“Mom, do I have cancer?”
I was waking up from surgery and could feel the effects of the anesthesia but I wanted to know. It was the only thing I wanted to know.
“No. You are going to be okay!”
She hugged me and I shut my eyes and let the news settle in. It was going to be a happy Thanksgiving. That was 12 months ago today.
My left arm had been bothering me for a few months, limiting my range of motion. An MRI detected a mass on my left bicep and in the few weeks leading up to surgery I had been building a pretty good case for why it was likely cancer. My doctor and the radiologist expressed concern. It runs in the family. I wasn’t taking good care of myself. I let this happen.
When Things Fall Apart
The four weeks between the MRI and surgery proved to be a pretty uncertain time. I was navigating another big year of growth in my business but personally, it felt like things were falling apart.
Fortunately, I had just spent time interviewing my friend Brian Wiles for this blog post about hope, healing and helping others. He inspired me to attack nutrition and fitness aggressively. I mapped out a routine that included:
- A clean diet (no sugar, alcohol or caffeine).
- A daily gratitude/journaling and meditation practice.
- Ayurveda coaching and yoga classes.
- A daily exercise routine.
- A commitment to try to get seven hours of sleep every night.
Physically, I started to feel better. My new routine offered a little bit of control and when adversity shows up, I know these little rituals are useful in helping me stay strong.
The situation had shaken me up pretty good and during the time leading up to my surgery I considered a whole range of big questions:
- What if I can’t honor my professional obligations?
- What is most important to me right now?
- Will I be navigating this journey alone?
Alone in the dark I prepared for the worst. Inventing that story robbed me of hours of sleep, induced night sweats and had me breaking out in hives all over my body. I thought the side effects were all related to being sick. They weren’t. Being healthy isn’t something I can always control, however, all of the additional suffering I decided to layer on was optional. I just didn’t see it that way at the time.
I was expressing my fear, frustration and generally feeling sorry for myself to Mom, who was visiting to be with me for the procedure. She offered a healthy dose of perspective:
“If you are going to live for six more months, six more years or 60 more you should learn to appreciate each precious moment inside them.”
She was right. I just wasn’t awake to see it. I had a choice, no matter the circumstances. I am lucky. I got the clean bill of health. However, that was only one of the precious gifts included inside this experience last Thanksgiving.
I learned that I am never alone. I am loved. The unconditional love and support from family and friends, especially during times of adversity, continues to be one of the greatest gifts I have received in my lifetime.
A few months ago I received one of the most meaningful testimonials from a reader since the inception of this blog:
It is quite clear to see the transformation – that you have become more deeply aware of, and comfortable with sharing, your authentic self. The perspectives you speak and write about with your audience show someone who sincerely wants to share with others how they may get to that place in their life, and their life’s work.
Thank you for stepping into the light years ago so you would be widely recognized by so many, and for bringing your soul’s light worker qualities to your life’s work. It all makes such a difference, even if only by one person, one organization at a time.
While my transformation is far from complete, coming through this experience a year ago prompted me to take a much closer look inside of me. That inner work and my journey back into the light is a gift that I believe will keep on giving as long as I keep doing the work.
I am fully awake and surrender to the understanding that we are graced with only this present moment in time. The next will reveal itself, but we have to be comfortable knowing that change and challenging circumstances are inevitable in the reveal. Embrace them. So often, it is through the darkness and deepest challenges that we transform and become more of who we are intended to be. It is exactly in those moments that we acquire our “soul’s light worker qualities” so we can be of service to others.
I am grateful we are on this light journey together and I want to wish each of you peace during this Thanksgiving holiday.
Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.