Marcella was also diagnosed with Pregnancy Related Triple Negative Breast Cancer in August 2022 and is currently in active treatment. Throughout this difficult process she has shared her journey honestly and openly on social media, which has been an inspiration to so many, and has raised funds and awareness about breast cancer.
Get excited to read all about this brave, inspirational super Mom as she shares about her career, motherhood, and battle with cancer. Her positivity and strength are truly inspirational.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself personally? Where do you live, and names/ages of kids, etc.?
With pleasure! I live in mid-country Greenwich with my husband, Daniel, and our two kids- our son Otto is four years old and our daughter Francesca is 11 months old. I am a maternal wellness specialist and coach. I have a background in developmental psychology and psychotherapy. I work in one-on-one and group settings with mothers, as well as corporate settings.
I take care of the women who are taking care of everyone. I believe that happy mothers are our best chance at raising healthy children—it starts with maternal wellness. My work is practical – we focus on goal setting, problem identifying and solving.
I know so many women who became mothers and while they found the loves of their lives (their kids), they lost themselves along the way. My work is focused on doing whatever it takes to help mothers get to a place where they are clear on their needs, wants, wishes – whatever it is that makes them happy – we get them there. I always say, you work so hard for your life- you deserve to be truly happy.
In a typical coaching session with a client or a group, we focus on things like – identity “crises” in motherhood, career, relationship issues, self – improvement, childcare concerns, school / education questions, parent/child and family dynamics. Basically, if you’re thinking about it, we’re talking about it. Nothing is off the table. But it is hard work and I ask the tough questions!
Where do you live in Greenwich and what do you love about Greenwich and your neighborhood/ what made you decide to move there/ how long have you been there?
We live in mid- country and we love it. I have a long history with Greenwich- I lived here as a child for two years from ‘95 – ‘97. From there, we moved to New York City, but my parents actually bought a house here when I was in High School and ultimately ended up moving back when I went off to college. So Greenwich was home base for a long time. I have always loved life here and felt this would be a wonderful place to raise my kids.
Once our son was born, my husband and I decided to try Greenwich out for a summer. That ended up being the Summer of 2020, right as the pandemic hit. We ended up giving up our apartment in New York and we moved full time to a cottage in Old Greenwich which was right out of a fairy tale. We had one amazing year there before the house actually ended up going on the market (we were renting). We were lucky to find our amazing house in Mid-Country off market, through an email chain.
My son is at GCDS which is just 5 minutes away from home, so we feel very lucky. We have amazing neighbors, and are just minutes away from the train and the Avenue. I love the coziness of OG, but mid-country feels like the best choice for many practical reasons which improve the quality of our everyday lives! My new office is located in OG, so I feel like I get the best of both worlds.
What led you to become a maternal wellness and parenting expert?
In college, majoring in psychology, I had an internship at The New York Center for Children, which provides assessments and psychotherapy for children and families who are victims of abuse. I was always interested in family systems and child development, and was very lucky to learn so much at such a young age. That summer, I saw firsthand the enormous weight and responsibility that mothers carry. I decided then and there that I wanted to spend my life taking care of mothers because it often feels like no one is taking care of them.
After college, I went on to get my Masters in Social Work from NYU with a focus on child and family psychotherapy. I was hired out of school to work at Mount Sinai Child Psychiatry Outpatient as a psychotherapist, where I spent most of my time educating, advocating and supporting mothers and teaching them about child development. After a few years at Sinai, I went on to complete an additional masters in psychology at Anna Freud Centre. There I obtained a masters in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology, (the program has now been renamed Early Child Development and Clinical Applications).
After graduating, I realized I wanted to have more open, candid conversations that felt more goal oriented. I felt that was the most effective way of really supporting mothers, so I went on to work for a life coaching practice where I developed a deep understanding of how to identify problems and inspire action.
In 2017, I finally launched my own practice and have not looked back since. I am lucky to work with the most incredible, inspiring women (not just mothers!) and groups.
What do you find the most challenging and most rewarding part of working with Moms?
