My life break came not by way of a vacation or sabbatical, but with the diagnosis of AML Leukemia on April Fool's day. Of all of the days!
The next day I would begin the journey of treatment starting with a 35-day hospital stay followed by four additional out-patient rounds of chemo and another 25 hospital nights.
This was no April Fool's joke.
Before my diagnosis, I successfully conquered single motherhood launching three amazing children: Caroline, Jack & Teddy. My resume documented experience working for big name media brands and career advancement that ended with the title of Chief Revenue Officer. I was now happily remarried, and by all accounts, accomplished and happy.
Midlife hit me like a brick. I was let go from my CRO job and opened up a local business with my husband. I was now in charge of my destiny, but knew in my core I was not doing what I was meant to. There was a desperate and daily pleading inside of me, whispering "you are meant for more."
I felt unfulfilled. I was without a compass and shouldering a disappointment that I hadn't achieved more. That others were far more accomplished. That they had the smarts, the longevity, and the ability to navigate so much better than me. Unmet expectations along with measurements of success that were unclear and kept me in the comparison game.
Pushing my panic and feelings of discontent down again and again had me feeling increasingly trapped. The rumblings of anxiety just underneath the surface all day, everyday. My cycle of negativity and my inner critic was ruling my life. My "should have, would have, could have" mindset was debilitating.
Intellectually, I knew the only person who could change my circumstance was me. I was the owner of my destiny, but why wasn't I taking ownership? I wanted to tell myself to wake the f--k up! Get out of my victimhood. Stop feeling so sorry for myself.
But then it hit like a brick. "Christina, this is more serious than we originally thought."
Getting diagnosed with cancer was one of the worst possible things I could have ever imagined. Would I lose my hair? Would my children be left without a parent? Why me?
A funny thing happened in that moment of crisis.
I knew immediately this was a unique chance to slow down and get off of the treadmill of doing, working, and living. I was given the opportunity to begin appreciating who I am and the gifts I've been given. Sounds woo woo for sure, but I knew.
Five weeks in the hospital and months at home by myself away from people who carry germs had given me so much time to stop complaining about my career, my mistakes, and misfortunes. It gave me time to think on what I had accomplished and celebrate my uniqueness.
The outpouring of support from people was overwhelming - it took my breath away. The cards, prayers, gifts, meals, rides to treatment had me rethink what it is meant to be on this planet. People came in search of me to let me know they were there for me and the outpouring of love was transformative. Their words awakened me and moved me.
Are not alone
Are a fighter
A friend had handwritten these loving words on the left-hand side of a get-well card. Those words about me?!
I heard it. For the first time, I heard that I was loved. Unconditional love. I heard that I'm unique, I'm strong, confident, and even smart. So many compliments and qualities that I didn't believe about myself.
Now I am wearing them on my heart like the number on an athletic jersey.
With illness came clarity. It was clear as day. I was all of those things and more.
Once I would have been embarrassed to put that in writing about myself. Today, I'm celebrating myself.
The beginning of the process to do the work to become better to achieve and live my extraordinary life.
I am amazingly talented and have gifts that the world needs. I am unique. No one else quite like me.
I will no longer get stuck in the debilitating cycle of self-doubt. My mind previously was laced with fear of the unknown. That fear was protecting me, yet holding me back.
I still have doubt, but getting a cancer diagnosis is a slap to the face that screams you can't plan for the unknown. Do not wait for a cancer diagnosis to become who you want and do what you want.
I now understand who the person is that I've been all of my life. I'm learning how to become my best self. Don't wait for a crisis to has a life or career reset.
Before the diagnosis, I was not yet ready to own my story. I wasn't confident enough to reach out and grab what was mine. I was in a crisis made possible by my own choices.
It took the big C to open up my mind and see that I am exceptional. That I am made for more. I'm owning my story now, and have big, bold plans. I have set a vision for living an extraordinary life.