During my recent travels to visit programs, schools and services, I had the opportunity to share my vision for Finding Next and my cancer story with someone who asked why I felt cancer was a blessing.
Surviving advanced melanoma gave me a new attitude about life - brought me to my knees more than once - created shared visions for my future - and the passion to pursue a fulfilling second career as an independent educational and therapeutic consultant for 20 years.
That determined passion and shared vision has continued into my new adventure of starting Finding Next - Mynextsearch.com.
In 1989 my then 2-1/2 - year old daughter noticed a mole on the back of my neck and said I had a "boo boo". I called my dermatologist and went in for what I assumed would be a routine skin exam. I did not experience the typical appointment.
Instead of removing the mole, I was referred to a surgeon for a biopsy. Since my complexion is fair, I tend to have a lot of moles. A biopsy, however, was not what had been recommended in the past. The next day I had a biopsy and the day after the biopsy I received a call that rocked my world: My mole had tested positive for melanoma. It took my breath away.
My husband and I had a 2-1/2 year old daughter. We were floored, and the wheels started spinning in my head. Hearing the word 'cancer' suddenly made me think about how much longer I was going to be here. It took my breath away.
I was just 32 years of age and I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma.
One week later, I had surgery on the back of my neck, and I had a skin graft taken from my right thigh. The surgeon removed a wide margin around the mole, as well as fifteen lymph nodes. Five came back with signs of melanoma.
And that is when the first blessing occurred: The cancer had not spread past the lymph nodes that were removed. At this time additional surgery was not needed. There was still a high potential for the cancer to come back, however. I could not believe this was happening. Now I could kick myself for all those days tanning by the pool, on the beach, and the sunburns.
As I contemplated my follow up treatment regime, I could not help but replay the skin-care mistakes I had made over the years. When I was at the beach or the pool, I did not use sunscreen. I used baby oil and iodine. I would have two sunburns every summer.
Now I could kick myself!
At the time of my cancer I was running a marketing, networking and public relations business and had five employees.
I became a researcher and wanted to learn everything about melanoma. I became overwhelmed. I was confused and had no idea what to do. I had a brilliant oncologist and the perfect therapist for me at the time. I was not a spiritual person and bringing faith into my life was blessing number two. This came from a dear friend who introduced me to meditation and Buddhist teachings. I returned to spiritual practices that had left me during my early twenties. I came to believe that there were many things happening on this journey that I saw years later as aligning with my future and shared visions with others.
Closing my business was one of the steps I needed to take. My oncologist worked with me to boost my immune system, and part of that meant I could no longer continue to work 70 hours a week.
He said it definitively, and the level of confidence he expressed about my well-being gave me a sense of peace that I had not felt since before I was first diagnosed. I went in for blood work and tests every three months for five years.
Even better, blessing number three: no more cancer.
I made it through the five years that is a high-risk time for the cancer to return.
My oncologist and therapist had a shared vision with me - one of being alive and living - not just existing.
The remission word can only be thrown around once and I hit the five-year mark!
Over those five rocky years I divorced and went to work for a marketing company in the .com arena in the California bay area. I went back to school and finished my education.
I am incredibly grateful!
Even better, all these years later my scans continue to be clear and show no evidence of disease. This entire experience had such a profound effect on me that I left the corporate world. My vision was different for the future than what the corporate world offered.
I became an Independent Educational and Therapeutic Consultant in 1997 and started my own company in 2001. This was something I was extremely passionate about because I was able to provide options and resources to families - and hope.
I sounds backwards when I say having cancer was a blessing, however, it actually changed my life for the better!
Being forward-looking—doing the hard work of research - envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future is my shared vision for Finding Next.
I like to ask “What's better? What’s new? What’s next?” I have started and run several companies over the years. I am aware that this approach I have to Mynextsearch.com also takes a lot of time for the “buy-in” phase from others.
Vision is a destination — a fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route — an adaptable path to get us where we want to go.
I learned this as I ventured through my cancer journey.
When people of similar interests come together and share a common vision, the collective energy automatically shoots up.
There is a sense of real commitment. And, with focus on the shared vision, success means the same for everyone involved.
This is my anticipated goal and shared vision for Finding Next and for those that join us on this journey.