Life Happens Between Appointments

waitingroom2.thumbnail Life Happens Between AppointmentsAfter the diagnosis, Michel and I took the time we needed to absorb it all and deal with it on an emotional level. We were in waiting mode, waiting for the first appointment with the oncologist who would tell us what kind of chemotherapy treatment regimen would be required. We were waiting for the first appointment with the radiologist who would tell us how the radiation treatments would be administered. And we were waiting for test results to tell us what type of hormone therapy I would be given.

The waiting is one of the most difficult things we need to deal with. Waiting to get more information. Waiting to find out what happens next. Waiting to learn how long I’ll be going through this.

Waiting to “live” again.

See, none of us expected that this would happen, and before I came down with breast cancer (I say that as if I caught a cold or something), we had a lot of plans for this year and the coming one. I’ll never forget the concerned expression on the doctor’s face when this all first started and he was trying to make us understand that we were dealing with something pretty serious.

Before the wedding, our doctor was hesitant to reveal the whole picture. He is such a kind man, and although he knew we needed to hear the truth, he didn’t want to shatter our joy with our upcoming wedding. So, although he mentioned “breast cancer”, he didn’t want to tell us everything right away. He didn’t want to tell us that was was already quite certain about the diagnosis, and he definitely didn’t want to mention that I would need a mastectomy as soon as we got back from our honeymoon.

But he knew that we needed to start to face reality, so he was as gentle as he could be with us, while delivering his “too soon to tell for sure, but we think you might have cancer” diagnosis. He talked about the fact that once we got back from our honeymoon, we would need to start making some appointments for tests and treatments.

So, Michel and I pulled out our trusty appointment book and started checking it against the doctor’s suggestions for upcoming schedules. In hindsight, it was pretty comical. The conversation went a little like this…

OK, so we are getting married on Sunday. Then, we are leaving for our cruise a few days later.

We get back from the cruise on the 26th, so we could book an appointment anytime between the 28th and the 30th. But on the 31st, we’re on a plane to the UK and we won’t be back until the 4th of September.

I have calls scheduled all day on the 7th and the 8th, so neither of those days will work for us.

On the 13th, we’re gone again to speak in Vegas at the World Internet Summit, as well as in Baltimore at the Internet Marketing Main Event. We’ll be back for a couple of weeks, though, so anything you need to do we can do then.”

It was at this point that I clued in to the look on the doctor’s face. Dr. Chadwick (bless his heart) reached out his hand very slowly and carefully, and covered our appointment book. The look on his face stopped me in my tracks. He looked like he was afraid he was about to witness the moment I snapped in two. He said, very gently, “You might want to rethink some of this and make room for what we need to do.”

THAT was the moment it sort of hit me.

My life was going to be completely different from now on, at least in the foreseeable future. This wasn’t going to be something I could “pencil in” between calls and trips. This was serious, and it would alter the way our lives were going to be in the coming weeks and months, possibly years.

Oh” was all I managed to say out loud.

What flashed through my mind in that moment was quite a bit different, but “Oh” was the only thing that came out of my mouth.

What flashed through my mind was all the plans we had made before this moment, all the seminars we would be attending and speaking at, all the products we were going to be creating, all the calls we would be doing, all the business we would be conducting, the move we were planning for next year, and the baby we would be creating in a couple of years.

In one fell swoop, our carefully laid plans were falling to pieces, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.

So, once we got back from our honeymoon and discovered that a mastectomy was unavoidable, we needed to make some dramatic changes to our schedules so we could deal with the reality of our situation.

We cancelled calls to make room for medical appointments. We cancelled trips we had already scheduled. We let people know that we wouldn’t be able to speak at their events in the coming few months.

But there is one seminar that I was determined we were not going to miss, if at all possible, and that was the Big Seminar in Atlanta that’s coming up October 27 — 30th.

We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to make it, due to the chemo treatments interfering with my ability to travel. The timing of it all was very important to me.

There are some really good reasons why this particular seminar is so important for us to attend this year.

