More than sixteen years it has been now, that I was diagnosed with a stage 4 skin cancer, that I was told I had no more than 6 months to live. It was on a Monday morning in 2003, I was 32 at that time, that I got a call from the surgeon who cut away a little black spot on my knee the week before.
I told him I had no time for a doctor’s appointment and he had to bring me the horrible news over the phone to actually get me to the hospital. When he told me the cancer was very advanced, it seemed so unreal. There was no time in my life for illness or rest. I had been working so hard for this life: running a construction company, married to the love of my life, and mom of two toddlers and a baby.
Superwoman, that is who I thought I was being in combining all of this, a business, a marriage, parenting, a extensive social life, … And I was very successful in all of it. The achiever in me thought I was invincible; most of all I identified my self-worth with my achievements and role as a perfect mom, wife, business owner, friend, daughter, …
Taking time for myself, rest and relax was not part of my vocabulary and was completely counter intuitive. There was so much to do, every single day, every minute of the day, there was no time to slow down.
Apparently I needed this earthquake, this complete and heavy shock, this physical struggle during 11 months of chemotherapy, to shift my perspective drastically on my time here on earth.
Insight 1: You Cannot Serve from an Empty Vessel.
It starts all with self-care and it took a very hard lesson for me to learn that self-care can never be overestimated. Until that very moment I had taken my health, my body, my abundant energy for granted, thinking it was inexhaustible.
I had been a tyrant and used my body as a slave, working from dawn till late night, breastfeeding my 3 babies, and going on and on and on. Never ever considering that taking some rest would be wise.
All those weeks in hospital, I had the time to think, to reflect on my life and how I had lived it until then. It sounds very cliché, I know, but it surely was a wake up call to take better care of myself in many ways.
Yes, first of all, take better care of myself physically. This body was a gift, an instrument to use with care and respect if I wanted to live a few decades more.
I promised myself that I would NEVER again take my health for granted and that it was my duty to treasure this body.
Self-care has many forms, not only physical, self-care is also taking the time to breathe in consciously the preciousness of every moment.
Insight 2: Life is so Incredibly Precious
Having almost been taken away my life, I was astounded on how I had assumed it was eternal, how I had wasted so many moments on worrying, on pressuring myself, on being blind for the beauty in the smallest things: a family breakfast, a kind word of a friend, a smile of a stranger, a ray of sunlight through the clouds.
So many times, my mind had been full of plans, to do’s, seeming problems to solve, … that I had raced unconsciously through the days, the weeks, the months, the years. And there I was, 32 years old, my youngest 2 months old, told that I would probably not survive the end of the year.
I promised myself, that if I would survive, that I would not take a moment for granted anymore and that it was my duty to live each moment to the fullest.
Facing death so closely and suddenly, forced me to look back and make a testament of my life. Did I like what I would leave behind? NO. I realised that I had lived somebody else’s life, not mine.
Insight 3: I Will Be the Real Me.
Until that day in 2003, I had tried so hard to fit in, doing so hard my best to be somebody in the eyes of those around me; thinking I had to respond to some perfect image of a successful woman to be someone.
And then while suffering so much physically during months and months, it dawned upon me that I didn’t have to become something else to be somebody. For years, I had been neglecting the whispers of my soul that I was born to bring more love, kindness and compassion into this world.
I was not only deaf for those whispers, I simply had no clue how to do that. I couldn’t imagine how I could have an impact, my rational mind, my self-doubt had dismissed all the invitations from my soul to listen to my real calling, my true purpose.
And I made a bold promise to myself, I promised myself that if I would survive that I would dedicate myself every single day to leave a positive legacy.
I have kept all my promises ever since I was told that the cancer was under control and that I would survive. It has been an incredible adventure since then, and until this day I am profoundly grateful to have been given this wake up call.
I have been given a second life, a chance to reincarnate within a single lifetime, and I did. I took this second chance with both hands to inspire others to do the same.