I just love the real stuff. Not the fluff. I love having honest, raw, deeply connected conversations with Moms about the constant evolution of our identities and how motherhood both accelerates and complicates our personal growth. It is an incredible privilege to help someone strategize and improve their life. To watch someone really get to know and understand themselves.
Our work is done in two parts: during weekly sessions, and between sessions via email and messenger. I love that I can really be there for my clients through the day-to-day challenges and help them implement the tools we discuss during our sessions.The work is fun and hard and beautiful, and I genuinely have the best time working with my clients.
I love that my work is deeply personal and immediately effective if someone is motivated and ready for a change. I coach individuals, but also group work gives me so much energy. I run parenting groups and workshops for moms in the infant, toddler and early childhood stages. I also work with bigger companies like Facebook (Meta) and Propeller where I provide maternal wellness groups and large-scale conversations for their employees. So, no two days are the same.
Who could benefit from a maternal wellness and parenting expert?
It’s a great option for someone who loves therapy conceptually, but does not find it action oriented enough. It is ideal for someone feeling stuck, in a rut, but doesn’t quite know what is next or how to change. We work on both practical and emotional challenges. However, because it is coaching and not psychotherapy, it is not suitable for anyone experiencing significant mental health concerns. It is goal and action based so it requires work and follow through.
Our first intake session consists of an extensive evaluation which really helps identify if coaching is suitable for someone. If for whatever reason it is not, I refer out to colleagues in the appropriate field.
Seeking help can be super daunting, what is your advice on how to get started on the process?
Any mental health professional should offer you an introductory session. Go on an interviewing spree, meet with as many practitioners as you can until you find the perfect fit. If you don’t know what kind of help you need, check out this little guide that I put together to clarify the different kinds of mental health options. Introductory sessions should not cost you anything, and when you find a person you feel excited to work with, you will know.
How does being a Mom help you in your job and understanding your patients?
I personally identify with my clients, so I know how hard it is to change and how many systems work against us as women and mothers. I understand how hard it is to be the person you want to be when there are so many responsibilities on your plate. I can really empathize. But I also walk the walk, there is nothing I would recommend to a client that I myself wouldn’t do. I personally know what it takes out to get out of those unhelpful patterns and dynamics.
You have been very open on your social media about your recent Cancer diagnosis and treatment plan. What advice do you have for Moms going through a similar experience?
I was diagnosed with Pregnancy Related Triple Negative Breast Cancer in August 2022 and I am currently in active treatment. I just wrapped up six months of chemotherapy and will have surgery and radiation in the spring.
My advice is connect with other moms who have gone through this- they will be your lifeline. Part of my healing comes from connecting with other moms who are on this journey with me. I have made beautiful friendships and speak with my “pink sisters” daily. I can’t tell you how many survivors helped me- people I did not know at all. There is a unique comfort and connection when you speak to another woman who knows exactly how you feel. For example, I would never be able to describe the experience of chemotherapy- but when you’re with a survivor, you don’t even have to. They just get it.
Your social has helped me and many others remember to do monthly self breast exams – why are they so important?
Sharing my journey on Instagram has been surprisingly healing for me so I am really happy to hear it has fostered awareness about such an important topic.
Before my diagnosis, I didn’t even know there were different types of breast cancer! I discovered something was off when I was sitting in the passenger seat of the car while my husband was driving. I decided to feel around since there was nothing better to do, and I felt a hardness in my left breast – it’s hard to explain but the tissue just felt different- tougher. I was instructed by Dr Shieva Ghofrany, my OB who delivered my daughter, to call Greenwich Hospital directly and book a mammogram and ultrasound. Within a week I was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of breast cancer, which is most common in women under 40.
When I met my surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the first thing she did was to congratulate me on finding this and being proactive. It meant so much to me to hear that I was doing a good job of taking care of me. That is the ultimate act of self care.
Triple Negative cells typically multiply extremely quickly, so time is of essence. Early diagnosis is the strongest predictor of survival for any breast cancer. I am grateful every day that I took it seriously and so did those around me. My genetic testing came back negative- I have no idea why this happened. I am a healthy woman, non smoker, etc. It just happened, but catching it early gives me the best chance at living a long, healthy life. The same is true for any of us.
