“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami
When you last heard from me, I was in the midst of a year of treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Today, after 6 months of chemo, 6 weeks of radiation, and recovery from a 12 hour surgery to remove the remaining tumor this Spring, I’m seemingly cancer-free, and doing very well.
And so, where to begin? How to summarize a year’s worth of terror, love, pain, grace and resiliency?
I’ve learned a lot about love, community, sacrifice, faith, hope and intention this year. I’ve received countless precious gifts of unexpected kindness and love from all corners of my life. Saying I feel blessed feels a little trite, given all that people have done for me and my family.
At one point during my treatment last year, a cousin remarked, “Hanna, I think you have a thousand people pulling for you.”
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging or exaggerating to say that I think that’s a low estimate of how much support my family and I received this past year on the practical, emotional and spiritual planes. I wish everyone could know how much they are loved, without a crisis to force the issue: the world and we would all be better for it.
Today, I’m stronger physically, mentally and emotionally than ever before. And over the course of this year, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with a term I haven’t used a lot before – “miracle”. I’m not sure there is a better explanation for what has happened to me.
Of course, there are rational reasons how I got to be here today: health insurance, good medical care, an extremely supportive community, loving family and friends, hard work, and a whole boat load of luck. I certainly don’t take any of that for granted. And all of that feels pretty miraculous to me.
I’ve also learned a lot more about how and what facilitates change. When my mom was in the midst of her own cancer battle 20 years ago, I yearned for something new for her to come from the experience: some new insights, learnings or new ways of being. That didn’t really happen for her, or at least the way I thought it should have at the time.
While coaching is a tool in creating transformation, and I sincerely believe that significant, life-altering change is always possible, I also know from experience that personal change can but rarely happens overnight: it takes focus, sustained action, and some chutzpah.
A friend I hadn’t connected with in a while reached out a few weeks ago. As I shared some of what I’ve learned (or re-learned) this year, she said, “Wow, I want what you have. I wish there was a way to get that without all the hardship you’ve had to endure.”
Boy, me too. I’d take the lessons of the past year without all the hardship any old time. But I don’t think that’s how it works: for better or worse, insight often seems to come from pain.
To put it bluntly: I wouldn’t recommend cancer as a value clarification exercise – it’s the leadership development program you’d never sign up for – but coming to terms with one’s own mortality in a very direct manner does have a way of creating clarity and priorities for action. Or at least it did for me: family, friends, time in nature, staying focused and present in the now.
As time goes on, and I have more time and space from the experience, I’m still learning what exactly has changed for me over this year, what I’m done with and what I’ll sustain, both new and old. I do know I’m bolder, more willing to be vulnerable, take risks, and speak my mind: because why not? And, while I still have a lot of my same flaws, I’ve also experienced healing of some old scars.
So what’s next now? After a lot of encouragement from others, I’m working on a book based on my experiences with navigating challenging times, which I hope will be helpful for anyone who’s had their own version of the proverbial rug pulled out from under them, as well as for the people who love them.
I’m returning to coaching leaders and teams. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep working during the bulk of this year with the handful of brave clients who weathered the storm with me. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunities to use my skills in their service.
(And, if you have an inkling that now is the time to create your own personal, professional or organizational transformation, consider working with me. Schedule a free, no-obligation 30 minute phone consultation here to explore what coaching can do for you.)
I’ll be blogging again here, on topics to be determined. I don’t know exactly yet how this blog will be changing but it may. As always, let me know if there are topics you’d like me to write about.
It’s good to be back, and I invite you to take courage and heart in your own lives and worlds, my friends. There is much to be grateful for and much left to do.
Loved this post?
Then use the icons below to tweet it, share it on Facebook and send it to specific friends via email.
Photo credit: Pixabay