  1. First, it’s the Big Seminar, for crying out loud! All our friends are there for this event. It’s not called the Big Seminar for nothing. It is not only an incredible learning experience, its the seminar where some of our favorite people always attend, and we get the chance to hang out with some of the brightest and most fun people I’ve ever met. Working from home can be a bit lonely sometimes, and this seminar gives us the chance to share a few laughs with good friends.
  2. Second, Michel and I are scheduled speakers at this event, and I am also speaking on my own this time. It was such an honor for Armand to even ask me to speak at that seminar, and I didn’t want to let him down. See, Armand Morin may be a good friend of ours, but he doesn’t make business decisions based on friendship. He doesn’t invite speakers to speak on his stage unless he is certain they will overdeliver to his guests, regardless of any personal relationship he may have with anyone. He is a smart and savvy businessman, and he doesn’t arrive at these decisions lightly. Being asked to speak at his seminar is a huge honor, and missing this event wasn’t something I wanted to do.
  3. Third, this particular seminar is being held the weekend before Halloween, which just happens to be my birthday. On Saturday night, I’ve heard through the grapevine that they may be having a costume contest, and I have a costume in mind that will give me the chance to laugh about having breast cancer. I don’t want to miss my chance to poke fun at my own condition. I’m not going to tell what it is, because that would spoil the surprise, but I’m willing to bet there will be many people there who “get the joke” when I don this particular costume.
  4. Fourth, It will be my last chance to speak on stage for quite some time. From what I’ve been told, it will be months before I am well enough to travel again, and I do not want to miss my chance to do what I love to do for a living. Years ago, I started my company, Workaholics4Hire​.com, because I made a choice to do what I love and love what I do. In recent years, speaking about what I love to do has become a new way for me to do what I love.

So, we have been on pins and needles in the past few weeks, waiting to find out whether or not I would be able to fit just one seminar into my healing schedule.

And thankfully, my oncologist agreed to arrange the start of my first chemotherapy treatment so that it would not interfere with my ability to travel to speak in Atlanta at the Big Seminar.

My first round of chemotherapy will take place on October 19th, which gives me just over a week to recouperate and be in fine spirits for the Big Seminar, and incidentally, for my birthday as well, before the next round of chemo.

I can’t even begin to describe how happy we are about this small blessing!

And this led me to consider how I can choose to view the next few months of my life. See, I could choose to spend a lot of energy thinking about things like “When is the next doctor’s appointment?” or “What will happen at the next treatment?” or “How will I feel after my next treatment?”. Instead, I prefer to think of it in terms of “How can I live my life to its fullest?” and “What can I accomplish this year that I wasn’t planning for before this happened?” or even, “How can I adapt to these changes to make it an even better year than I ever considered?”

Life happens between medical appointments, not during them. My life will NOT consist solely of treatments, doctors, side effects, and medication schedules.

My life in the next few months will be filled with lots of laughter and love, walks in the park, snowball fights, playing with the dog, watching my favorite movies, reading novels I’ve always meant to read, shopping, and learning to let my friends and family take care of me while I take care of them too.

And if anyone wants to meet me in person, make sure you stop by at the Big Seminar, even if it’s only to find out what kind of costume I will be wearing at the costume party! I’m pretty sure you’ll get a kick out of it!

17 Comments so far »

  1. Shiela said on:

    September 29, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    I know I’m planning on our family reunion next year and where we are going to go and when — and how many cookies do we need to bring!!!!

    laloo

  2. Suz said on:

    September 29, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Your story made me smile. Thank you! I can so deeply identify with your “milestones”. My surgery was 2 weeks before Christmas. They told me I wouldn’t go home before the holiday (this was a looooong time ago!) and I told them I’d be out in 5 days. I made out in 4, grimmacing the whole way, but I had things to do and people to see!

    It’s so important for those “little” things that bring you hope and drive and looking into the future with excitement and joy.

    I hope the Big Seminar ends up being the most spectacular event you’ve ever attended, and your “talk” wows them all. Good luck — can’t wait to see the costume picture!

  3. abdellah said on:

    September 29, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Life is there, between and in.
    Take care.

  4. Suzan St Maur said on:

    September 30, 2006 at 11:10 am

    For another truly uplifting story about beating breast cancer, have a look at the article here:

    http://​news​.bbc​.co​.uk/​1​/​h​i​/​u​k​/​5​3​8​9​4​2​6​.​stm

    Onwards and upwards!

  5. Frank said on:

    October 1, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Sylvie,

    I look forward to seeing you and Michel at Big Seminar again. Your right Big Seminar is always a blast as well as a great learning experience.

    keep smiling

  6. Dr.Mani said on:

    October 1, 2006 at 9:25 pm

    Sylvie, it’s nice to see you writing on a more upbeat tone :)

    As part of his inspiring Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs said this:

    If you wake up every day thinking today is the last day of your life, one day you’ll definitely be right!”