My advice is to learn how to do a breast check. I know it is scary, but the more you do them, the less scary it is. We owe it to ourselves to know our bodies and to get checked if anything, anywhere, feels off. Go with your gut.
How do you find a balance with motherhood and your job? And now also your fight against Cancer? Any tips for the rest of the Moms out there?
I think balance is a myth, but I do believe that we all have “seasons” in motherhood. Depending on the season you are in, priorities shift, and some things just have to take a back seat even if they are ultimately very important.
During chemotherapy, I was in a season of health and not in a season of active involvement in my kids day-to-day activities. I had to rely heavily on (several) childcare providers, including nannies, family and friends to get through. I wasn’t able to go out much, I slept a lot. When I had the strength to drive, I would sit in parked lots so I could get away and just cry, or call a friend, or whatever I needed. I forgot school events and packed lunches. You get the picture- but I had to rest and take care of my body because in taking care of myself, I was taking care of my kids. I had to do a lot of big picture thinking- “no, I can’t go to this birthday party or take my daughter on a walk, but I can strengthen my body by eating a good meal and getting rest so that in the long run, I am a healthier Mom and I can be on the other side of this sooner.” It took a lot of coaching myself out of guilt and luckily I had my mother and sister constantly reminding me that one day, I would be on the other side of this and I will get to be whoever I want to be.
My advice is to accept help in all forms. Let people be there for you and believe that you will get to pay it forward some day. Know that you might need an “off season” where parenting perfectly isn’t your top priority, but for example, your health or career is. Rest, because your body needs you to be healthy so that you can be the mom and woman that you want to be. Let go of guilt if you need childcare, you deserve space to be a human and woman first. There is no award for being the most tired Mom. I mean that lovingly- you can be an amazing mom and have off-seasons.
Anything you have found particularly helpful/inspirational during your journey?
I find mothers in general to be incredibly inspiring. My own mother and sister were, and continue to be, tremendously helpful and supportive. What inspired me so much during this time was all the incredibly busy, overwhelmed mothers in this community who never failed to check in, drop off challah from Raphael’s, send flowers, host playdates. So many of us are completely depleted, with so little energy to give, and yet they still showed up for me, time and time again. It was incredibly inspiring to see their generosity and how special this community is. I thank God every day that I moved to Greenwich and found myself in the presence of such amazing women.
Finally, for me it was incredibly important to have the right support in place in terms of my mental health. As soon as I was diagnosed, I reconnected with my amazing psychologist, started to see a psychiatrist to help me make sure I was utilizing all available tools to help me get through and be strong for my kids.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Supporting mothers in general, but especially in this community, is my calling. This spring, in partnership with Greenwich Play, we will be opening The Greenwich Play Room in Old Greenwich. It is the first space of its kind- half showroom, half multifunctional family destination, incorporating regularly scheduled programming centered around maternal wellness and early childhood.
The Greenwich Play Room will personally house my office for client sessions, but we will also be hosting topic-based discussion groups for moms a few evenings a month. I intend to highlight taboo topics that are top of mind but don’t often get discussed publicly or honestly. Imagine topics like: child care challenges, identity-loss in motherhood, grief in motherhood, martial challenges in early childhood, and much more.
We hope this will be an asset and support system to the whole community. We intend for the space to be a space where moms can go to find inspiration, community, support and fun.
We love to support local businesses. What are your fave places when you are in Greenwich to:
Grab coffee – CFCF or Raphael’s
Workout – Coreplay, Core Burn Pilates & Annie Silva (Annie Does Wellness)
Go on a date night – Penguin and The Cottage, we love to go early and eat at the bar.
Go out for a girls night – Hinoki, The Cottage or Happy Monkey
Go out to dinner as a family – Doppio and Wildacre
Get your hair done – Camaro Salon – it’s in Southport but 100% worth the trip.
Get your nails done – After Covid I got used to having a lovely technician come to our house and never looked back
Have fun as a family – Tod’s Point, Stamford Nature Center, Norwalk Aquarium, Greenwich Library