My life break came not by way of a vacation or sabbatical, but instead with the diagnosis of AML leukemia on April Fool's day. 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.
I had been hit by a bolder. This was no April Fool's joke.
Before my diagnosis, I had successfully conquered single motherhood and raised and launched three amazing children: Caroline, Jack & Teddy. My resume documented my working for big-time 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.
But then 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 that I was meant for more. I felt unfulfilled, without a compass, and shouldering a disappointment that I hadn't been more successful. That others were far more accomplished. That they had the smarts, the longevity, and the ability to navigate so much better than me, they held on to their jobs, and now I was running a local business that meant nothing to me.
Pushing my panic and feelings of discontent down again and again made me feel increasingly trapped. My cycle of negativity and my inner critic was ruling my life, my decisions and my "should have, would have, could have" mindset. My inner critic was my closest companion that I never asked to come to live with me, but she kept showing up.
I knew 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! Stop feeling so sorry for myself.
But then it came. "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? How could this happen?
But the funny thing is that when I heard I had cancer, 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.
Five weeks in the hospital and months at home by myself away from people who carry germs gave 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 who I have befriended far and wide came in search of me to let me know they were here for me. It was their time to share with me how special I was to them. Their words awakened me and moved me.
Are not alone
Are a fighter
A friend hand wrote these loving words on the left-hand side of a get-well card.
I heard it. For the first time, I heard that I was loved unconditionally. I heard that I'm unique, I'm strong, confident, and even smart. So many compliments and qualities that I didn't believe before. 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. I'm not bragging. This is about doing the work to become my best.
I am amazingly talented and have gifts that the world desperately needs. I will no longer get stuck in the debilitating cycle of self-doubt. My mind previously was laced with fear of the unknown. I still have doubt, but getting a cancer diagnosis is a slap to the face that screams you can't plan for the unknown.
I now understand who the person is that I've been all of my life. I'm learning how to become my best self. I'm not looking to myself to teach me about becoming who I want to be.
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 mid-life 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.
Life is not a straight path but a bunch of zig zags. Here's to a little zig and a lot of zag as my future self awaits.