Life After Death - The Business of Bouncing Back
I can still remember the silence that fell over my childhood living room when she spoke those two unsuspecting words on Juy 17, 1996. “It’s cancer,” she tells us. My Mom had received a bad mammogram, and my sixteen-year-old mind immediately saw it as a death sentence. So I started ticking through the ‘To Do’ items that I knew were part of her every day job. Things I knew I would be forced to learn earlier than usual because I would now be the woman of the house.
But Mom had other plans. She was a scrapper and we had grace on our side. One mastectomy, multiple rounds of chemo, radiation, hair and weight loss later – and I had my Mom at my high school graduation. Five years after her first diagnosis, amidst planning her five-year survival celebration, I got a call that it was back. And this time, with a vengeance.
In 2007, I got a call that my impenetrable mother was rushed to the hospital after a neighbor found her. She was discharged from the hospital a month later, but not because she was healed. In those days and months after we lost her, I began seeing things differently. Me, the A student, the “successful professional woman,” began experiencing life in an alternate universe. I began approaching my job, my life, my relationships differently, having taken the hard lessons I learned from my experiences with cancer and shaped the way I embrace my life. Here are a few of the things I learned:
Spring for the Second Opinion. My Mom never got a second opinion. What was billed as a minor stomach issue (obviously) was not. Whether medical, personal or career-related, I’ve found it’s not a bad idea in the long run (and rather maybe it’s a life-saving notion at times) to get a second opinion. Even if that means just a quick, informal one. We all think we’re indestructible. We’re self-sustaining adults who rarely ask for help or opinions. Get out of your own head and find a trusted mentor who’s willing to give you the bad news, stop you in your tracks or help you find alternative options so you do have success. Remember the last time you fired off the nasty-gram to a nit-picky colleague? You did it for the sense of satisfaction, but that quickly followed by the crushing surge of “I’m going to Hell?” (Go ask for a second opinion next time.)