How I Built a Million Dollar Company After Being Diagnosed with a Brain Tumour

How I Built a Million Dollar Company After Being Diagnosed with a Brain Tumour - Three Ships

Hi everyone, Laura here, co-founder of Three Ships.

2020 has undoubtedly been a year that none of us will soon forget. For me personally, it certainly has been the most challenging last 12 months of my life. 

On November 7th 2019, at the age of 26, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

For 3 years, I was experiencing these weird “spells” where it felt like my mind was suddenly detaching from my body. In September 2018 I had my first appointment with a neurologist to try to figure out what these were. Over the next year, I had a dozen appointments and tests. During this time, everything was coming back as normal and my doctor started telling me to take medication to “test” if these were seizures. I refused, not wanting to take medication without knowing why. During the year that I had been seeing him, he had refused to refer me for an MRI (despite my multiple requests and a bad gut feeling that I needed one). As a final effort, I insisted I wasn’t going to leave his office without an MRI being ordered for me. He caved, saying “fine I will since you keep asking, but it’s going to come back as normal”. Two months later my results came back, showing a tumour the size of an egg in the middle of my brain (MRI image below).

Brain Tumour Scan Laura Burget

Being told that I had a brain tumour was terrifying. I just remember feeling numb over my entire body. Seeing the image was even harder, but I wanted to know what I was up against.

On March 4th of this year, I underwent a 10-hour brain surgery to remove my tumour. The doctors and nurses who performed my operation are literal superheroes, not taking a single break for food, water, or the bathroom during the procedure. My surgeon spent days studying my MRI scans and planning for the operation. I honestly can’t put into words how thankful, humbled, grateful, and indebted I am to them.

I remember waking up in the recovery room with my surgeon standing over me. I looked around and realized that I had made it through and started crying silent tears, just so relieved to be awake.

They were able to remove ~70% of the tumour and my recovery has been remarkably smooth so far. I had to re-learn a few things (how to walk, read calendars, understand clocks, etc.) but thankfully everything has returned to normal now. However, there are parts of me that will never be the same. I have a much deeper appreciation for our bodies + what they can do, the amazing people in my life, each day and each moment. There have been hard times too; I struggle to find meaning in the minutia of life and fear for what might happen down the road with the remaining tumour. I’ve had to learn to compartmentalize and only focus on what I can control and all of the ways that this brain tumour is going to make my life better, not worse.

Of course, being a Founder of a startup company has added unique additional challenges to my recovery. At the time of my diagnosis, Connie and I had only been full-time with the company for one year. We were still learning the ropes and working around the clock to grow our brand. Virtually overnight, our plans for 2020 were thrown out the window and we had to pivot our business goals and strategies. This included bringing on a team member to cover for me while I was in my first two months of recovery and re-thinking our timelines for a large re-brand, which we already had underway. We also established best, most likely. and worst case scenarios for what the business might look like depending on how my recovery went. It was an exceptionally scary and challenging time.

Throughout everything. Connie has also been the most incredible Co-Founder and best friend. I don’t think I will ever be able to properly express my love and appreciation for the rock that she has been in my life over the last year. She has handled this uncertainty with so much grace and compassion. Taking over the reins of our operations solo while I was recovering. Planning meetups with friends so that I didn’t feel alone. Sending me snacks and healthy meals when I didn’t have the energy to cook for myself. Dealing with my emotional highs and lows in the months immediately after my diagnosis. Stepping in and stepping up in every way imaginable. 

Thankfully I’m now six months out from the operation, doing great and feeling totally back to normal. I wanted to take a moment to share this story with you, our #Crew3S, because I hope that this will resonate with others who might be facing challenges of their own. We’re now a team of four and I couldn’t be more proud of the growth that we’ve seen this year.

Laura Burget Hospital After Brain Tumour Operation

The reason that I’m sharing this story isn’t for attention, sympathy or pity. My hope is for you to learn from my experience. Please trust your intuition and stand up for what your gut feeling is telling you. Medicine is unfortunately a game of odds, especially in Canada where we have limited resources. Stand up for what you feel you need. Educate yourself. Be persistent. Get second opinions. If I had listened to the doctor and taken the seizure medication prior to the MRI, my tumour would have been missed. It would have kept growing, likely until it was too large to treat. These things can happen to anybody. If you or your close friend/family member are going through something right now, keep pressing for answers, follow your intuition, and never take an authority’s opinion as certain truth.

I also wanted to share my journey as a story of hope for other young adults who are going through a difficult health diagnosis. Just know that I can 100% relate to how you’re feeling. Not all days are easy, and for a while, most of them will likely be pretty hard. Don’t give up on your dreams. Keep pushing for the future that you always dreamed of. I strongly believe that those who keep a positive mindset actually have better health outcomes - even in the face of cancer and other serious illnesses. At the very least, your goals will give you purpose and help to distract you from all of the uncertainty that you face on a regular basis.

Laura Burget Photo

My perspective as a person, business founder, and friend has changed from what it was only 12 months ago, and so has the story of Three Ships Beauty. Connie and I now have a greater sense of purpose for what we want the business to represent, and the impact that we want to have. Even back in 2017, we knew that we wanted to have a charitable component to our business, but until now, struggled to find a cause that we really could stand behind.

So, I’m excited to announce that beginning this year, we will be donating a portion of all of our profits to the Make-a-Wish Foundation! We will be sponsoring the wishes specifically of young adults and children who have been diagnosed with brain tumours and brain cancers. Connie and I believe that keeping your spirits high and your dreams strong is so important in a path to recovery. We are so excited that Three Ships will now serve as a vessel to generate memories and bring happiness to those affected by this terrible illness.

We’ll make sure to keep you all in the loop about the donations that we are making and the impact we are having on others' lives. Thank you for trusting us with your skin, believing in a future of more transparent skincare, and supporting our work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.