Se­cret Weapon Is Faith

CEO’s story of sur­viv­ing can­cer, it can work for you

Gulf & Main - - Contents - BY TERI HANSEN Teri Hansen is pres­i­dent and cre­ative direc­tor of Pri­or­ity Mar­ket­ing in Fort My­ers. Oc­to­ber is Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month.

Rais­ing a fam­ily and run­ning a busi­ness were my pri­or­i­ties in 2001. But I had also just c om­pleted my first ball­room dance com­pe­ti­tion, a hobby that con­di­tioned my body and spirit. I had no risk fac­tors for can­cer, and good health at 39 seemed to be some­thing I could count on, didn't ex­pect to change.

No one plans on get­ting breast can­cer. The di­ag­no­sis feels like a kick in the gut; your life is com­pletely turned up­side down.

I was di­ag­nosed in Oc­to­ber 2001 with a very ag­gres­sive form of breast can­cer. The med­i­cal team re­acted with an equally ag­gres­sive plan for surgery and treat­ment. Within two weeks I un­der­went surgery, which re­vealed Stage 3 can­cer in my breast and lymph nodes. A swift treat­ment pro­to­col was re­quired, in­clud­ing 15 months of chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion as part of a clin­i­cal trial.

The first or­der of busi­ness was to call each em­ployee into my of­fice for prayer. One by one, I prayed with them, giv­ing them my com­plete trust in car­ing for our clients and the busi­ness I had worked so hard to build over the pre­vi­ous nine years.

Hav­ing no con­trol over this sit­u­a­tion, it forced me to trust. I had no choice but to rely on my team, my fam­ily, my friends and my faith. One of the best things that comes out of an ex­pe­ri­ence like that is you re­ally see the peo­ple you have around you. You see the level of love and sup­port oth­ers have for you and ap­pre­ci­ate it like never be­fore. With such a great sup­port sys­tem around me, I re­sumed work soon af­ter surgery and con­tin­ued to work through­out the treat­ment.

My se­cret weapon on the jour­ney was faith, and I fre­quently share this mes­sage of faith with other can­cer pa­tients.

I re­call my first chemo treat­ment and a nurse telling me I would not feel well af­ter­ward, de­scrib­ing in de­tail the hor­ren­dous symp­toms to come. My re­sponse shocked the nurse: “You’re not the boss of me,” I said. “I’m not go­ing to be sick be­cause you say so.”

Men­tal strength and an un­will­ing­ness to ac­cept pred­i­ca­tions are an im­por­tant first step to­ward sur­vival. I never en­ter­tained any thoughts that didn’t in­volve liv­ing my best life … and as a re­sult, ex­pe­ri­enced min­i­mal side ef­fects. I em­braced the new nor­mal, con­tin­u­ing to work and grow my busi­ness even as I un­der­went treat­ment. This chal­lenge would teach me many im­por­tant lessons about busi­ness and life, not the least of which is how to live in the mo­ment.

As I faced 15 months of treat­ment, I couldn’t think about how long it would be. I truly learned to fo­cus on the day at hand. I know how dif­fi­cult it is to live in the present, but this jour­ney had to be taken one day at a time. My pri­or­ity be­came sur­vival.

When asked, I share im­por­tant prac­ti­cal ad­vice with other women fac­ing treat­ment for breast can­cer, al­ways will­ing to pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion and en­cour­age­ment for the jour­ney.

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