Clea Shearer is determined to turn her breast cancer battle into an opportunity to do some good.
The Home Edit co-founder and star of Netflix's Get Organized is launching the Clea Shearer Breast Cancer Research Fund, even as she's still recovering from a double mastectomy and undergoing an intensive chemotherapy regimen to fight her own stage 2 cancer.
"I've been very adamant that I want my cancer to feel purposeful, to have an impact," the professional organizer to the stars tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I think that pushing through this moment and looking towards the future is the only way that I feel like I can truly make a difference. Research is such a critical component of breast cancer because it's how we know how it develops. It's how we find new diagnostic tools. It's how we discover groundbreaking new therapies."
Shearer's fund will be part of the larger V Foundation (short for Victory Over Cancer), which was founded by legendary basketball coach and broadcaster Jim Valvano. One hundred percent of direct donations to the foundation benefit cancer research and programs thanks to an endowment that covers operating costs.
Courtesy Clea Shearer
While she's only announcing the fund on Thursday, it's already raised $200,000 thanks to The Home Edit's various business partners, including Nature Made, iDesign, The Container Store, Candle Media, and Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon's production outfit that recently purchased Clea and her business partner Joanna Teplin's company.
Another goal of the fund is "to raise awareness about self detection, early detection, and making sure that women have access to screenings wherever they live and whenever they need them," says Shearer, who discovered two lumps during a routine self-exam in February. "It's what saved my life and whatever we can do collectively — and whatever I can do individually — to push that forward with every ounce of my being, I will do. This is a mission and a journey that I will be on forever and whatever little impact I can make, I want to make it."
Shearer says she's received countless messages from fans on social media (@thehomeedit has 6.4 million followers), who she encouraged to get checked. Some of whom, she says, unfortunately, found lumps and sought treatment. "I hope that, if I inspired anyone to get a mammogram, to advocate for themselves, to get tested, to encourage everyone in their family to do so, that I can encourage them to make even the smallest donation so that we can actually work towards finding a cure," she says.
Courtesy Clea Shearer
Shearer was diagnosed with invasive mammary carcinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer, in March at age 40. She had no history of breast cancer in her family. The shocking news inspired her to advocate for others to self check and make sure they get medical attention immediately if they feel something's not right, as she did.
"It was really scary and really, really, really emotional. At that point, I didn't know what stage it was. I didn't know if it had spread," she told PEOPLE in April. At the time, she was told it was stage one and would require a mastectomy, but during the operation her diagnosis changed.
"What they found during surgery was that it had actually spread to my lymph nodes. And once cancer is in your lymphatic system, there are errant cancer cells throughout your body," she explains. "So I went from being stage one to stage two, and from having it contained to having it spread. And that difference means all the world when it comes to treatment."
The discovery meant a much more aggressive and immediate treatment plan for the Nashville-based mom of two. "They had to hit me extremely hard. My cancer is a super aggressive and fast moving, even faster than we thought," she says.
Netflix Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer
She's currently completed three out of four rounds of the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin. "The nickname for it is the 'red devil,' because it is so tough. The side effects are really severe. It's a really harsh chemo treatment," she says. "It's also red as it goes in, the actual liquid. So it's ominous all the way around." After that she'll receive 12 weeks of a less harsh drug and then radiation.
Right now, she says, the days immediately after her bi-weekly treatments are tough, but she's putting on a brave face and continuing to work on various projects — her business, the show, a new magazine, and now, the fund — when she can and with the help of Teplin and the Home Edit team. "I was so afraid that during chemo, I would have zero good days. And honestly, that's not the case, at least for me. I look forward to those good days so much. Because they matter so much more."
The Clea Shearer Breast Cancer Fund is now accepting donations online.