You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand
During our monthly National Speakers Association (NSA) meeting, I’ve learned that there are speakers who speak on the most unusual topics – and certainly things I never would have thought of – sewing skills, Washington DC politics and the historical impact on women, how to lose your pot belly, hidden tactics for program managers, etc. All of us busy and harried NSA types are seeking a step forward to grow our business skills; we meet monthly and listen to a speaker (how ironic), ending each session with Q&A.
When Mary stood up at a meeting last year, I took particular notice. She was confident in her manner, and determined to get an answer to her question. I don’t even remember her exact question – but what I do remember was her topic. She said “I talk about how to survive cancer seven times. Oh, and I also do PR and branding seminars.” After the meeting, I found her chatting it up with a few fellow speakers, offering them quick tips on what they could do to enhance their public relations. After I introduced myself to her, she narrowed her eyes and said, “I really like your shirt. What is it that you do? Want to grab a bite?”
During lunch she shared how her schedule was so perplexing – and how it brought her great joy. She had done work in Iceland, Africa, and other off-the-map-of-expected-speaker-travel-destinations. I was impressed. I can hardly get out the door to a movie on Saturday, and she was globetrotting all over the world. She spoke to women on empowerment, she developed a small business selling women-made products from third world countries, she helped clients understand PR and branding (this, by the way, is a never-ending cycle). Happy and busy, she continued on.
We both volunteered for a NSA committee and she would call me with ‘what the #%&@? Did you understand that?’ I loved her total and pure authenticity. She didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought about her or her work. She was on her own path. Illness had taught her that a spine of steel can be quite productive.
I couldn’t fathom surviving cancer seven times. I never asked what happened, she was busy with other things and the topic never came up. We tried to connect for lunch several times, but it was tricky and proved hard to get together with travel and business and life in general. I marveled at her energy and found her no bullshxx attitude refreshing. She was not one to ponder worry or be concerned with what others thought.
As months went by, our conversations turned to personal matters – friends she loved dearly, her special needs daughter on the west coast, her fractured family, men she had dated. I realized she had managed issue after issue, throwing cares to the side and trucking on in her determined way.
We finally got a date for lunch on the calendar. As I sat down, she began sharing the story of her illness. Her cancer reoccurred time after time. She had an unusual form of uterine cancer that continued to come back – and she continued to undergo surgery after surgery to get it out of her.
She also shared that the cancer had come back – again. Her plans for the holidays were to head to California, undergo surgery one more time and then get going. She wasn’t sure when she would be back after the holidays. She was combining recovery time with visits with friends. It all took me aback – I have a large and strong support system that guides me, she was planning on plotting all of this on her own. She was going to be with one friend for a few weeks, then another friend for a few weeks more. Her nephews would come by to see her. She was almost flippant about the plan, as if to say ‘what the hell else could happen?’
I sensed fatigue beyond measure – and the more she shared, the more it became evident that this girl was pooped. Her biggest worry wasn’t the procedure, the surgery, or the overlap with the holidays – it was the recovery. “I just hate the recovery. It’s very hard on me and I’m tired,” she said. My concern heightened as she shared added details – problems with anesthesia, concerns for her heart and valves, the additional surgeons her Doctor wanted to bring in for the surgery. It all sounded scary and never-ending to me. In her Mary-like fashion, she was determined and had a bit of ‘whatever’ attitude. I knew she was tired. Although her business was thriving, budget was a concern – this illness had taken most of her money, but it sure wasn’t going to take her spirit.
As we ended lunch, she hugged me and said, “I’ve got lots to do. I’ll send you my surgery information. I just love my Dr., he will take great care of me.” I watched her walk away, determined, tired, and yet spirited. I took my time watching her. As I watched her, I thought about all she had been through, and all that she stood for, it really was quite amazing.
Weeks later, surgery ensued and updates followed. Her assistant was wonderful, providing us detailed notes. I sent flowers and cards. She sent me a few cryptic emails; she was weak and needed rest. Complication after complication came her way, all the while her collective support group cheered her on. She was worried about work and taking care of her responsibilities, even though she’d been in the hospital for a month. And then, on the first day of our New Year as we are all celebrating a clean slate and a new chance, Mary suffered a stroke that changed the game. She lost her site and had another stroke a few days later. The cancer had already returned. Her Doctor, now out of options, recommended she head to hospice.
I’ve struggled to get my head around all of this. It’s hard to imagine what she is going through, it seems unfathomable. And yet, I sense her failing energy and her fatigued spirit. It’s been a 16-year fight, with few breaks and lots of knocks to the chin. On her own, with her spirit as her guide, she has done more than most ever could. I want to stand and applaud her efforts. My guess is that she would tell me to sit down and listen to her while she shares some of her insights.
My hunch is that they would include:
- Just be you – don’t worry about what others think or what they may say, it really doesn’t matter in the end. If you aren’t true to you, then this is all a bit of a waste now isn’t it?
- Don’t put up with any bullshxx – it’s not worth it and you don’t have to answer to anyone else. Ever.
- Stay away from dysfunction. People, situations, companies, whatever it may be, anything that carries toxicity is not worth your time. You aren’t going to change them and you aren’t going to change the situation. Just stay away and let them find their own path.
- The world is really much smaller than you may think. People in other countries are just like us – they are happy, sad, and frustrated. They struggle, succeed, and worry. Travel and go find new friends, they will enrich your life beyond measure.
- And last, and I quote: “Go to Iceland, you will be amazed.”
As of this writing, they are moving her into hospice and her stunned family and friends are taking it all in. I am speechless and can’t figure out how to help her so I am left with writing it out – sharing her story and offering you a few of her insights – attitudes that have carried her far and taken her around the world. On her behalf, I offer you Mary’s attitude to go do what you want and be who you are.
And for you my dear Mary, thank you for your candor, your strength and your friendship. Godspeed.
www.kimromancorle.com All rights reserved, Kim Roman Corle
Kim Roman Corle is a coach, speaker and author that helps people learn to ‘Take Their Power Back’. A verbal abuse survivor, member of ACA, corporate executive, StepMother, StepChild My work focuses on offering guidance, support and steps that teach people how to manage their emotions. As someone who has learned how to take back her power, I feel there isn’t an audience I don’t relate with. I look forward to meeting and working with you