Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Candace Sanchez, from surviving to thriving

NOW: Natalie’s Everyday Heroes: Candace Sanchez, from surviving to thriving

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Candace Sanchez is an author, podcast host and motivational speaker. She's also a sexual abuse survivor.

She shares her story to let others know they're not alone.

Next month she's being honored for her work helping to heal trauma. She's getting the Thrive Award at Hope Shining Blue, an event to honor survivors.

"Welcome to another episode of Unspoken: Conversations with Candace," Sanchez said into a microphone in her basement studio.

Sanchez is used to having tough conversations.

"I'm a workaholic. It's hard for me to say no," she said.

She describes her podcast as a safe space for anyone with trauma to be heard.

"I wanted to offer that to other survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, abuse. The topics we don't talk about," she explained.

'Unspoken: Conversations with Candace', is now in its third season. Sanchez sat down to record a candid conversation with her two daughters.

"These types of traumas effect the whole family for years," youngest daughter, Victoria Slomski said.

Eldest daughter, Adriana Cruz, was recording with her mom for the first time.

"It was just a little nerve-wracking," Cruz reacted.

They've watched their mother transform from sexual assault survivor to an advocate who's thriving. It started with her book, "Unspoken," which she published in 2020.

"It's a one-word title because I wasn't supposed to tell. That's really why the book is called 'Unspoken'," Sanchez revealed.

In it she tells her story of surviving childhood sexual abuse. From the first person she told, her high school boyfriend.

"I was eight months pregnant. I was 17. I was a senior in high school, pregnant," she remembered.

Then, the perhaps more difficult conversation with her mother.

"It was hard to tell my mom. I didn't want to hurt my mom," she said. "So, it was my step father, yes. So, it was her husband."

She also focuses on the hard work to heal that came afterwards.

"In my 20's, I realized it was having an effect on me, personally and professionally. I was still carrying this trauma," she said.

"It kind of took away our innocence," Cruz said.

It's trauma that also impacted Cruz and Slomski, but Sanchez's healing journey has, too.

"We have a better relationship now, because of it," Cruz said. "It took a lot to get here and there's been bumpy roads and hard, tough conversations that you have to have."

Sanchez tells her story as motivational speaker and life coach.

"Candace's level of success is unique, but her story isn't," said Sharain Horn. 

Horn is vice president of Well Community at Aurora Health Care. She's known Sanchez for several years through Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services.

"When you see someone that went through that same walk you went through, and they came out on the other side ok, it gives hope," Horn said.

Aurora is honoring Sanchez at its Hope Shining Blue event this year with the Thrive Award.

"I'm excited for her. I think it's a big deal," Cruz said.

"Proud. Yeah, I am really proud of her," Slomski added.

Hope Shining Blue is an event honoring survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

"The Thrive Award is for someone who not only has experienced violence but lived their life to now thrive and to make a difference for others who've also experienced what they've experienced," Horn said.

It's a recognition of Sanchez's work.

"Thank you for being on another episode of 'Unspoken: Conversations with Candace'," she said, closing out the recording.

And she hopes she's making space for others to thrive, too.

"It's exciting and it's making me happy to know that she's trying to be that person to say, I'm a safe haven for you," Slomski said.

"That to me, bottom line, I'm making a difference and making an impact," Sanchez said.

Hope Shining Blue is April 26. For more information, visit their website.

If you need help, Advocate Aurora Health's hotline number is (414) 219-5555.

For more information about Candace Sanchez, visit her website.

And if you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected]

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