She’s seen it happen to others. She’s helped families prepare. She’s guided people through the difficult decisions.

Then it happened to her.

Stephanie Stanfield is a source of strength – a natural leader who, in many ways, can serve as the calm amid the storm. In her professional life, she leads Regions’ investment professionals across the Tampa Bay area and all along the Florida’s western Gulf Coast. A proud Hokie and graduate of Virginia Tech, she has spent her entire career in finance.

“My innate strength is building trusting relationships with people and families to help them prepare for their financial futures,” Stanfield said.

That strength was tested in 2017 when cancer claimed the lives of both her brother-in-law and her mother within a month. Stanfield leaned into her experience to help lead her family through an emotional and stressful time.

“My background allowed me to guide my mother through the steps needed to ensure her grandchildren had a financial gift to remember her,” Stanfield said. “It provided my sister with the planning tools needed after the death of my brother-in-law. I was proud to support my family in this way. I just wish we had done it sooner.”

Closing a chapter on a very difficult year, Stanfield and her family looked ahead to 2018 with anticipation. It would be a new start.

But that’s when it happened.

In early January, Stanfield was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer following a routine mammogram that found a mass. It was growing aggressively. Prepared for war and treatment options, Stanfield underwent a series of tests and met with doctors to determine next steps. She was told the cancer had metastasized in several locations; the cancer was terminal, doctors said.

The unexpected comes when you least expect it.

Stanfield’s daughter, Kelsi (left), and son, Zach (right), have been an important source of strength during her battle with cancer. Both live and work in the Tampa Bay area, so they can support their mother in her advocacy efforts.

“I am the force of positivity for my family, so I carried that forward when I shared the news with my family, as well as with my team at Regions,” Stanfield said, adding that her family joined her for medical appointments to get educated and understand more about the diagnosis.

Once the initial shock wore off, Stanfield seized the opportunity to use her story to make a difference for others preparing their financial legacy.

“In a matter of seconds, I received clarity around my true meaning and purpose. I have been called to educate others, identify their aspirations, understand their purpose, and create their legacy,” she said.

Regions’ HerVision HerLegacy program is an initiative that empowers women to define a financial vision so they can control their financial legacies for generations to come. The program started before Stanfield’s diagnosis. Now, she has made it the centerpiece of her work.

When Stanfield meets with clients, she begins by discussing financial goals and encourages them to review those goals yearly and update them as life changes.  Using a financial worksheet created through the Regions Next Step initiative, Stanfield provides advice, guidance and tools to help her clients break down their goals into manageable steps.

Stanfield shares the three P’s of wealth management with clients regularly to help build a foundation for financial planning:

  • Be Proactive by keeping financial documents updated regularly. Educate yourself on topics of finance and investing to gain confidence with your personal financial situation.
  • Be Present by meeting with a financial advisor regularly, and talk about finances openly with your family. Open discussions create a level of trust and confidence for everyone involved.
  • Be Prepared by making sure someone knows the location of your financial plan.

“These principles apply to all stages and phases of our lives,” Stanfield said. “Mine included.”

To help build on this foundation, Regions has created several financial planning tools for families to use to prepare for the unexpected.

Within Regions’ tools, the “Legacy Planning Checklist for My Loved Ones” is a comprehensive planning document that provides the names of key contacts, access to important information, digital passwords and other information a family may need after a relative passes away.

The “Surviving Spouse Checklist” helps identify key tasks that must be completed in the days, weeks and months after death. It provides clarity to family members in a chaotic and stressful time.

Stanfield is using these tools to help her clients, and she’s using them in her personal life, too, working to maintain control of her financial plan and create a legacy for her family and organizations across Tampa Bay that she supports.

“Everyone is going to die sometime, so these documents provide a peace of mind to families when that time comes,” Stanfield said.

Jim Donatelli, St. Petersburg-Clearwater Market Executive for Regions, works with Stanfield daily.  He says her determination in supporting clients is extraordinary and has only grown since her diagnosis.

“Stephanie is a visionary and has helped her team grow in ways that benefits our clients while also helping them identify how their efforts fit into our overall bank strategy. She has brought in top-notch talent and is leading them with an incredible amount of energy and strength,” Donatelli said.

Donatelli also says Stanfield’s priorities of faith and family are admired by those who work with her.

“I often ask myself, ‘Am I sprinkling enough of Stephanie’s determination, hard work, positive outlook and constant encouragement into my own life both personally and professionally?’” Donatelli added.

Stanfield and her husband, Adam, met on their first day of college at Virginia Tech and have been married nearly 30 years. After Stanfield’s cancer diagnosis, the couple had a vow renewal ceremony.

For now, Stanfield is stable. Her condition is treatable, but not curable. She has changed her eating habits, opting for more healthy foods, eating no meat or dairy, and avoiding processed foods. Additionally, she takes oral chemotherapy daily along with several other medicines. Her body has responded well.

“I will keep doing my personal best and taking care of what I can control. My hope is that medicine will continue to advance so more options will be available,” she said, noting that her current medication was not on the market just five years ago.

Stanfield doesn’t have a timeframe for what comes next. She prioritizes time with family and is looking forward to a trip to Bora Bora with her husband in May.

“If you could ever think of cancer as a gift, it has been a gift to look through the lens of what is really important. And what living life really means. I am lucky. I am living life,” she said.

Stanfield has continued leading Regions’ teams of investment professionals around Tampa Bay and along Florida’s western Gulf Coast since receiving her diagnosis.