Yael Cohen, the funny, passionate and highly intelligent force behind youth-focused cancer awareness organization FCancer, epitomizes a Woman of Style in every way. From her effortless, elegant sense of dressing to her commitment to make the world a better, more dynamic place, Yael impresses and inspires us beyond words. Here, she shares a little bit about her career, personal style and outlook on life. Once you’ve gotten to know Yael, you must check out her website. We guarantee you’ll find its early detection tool more shareable than any video currently in your Facebook feed (particularly after learning this one simple fact: 90% of cancer is curable in stage one).
Life & Career
Her First Job
"My very first job was a teacher's assistant for Hebrew School, I’m fairly sure I wasn’t even 14 yet but thought I was so grown up for having a job! I learned balance, routine, discipline and not to take myself too seriously. And as anyone who’s ever tried to teach 5 year olds anything knows - sometimes you just gotta be happy the kids are eating the raw macaroni instead of the glue."
The Story Behind FCancer
"I started this all for mom. In 2009 my mom, Diane, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her first surgery I made mom a shirt that said FCancer. It was something that I thought she’d wear privately, at home, while recovering. I should have known better. Being the firecracker she is, as soon as she was well enough to get her hands over her head and put on a t-shirt (more accurately, let me put one on her), she wore it everywhere. People hugged her, high-fived her, wanted to hear her story and share theirs. These two words were really powerful, and resonated far beyond my family. It allowed people to be brave and vulnerable and I wanted to do good with it. So I started FCancer. I was really involved in her treatment and couldn't imagine her going through this alone. I wanted to create a movement and a safe space for people to come and find their 'cancer home'. The place where they felt supported, comfortable, safe and most importantly like they could have an authentic experience, whatever that experience was for them. I never intended on starting a charity, but life had other plans for me."
Yael at work. Photo: Clarke Tolton and The Free Agency.
"We’ve been lucky enough to have many amazing milestone moments, and we actively work to take the time to appreciate them and be proud of what we’ve built. In my work, growing old is a privilege, not a right. It’s with this in mind that our whole FCancer team actively works at living in the now and appreciating the small miracles of our everyday."
The family sending holiday cards rocking our t-shirts, the couple celebrating a wedding anniversary with news of remission, a parent that gets to watch their child get married, a community member who tells us that we’ve helped make one of the hardest times of their life a little bit easier– these moments might be small in the grand scheme, but to us they are everything. We’ve learned to value the huge achievements as much as the small.
The Best Career Advice She's Ever Received
"What you say no to is just as important as what you say yes to."
What Most People Don't Know
"It takes over your life and it’s highly emotional work. I’ve become the first call a lot of people make when they get bad medical news. I’ve been in their shoes and would have loved a little help on those days, so I always help however I can and give all of myself to the task. Things like walking a family through end of life conversations or teaching a husband how to care for his wife during chemo are emotional, difficult and draining. This isn’t glamorous, people see the interviews and irreverently disruptive brand and forget that my everyday is cancer; and while we strive to infuse the experience with humor and wit, the raw truth is there is so much pain in our work."
A Digital Focus
"Because we started with a focus on the youth, we had to go where they are: online, and speak their language: humor, wit and edge. Our operations are predominately online. This allows us to have a much wider reach than would be possible in the physical world as well as be ever ready for our community. If they need us at 3am, we’re there."
Style & Beauty
"My personal style is often based on my work, which can change day to day but I always hope I achieve an effortlessly elegant look. It really depends on the day. Some days it’s office casual (long days = comfortable clothes), some days its young business chic (traditional business wear isn’t on-brand for myself or FCancer, so I opt for something polished but edgier) and some days it’s just whatever makes me feel amazing."
Hey Beauty Must-Haves
"Clean products. I use brands like Ren, Organic Pharmacy, Decleor, Aura Cacia, Biotherm and some Kate Somerville. I couldn’t live without my Organic Pharmacy Skin Rescue Oil, with how much time I spend on a plane, this super hydrating oil is a fave. If I only put on one thing (which most days I do) it’s mascara."
Her Winter Weekend Must-Haves
"Hydrating products for my skin and cozy clothes for me. Can’t go wrong with chunky sweaters with skinny jeans."
"Everyday we help people through some of the worst days of their lives, and in doing so we take some of their weight and bear it for them. I had to find a way to cleanse and recharge at the end of the day, so I could go back and do it all again the next day. For me the endorphins from exercise are magical, so I make sure to schedule a workout that consumes me mentally and physically, lets me sweat out the day and go back strong the next."
How She Finds Balance
"I work hard at it. When FCancer first started I was so obsessed with our growth and traction, I didn’t want to lose a second. So I skipped workouts, social engagements and ate whatever was closest - this was a mistake. My good friend and trainer Nathan Mellalieu said something to me that redefined how I thought about balance. He said “You take care of people for a living, how do you expect to do that if you can’t take care of yourself?”."