    My work with seriously ill children brings home more powerfully than to many others the profound truth of this statement — but Jobs’ intent wasn’t to be morbid, but instead to inculcate a sense of urgency into what we do TODAY.

    Sure, tomorrow may not arrive for anyone — but there’s still 24 hours left until then… and a lot can be done in that time.

    My favorite quote is from one of India’s top freedom-​​fighters, Subash Chandra Bose. It goes:

    Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never come. Today is yours. Act. Act. ACT.”

    Wish I could be at Big Seminar to meet you guys :)

    All success
    Dr.Mani

    P.S. — I’ll be mailing my list about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

  7. Adele said on:

    October 2, 2006 at 7:58 am

    Hi Sylvie,

    First off I’d like to say that (even though I only “know” you through this and Michel’s blogs) I think you’re amazing.

    You probably get thousands of well-​​meaning people giving you advice on how to handle your situation and I pray that you won’t see me as “just another one of those”. But I came upon a book called “World without Cancer” this weekend (started reading it right away and it is absolutely fascinating) and immediately thought of you. So maybe when you’ve got time, you might check out these websites…
    http://​www​.worldwithoutcancer​.org​.uk
    http://​www​.realityzone​.com/​w​o​r​w​i​t​c​a​n​.​h​tml
    http://​www​.credence​.org/​t​e​s​t​i​m​o​n​/​t​e​s​t​i​m​o​n​w​w​c​.​htm (testimonies)

    I pray that God will give you wisdom, courage and strength, but above all peace and healing.

    Regards,
    Adele (South Africa)

  8. Gail said on:

    October 2, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    Sylive, I am so touched by your story, your up-​​beat attitude and your ability to ‘see’ beyond this hour — although sometimes just living this hour is all anyone can do.

    I’ve been struggling with writing to you. I have something that has been weighing on my mind ever since Michel wrote to his list. I know that there are people who are writing to you with all kinds of advice, treatments, diets, ideas, places etc. to help you heal.

    I would just like to add that it is important that you do your own research on your own cancer. Although your physician may be caring and love you dearly he won’t be going through the treatments and experiencing the consequences of his decisions.

    I’m in the medical field and although I respect my field and the practitioners immensely I would NEVER receive a diagnosis without doing the research myself. Especially since almost everything is available on line today.

    Physicians make mistakes. Treatments are available they may know nothing about. Alternative treatments can be done with standard medical care. The list goes on.

    I was listening to the radio the other day, to a woman who had travelled to Washington to request continued funding for cancer research. She was a five year survivor and was speaking with our State Senator to encourage his support.

    While on the radio she recounted a recent visit to her doctor where she had expressed excitement because she had passed the five year milestone. His reply was that in her particular case the cancer was less aggressive in the first five years and more aggressive in the second five.

    She was pretty up beat about the prospect of waiting out another five years and very sure that cancer research would continue to benefit her case. And I hope, and pray, that it will.

    However, it scared me that someone who knew nothing about her own cancer was chosen to speak to the State Senate about the cancers of many.

    We are all responsible for our own health. The decisions we make affect US and we have to be very sure of them. I know you take your diagnosis seriously. I only ask that you and others not blindly place your trust in another human being. Double check them and triple check them because when it comes down to it we are all responsible for our own health and we are the only ones who can make those decisions. Make decisions using good information.

    I wish you and Michel all the best.

    Warmly,

    Gail

  9. Tatiana Velitchkov said on:

    October 4, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Hi Sylvie,

    Each time that I read your posts I am so filled
    with awe about your strength and courage!
    You go Girl! You’ll be the Star at the Big
    Seminar in Atlanta and I so wish I could be
    there & meet you and Mike and shake
    the hands of both of you & hug you with
    my hearth felt blessings…

    Sylvie, I really admire you for your strength
    and for the love you inspire in others and give
    so graciously!
    And so sure I am that you’ll win over the cancer
    and when you look backward on this phase in
    your life it will seem like a movie that you’ve seen
    and don’t quite remember when or where…
    and you’ll be asking yourself — did it happen to me,
    or did I just dream about it all…you’ll see dear.

