Alison Hadden, 41, formerly of Drexel Hill, a dynamic marketing executive, engaging motivational speaker, lifelong athlete, worldwide adventurer, and creator of the inspiring No Time to Waste project, died Saturday, Jan. 29, of cancer at her home in Boulder, Colo.
Ms. Hadden was a successful and spirited 38-year-old in 2018 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, the worst possible kind with the fewest treatment options.
An all-star high school basketball player at Episcopal Academy in the 1990s, a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, and a rising entrepreneur who started her own business at 29 and later worked in executive positions for other companies, Ms. Hadden said she was stunned and scared.
“When the shock came, it really hit hard,” she said in an emotional 2020 Tedx Talk at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. “And we didn’t find it early.”
However, instead of spiraling ever lower and feeling worse as the biting terror and paralyzing anxieties piled up, Ms. Hadden, in her own words, “started to feel better.” Over time, she said in a moving series of talks, interviews, articles, blog posts, and podcasts that evolved into her No Time to Waste project, she found clarity and perspective about her dire situation.
“It was like I gained a super power overnight,” she said in her 2020 talk. “Give the fear a voice, and you will take the power out of it.”
Ms. Hadden found that by confronting her fear of death, focusing on the present, and embracing “joy, human connection, and gratitude,” she was able to carry on even during her darkest days. “It’s not about dying and death,” she said in 2020. “It’s about living.”
“Motivating the World to Live Like There’s No Time to Waste” became her project’s mantra.
“She lived with less self-pity than anyone I’ve ever met,” said her father, Frank Hadden. “She lived with both her eyes and heart wide open.”
Using her No Time to Waste website and a wide-ranging presence on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media, Ms. Hadden spent the last 3½ years sharing her research and newfound insights — raw, personal, and tragic but honest and helpful — as a speaker, writer, and interviewer.
She provided links on her website to other resources, and spoke at conferences, meetings, workshops, seminars, commencements, and elsewhere about the need to embrace life in the present.
From Oct. 5, 2020, to Dec. 6, 2021, as the pandemic curtailed her personal appearances, she recorded 47 podcasts with Katie Couric, Matthew McConaughey, Lance Armstrong, Sheryl Sandberg, and other authors, actors, journalists, influencers, professors, doctors, and executives about their experiences and views on grief, life, and death.
In an interview on Couric’s website, Ms. Hadden said: “I’m fueled by an insatiable drive to help as many people as possible in a way that only I can.”
Born May 21, 1980, in Stoneham, Mass., to Frank and Kathy Hadden, Ms. Hadden moved with her family when she was an infant to Overbrook. They later moved to Overbrook Farms and then to Drexel Hill.
Creative, outspoken, and driven even as a child, “she charmed people,” her father said. “They fell in love with her when they met her. She was a force of nature.”
At 8, she was producing two-page homemade newspapers, complete with sports sections. At 10, she was looking for jobs and already selling erasers and other knickknacks adorned with her artwork to friends and classmates.
She was athletic and theatrical and performed in summer stage productions. She made varsity as a freshman basketball player at Episcopal and was written about often in The Inquirer’s sports pages.
Before graduating in 1998 with more than 1,000 career points — the first girl at Episcopal to reach that milestone — Ms. Hadden outplayed many of the boys she competed against at coed camps and clinics.
“When it comes to playing basketball, I’m never intimidated,” she told The Inquirer in 1996. “I’ve always loved taking on the better competition.” When asked then whether she would consider challenging Kobe Bryant, the future NBA superstar then playing at Lower Merion High School, she said: “I’d love to go one-on-one with him.”
Off the court, Ms. Hadden was the coordinator of an event in 1996 that paired younger children with Episcopal students for an afternoon of games, crafting, and fellowship. “They don’t have much interaction with kids older than they are, to look up to,” she told The Inquirer. “We invited kids we thought we could relate to.”
She went on to play basketball and graduate from Trinity College with a bachelor’s degree in English. She moved to California and later to Colorado, and worked in executive leadership roles for, among other companies, Mindbody, a wellness technology firm, and Glassdoor, a website for job-seekers, workplace evaluations, and other employment topics.
She toured North America as a company spokesperson, was named one of Brand Innovators’ 40-under-40 top executives, and wrote articles about motivation, success, and health in the workplace. In 2019, she wrote: “A happy employee is an engaged and productive one. … We should all be encouraging those around us to pursue their best lives.”
Away from work, Ms. Hadden liked to surf, run, and snowboard. She visited more than 20 countries, often with her younger sister, Kerri, and routinely sought out roads less traveled.
She wasn’t perfect, her father said. But her authenticity and vulnerability overshadowed her faults, he said, and her Instagram page was swamped with comments and memories after her death. “Time was not wasted,” one person wrote. “You inspired.”
In the end, her father said, Ms. Hadden had found and shared the secret to success.
“Gratitude,” she said in 2020, “turns everything we have into enough.”
In addition to her parents and sister, Ms. Hadden is survived by her partner, Kate, and other relatives.
A visitation with the family is to be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 25, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 1 West Ardmore Ave., Ardmore, Pa. 19003. A memorial service is to follow. A celebration of life is to be held in May in Colorado.
Donations in her name may be made to First Descents, 3858 Walnut St., Suite 161, Denver, Colo. 80205.