be something that relates to the journey you’ve been through but the fact that you come to the table with that speaks volumes to how powerful nature is as an inspiration if you look into it. Thank you so much for your time and we’re grateful you were able to come onto the show. If you want to give a shout out to where people can find you and connect with you and then we’ll part ways until part two.
I want to thank you both for having me on. This has been an absolute privilege. Thank you for giving me this space to share this side of the journey. It’s an important side and I hope all the readers out there gained some value from it. If you’d like to look more into my story or connect with me, the best place is you go to my website which is CherieAimee.com.
Thank you so much, Cherie. We wish you the most beautiful days and we’ll connect real soon.
Thank you both so much.
About Cherie Aimée
Cherie Aimée is a near-death survivor, heart transplant recipient and ranked #6 of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Blockchain. She’s been featured in major media outlets such as The Dr. Oz Show, NBC TODAY Show, NBC News, Megyn Kelly TODAY, ABC News, FOX, Forbes, Thrive Global, BossBabe and Influencive. She travels the world speaking about leadership, innovation and community. Cherie’s one simple mission is to impact 1 billion lives. She is listed as the Top 18 Woman You Need to Know Now and recently named Female Leader of the Year.