    Wishing you the greatest time in Atlanta at the Big
    Seminar, and all the love and blessings in the world!
    And above all — that you heal completely and fast dear…

    Tatiana

  10. David Leal said on:

    October 4, 2006 at 4:48 am

    Sylvie,

    I’m writing this here because I don’t know if you got my mail: I also don’t know if you are doing this already, but if you aren’t, please consider visiting a good homeopath. While studies about the benefits of natural medicines in cancer treatment proved inconclusive, I’m sure it won’t hurt you to try either.

    For example, Dirk Benedict (the “Faceman” from TV show A-​​Team) claims to have healed his prostate cancer with nothing but a macrobiotic diet recomended by Gloria Swanson.

    You can read about it here:

    http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​D​i​r​k​_​B​e​n​e​d​i​c​t​#​H​e​a​lth

    I wish you all the best,

    David

  11. Shariq said on:

    October 4, 2006 at 5:04 am

    one of the first ever quote i remember that had a deep effect on me was..

    you make the world special… just by being in it!”

    n that’s you sylvie…

    i havn’t seen anyone be so couragous.. so damn strong
    n upbeat in such a situtation..

    u truly are a hero that makes the world special.

    .….….….…. just by being in it!

    keep smilin’! :-)

  12. Mikki said on:

    October 9, 2006 at 1:50 am

    Hi Sylvie,

    I sent you an email a while back but I’m not sure you got it so I thought
    I would let you know how I’m doing here in your blog,
    I would say that I have been having similar experiences to yours. I was only in the hospital post-​​op for another 2 days. (a record for me). They put me on antibiotics & pain meds (levaquin & darvacet) & sent me home. The pain meds were helpful, but ran out too fast for me.
    I am having problems adjusting to the drains…one was removed 5 days ago, but the other has to stay in a little longer til the fluids draining are reduced. I can’t wait!
    I developed a slight infection in the area of the incision, so that is also being watched.
    The other day my surgeon told me that 5 or 6 cancer cells were found in 1 of the 2 lymphnodes that were removed. So on Oct. 24th I will be back in the hospital to have the rest removed. I guess I consider myself lucky that the cells were found now, before spreading to the rest of my body.
    All other procedures, therapies are put on hold until this is done.

    I think of you everyday & wonder how you are doing. I was happy to see that you are staying positive & looking forward to doing things that make you happy.
    You are a wonderful example to people like me. You are one of those who have helped me to be strong through it all.
    Thank you!
    I keep you, Michel & your family in my prayers as always.

    God Bless,
    Mikki

  13. Regina said on:

    October 9, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Sylvie,

    You are an example of what it means to live life to it’s fullest. Continue to laugh… laugh a lot and live in joy! I look forward to reading and sharing your blog with others…because you are an inspiration to many!

    My prayers are with you and your family.

    Blessings,
    Regina

  14. Ladan Lashkari said on:

    October 10, 2006 at 4:01 am

    Sylvie,

    What a great point you made! I read all your post and really enjoyed thinking about what you said. I especially loved this part where you said:

    My life in the next few months will be filled with lots of laughter and love, walks in the park, snowball fights, playing with the dog, watching my favorite movies, reading novels I’ve always meant to read, shopping, and learning to let my friends and family take care of me while I take care of them too.”

    You’re so right Sylvie. Sometimes we focus on the “not so good” parts of our life so much that we forget 99% of our time is NOT about those things — but great moments that we can really enjoy.

    It’s only a matter of deciding which part you want to focus on.

    Thank you Sylvie and I wish you all the best, :-)

    Ladan

  15. Anji said on:

    October 10, 2006 at 11:45 am

    I’ve just read your blog and would like to say how much your courage has impressed me. I’d just been writing about my own mammogram a couple of minutes before. I was amazed that women in the US aren’t offered mammograms for free. Here in France women over 50 are invited to have an full examination every two years.

    All the best for the future

  16. Allison said on:

    October 11, 2006 at 7:41 am

    Syl,

    You know I wouldn’t miss the big seminar for anything!!!! If only just to FINALLY meet you and Michel…as well as get pictures of you in your costume???? No way would I miss it! I am counting down the days, and sending many, many hugs your way! :)

  17. Julies Journal - just julie's journal said on:

    October 11, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month…

    It’s been just over a year now since I had my scare of having breast cancer, so I thought I would touch on the subject just a bit since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As scary as that was.…..

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