What a Cancer Diagnosis Teaches You About Life

To see a picture of my family on social media, we look almost perfect. Two beautiful little girls, an athletic, handsome husband, the quintessential golden retriever puppy, and me. Social media is this century’s biggest PR machine. But, social media often doesn’t tell the story behind the photo.

My family is amazing but severely broken. Not only do I continue to recover from a brain injury that occurred five years ago, but my husband, Jeff, was diagnosed in September with esophageal cancer. This is the kind of diagnosis that takes your breath away: a diagnosis that leads me to cry openly walking down the street, because the pain and fear inside is so intense that it is wild and uncontrollable.

Every time we look at the girls, our hearts break for them. They are 6 and 8 years old. They know their Daddy has cancer, but we have kept the outlook very positive for them. We don’t want to burden them with worries about the struggle their hero is facing as his treatment begins — to fight like he has never fought before to save his life. To live to see them graduate elementary school, high school, university, to walk them down the aisle at their weddings and to meet our grandchildren — there is still so much ahead of us.

So, how do we cope? First of all, there will be a lot of days we probably won’t. We will be hanging by a thread, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I have no idea what we are in for. Support will be key for us. It’s amazing to see your neighbors, as well as family and friends, step up in a big way.

I believe that to stay strong, we need to dig deeper into mindfulness. We have to stay here, in this moment, to be focused and make the best decisions as well as to not let future fears take hold. Continue to work throughout this journey. Continue to take on new clients. Your mind needs to stay focused on regular life from time to time. Keep working to support your family.

I am continuing to share with my executive coaching clients the tools around mindfulness that I am using myself. I believe the fact that I am balancing everything I have going on in my life right now is a testament to the power of mindfulness. I am approaching my coaching work with a slightly different attitude. I am pushing my clients harder.

This journey shines a light on the preciousness of life and making every moment count. We really don’t have time to be complacent in our work and in our lives. My husband’s cancer can serve as a reminder to all of us that tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Next time you are on Facebook or Twitter and see a photo of someone having the time of their lives on the beach or getting that great promotion, remember there is always a story behind the picture. Every person faces a struggle.

At some time or another, we all doubt ourselves, hit rock bottom and feel lost. We are all people going through this journey of life. There will be ups and there will be downs. That is how life is designed to be. That is the beauty of life and the mystery of it. Be grateful for who you are, the work you do, the family and friends that you have, and be kind to yourself — don’t fall for the trap of comparing yourself to others around you.

Because at the end of the day, we are all people, just trying to survive.

Blogger: Carey-Ann Oestreicher, Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited

Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (www.potentialunlimited.ca), holds an MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.

Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.