Beating Cancer, Getting Organized

By Kathy Kurtz Ferrari
Staff Writer

Sometimes it takes a major change in life to get you organized. That’s something Kim Madigan knows all too well. The Milton resident had her life turned upside down in 2007, when shortly after losing her mother to cancer, she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Basically you see it on the Lifetime Channel,” Madigan joked, as she began to share her story. Madigan went to school at Northeastern University, where she met her husband, Jim, who was known as “Mad Dog” on the school’s hockey team. She studied to become a dental hygienist and landed a job in a premier dental office in Boston’s business district, where for nearly two decades she dealt with high-end patients like Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, CEOs of corporations and the presidents of major universities. “They were amazing dentists, and we built the business on Federal Street. I loved it, and they loved me,” she said.

But her life took a sudden turn after her cancer diagnosis. She underwent eight surgeries in two years, including a double mastectomy, and was unable to continue with the physical demands of her career, as the pain was too much for her to bear.

“I was very determined to beat this thing. There was no way I was going to die,” she said.

Madigan had a great team of doctors, and fought her way back, partly due to her responsibility as a mother to two daughters, Kelly and Kate. Her prognosis was good, but it was clear her career was over.

Because she’s an upbeat, high-energy person, she said, sitting out on disability was never an option. It was during a conversation with her sister on the beach when she had her “eureka” moment.

“My sister said, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ and I said, ‘I really want to be an organizer,’” Madigan remembered saying.

Her sister had no idea what she was talking about, but Madigan realized she had an untapped skill for organizing. Whether it was in friends’ bathroom cabinets or her own refrigerator, she had found her passion.

“I just love it,” she exclaimed. “Everybody thinks I’m crazy. Maybe it’s because of the dental hygiene, the meticulous nature of it, maybe because of the breast cancer. I realized you don’t need all this stuff in your life. You don’t need it.”

So she researched books and did her homework, then decided to launch her own organizing business, Mad Cat’s, helping people organize their lives.

Usually charging by the hour, she visits people’s homes, helping them pick and purge through things cluttering their houses and their lives. Organizing photographs, recipes, kitchen cabinets, Christmas decorations, children’s rooms and clothes closets are part of her forte.

Two side businesses have also sprung from her skills: collaborating with William & Kenneth Fine Jewelry in Randolph, organizing cash for gold parties, where people turn unwanted gold items into cash; and helping people sell their unwanted items on craigslist.

“I like to teach people how to keep their lives simple,” she said. “And right now I’m happy doing it.”

Her family has been very supportive during all that has gone on in her life. Her daughter, Kate, is a senior at Milton High School, and her other daughter, Kelly, is a junior at Northeastern. Kate’s soccer team at the high school recognized Madigan, a very involved volunteer, at a game in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Kate and her teammates donned pink T-shirts honoring Madigan before the game.

“I’ve never cried, for two years, through all the surgeries, but my daughter presented me with pink roses on the 50-yard line, and I was crying uncontrollably,” Madigan said.

She said many other community members have been supportive of her through her health battle, and now with the launching of her business.

Her husband, who works at Northeastern and is also a scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is happy she has found the next chapter in her life.

And Madigan feels her message of organizing is timely, as many would add it to their list of New Year’s resolutions.

“I think that’s what the whole organizing life lesson is here,” she said. “Get rid of your stuff, and enjoy who you’re with. …I’ve always lived for the day. And now I’m doing what I want to do.”