How a Melanoma Diagnosis Inspired Me
Seventeen years ago, I was diagnosed with Melanoma. On March 15th, 2002, doctors cut a chunk out of my arm.
The memory of that time in my life, that exact moment when the doctor called and asked for me to pull over (I was driving), comes back to haunt me every now and then. I can still recall the deafening stillness that I felt when the word cancer fell out of my doctor’s mouth, and the numbness that took over my whole body. The uncontrollable mental chaos with images of my life flashing before me and all the moments that had yet to be. The frustration I felt, the guilt, the anger at the world, at my doctor, and most of all at myself. In a matter of ten minutes, listening to my doctor on the other end of that phone, my whole life changed.
In the weeks and months surrounding my diagnosis and surgery, I underwent a kind of reckoning with myself and who I was at my core. I became aware of a fire burning deep inside me. This fire kept me strong and stubborn. I would never allow the cancer to come between myself and my kids, who had just turned 4 and 5. This fire pushed me through my journey and decisions to heal on my terms, and not the medical ‘norm’ or the way those around me thought was best for me. It reminded me of the fact that I am here for a greater purpose, far beyond my understanding, and with this diagnosis brought an even bigger purpose than I felt as a young child.
With my own “mortality” suddenly staring me in the face, I experienced a profound mental shift. I decided that I was going to live by example, with no regrets. I wanted to inspire others, and look beyond their circumstances to see them with compassion, as we never know the battle inside themselves. The strongest message that came from my gut was that in order to heal, and beat the cancer, I would need to let go of the hurt, pain, anger, and shame that I carried. I would need to forgive those that had done wrong to me and those closest to me. Most importantly, it was high time to FORGIVE myself, be easier on myself, and start to learn to love myself.
This was a tall order and didn’t happen overnight, obviously, in fact, this is still a conscious practice today and as I peel back a new layer, I revisit this place of fire as a reminder. Just like it took me a long time to talk about my “scar”. For several years after the surgery, I avoided talking about it and even considered telling people who asked that it was “just a shark bite” (my husband’s idea).
As I wrote about in my last blog, Fearless Transitions, a few months after undergoing surgery, I moved overseas to Saudi Arabia with my then-husband, Otee, and two kids. I decided to let go, trust, and stick with our plan, despite the health curveball the universe had thrown me. Yes, I’m a bit stubborn. Before I left the US, most of my doctors thought I was insane to go to a foreign country that in their opinion had subpar care. I ended up receiving excellent care in Jeddah, where I was able to see a specialist organized and paid for through my husband’s company. My experiences in Saudi both personally and in business had a profound impact on me and helped shape me and prepare me for future adventures in entrepreneurship. They proved to me that I could follow my gut and take big leaps of faith, even in the face of sharp criticism from others.
After three years, we left Saudi and moved to Hawaii. I started my first company, HTS Alarms in 2008 and got involved in my local chapter of BNI (Business Network International) in Hilo, Hawaii, eventually becoming an Ambassador and Area Director for the organization. In 2013, I joined Asentiv, purchasing the Hawaii franchise, in full pursuit of my desire to inspire and help others on a much larger scale. As I look back on all of this, as now, the COO of Asentiv Global, I realize that I am where I am today not because of money, or working my tail off, (OK, that’s part of it) but because of my mindset and the commitment I made to myself 17 years ago.
Today when I look at my scar, I don’t see a problem or feel compelled to blame a certain ocean-dwelling creature. I see the value in sharing my story. I see a physical reminder to myself to check my attitude and to not take life so seriously. To find gratitude daily, to let go, try new things, hug and kiss my kids, be present, help others and to forgive, always forgive. I believe we are here by choice. How we experience life, deal with difficulties, choose to look at a situation, and how we pick ourselves up after a fall, how happy we want to be is all our own choice. Every day, I choose to be better than I was yesterday.
Have you had an experience with cancer or other illness that shifted your perspective and influenced your outlook on life and business? Are you currently going through some challenging times health-wise or otherwise? I’d love to hear your story. Connect with me.
People and possibilities. These are the two words that motivate Lynn Howard, owner of Asentiv Hawaii. She lives by the motto “No excuses, only solutions.” As a business coach, her passion is to inspire others to achieve their own success by believing in themselves and
taking action to overcome adversity. She is blessed with a delightfully snarky sense of humor, which provides comic relief when doing difficult ECC work with clients. An adventurous spirit, she loves to travel and has visited Indonesia, Bahrain, Thailand, Peru, and Columbia. She is based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.