After 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!