In June 2010, I was at the peak of my business at the time. It was an innovative women’s business networking organisation that had an intimate feel in both support and environment. Our networking events were growing so rapidly that I was hosting events in four states in Australia. I realised that to successfully replicate my events, I’d have to start training other women to host and run them. This led to a greater expansion and very soon I had women running events in the existing four states and I was just about to launch one in our fifth; Perth.
I’d spent a lot of time planning and promoting the event and training our host. We were very excited. The event was full and the women who were very excited to hear me speak.
Two days prior I began to have some pain in my lower left back. It was manageable at first but then a few days later, on the day of the event, I was in hospital as the pain had become unbearable. After many tests throughout the day they finally discovered what was wrong. I had a 14m renal cell carcinoma on my left kidney.
I call this my ‘hit by a truck’ moment. Life was great. My business was expanding. Overall I felt fantastic. It was completely unexpected. Needless to say, I couldn’t attend the event and my host graciously took my place.
The next day I flew back home to Melbourne, to my husband and children and spent the next two weeks having extensive tests to see if I would live or die. If the cancer had spread outside of the kidney region it would have been terminal and untreatable. As it turned out, it didn’t, which was fantastic, yet it left me with having to endure a radical nephrectomy. This was a seven hour surgery with four surgeons and the first step was surviving the surgery.
This is what I survived
I did survive it yet it left me in a very fragile state. The recovery took about a year and it was the most difficult year of my life. I managed to pick myself up after that. I started to feel stronger bit by bit until one day I learned that my internal organs were pushing through my stomach wall. This is commonly known as an incisional hernia, but a massive version of one. It required me to have another 14 cm cut in my stomach (the same place where they removed the kidney), mesh was placed inside and stitched back up. This was another three month recovery. Again, I began to feel strong, started to exercise slowly, get myself feeling somewhat normal only to find out a year later that I had another incisional hernia. This again, required me to have another open surgery in the same place in my stomach. Three surgeries in a row, in the same place in three years.
At this stage any little thing that was going on in my body would put me back into the cancer mindset. I’d see my doctor, have some tests and go home feeling worse and more insecure about my health than I did before. Every year I have to have my post kidney cancer tests/scans to make sure ‘it hadn’t come back’. This would put me in such a state of anxiety that I’d pretty much spend the month in hiding awaiting results. My mindset began to wain, my physical strength had depleted, I was steadily gaining weight because I couldn’t exercise for fear of tearing my stomach open. I felt helpless.
On the outside however, I was doing very well. In the year I was recovering from the radical nephrectomy I launched a global podcast show back in the days when B2B podcasting hadn’t yet taken off. I recall one day as I was laying in bed asking myself ‘what can I do that doesn’t require me to look good feel good or go anywhere?’ I was very concerned about losing my momentum in my business and wanted a way to keep my business in the market place. Podcasting was a good fit. I had a media background back in the analogue days so it wasn’t a far stretch to podcasting. Within a few months I had everything I needed to launch the show and within a couple of months I had a global audience, around 10K listeners per week, I was on live radio in the USA on a Friday night in drive time and I began to develop a reputation as an expert in the media and podcasting.
Fast forward to my second surgery the following year. I did the same thing. Whilst recovering I wrote and compiled a business book called ‘It’s That Easy – Online Marketing 3.0’. The following year when I had my third surgery, the book was launched and released globally the day I was going for my third surgery.
As far as most people thought I was doing quite well but inside I was so afraid that the kidney cancer was going to show up and bite me on the backside. Everything I was creating and achieving professionally was being done in a way that if I wasn’t around, it could manage itself. I went from being an extraverted, outgoing woman with lots of friends with a busy social life, to a woman who barely left home. I hardly left the house, I lost a lot of my friends and very quickly became a hermit living in fear of the kidney cancer coming back.
I’m on the other side of it now. I’ve just come back from a magnificent healing retreat which you can read about in my blog post ‘Burn-out, Stress and Remembering to Breathe’. I’m about to turn fifty, I’m heading into my third chapter of life with gusto and strength and have made changes in my lifestyle that limit my chances of cancer ever returning.
Have you had a journey with cancer?
Until next time…
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