How a Life Ending Tumour Changed My Life
It's 5.30pm on a wet and cold Wednesday in London and my husband and I are walking to see Dr Vallis, my liver disease and cancer specialist.
I owe my life to Dr Vallis. Less than a year ago, he spotted a tumour bigger than my fist on my pancreas and referred me to a world leading pancreatic cancer surgeon to take it out.
When my surgeon removed my tumour, he also cut out my gall bladder, duodenum, bile duct and half of my pancreas. He stitched my remaining organs together and replumbed my digestive system.
I was relieved when the biopsy results showed they caught the tumour before it blocked my major blood vessels or turned into pancreatic cancer which has a survival rate of less than 1%.
Thinking I escaped death in my twenties, my family and I were convinced the worst was over. And though I have to do scans regularly, I believed in the 90% probability my scan results would be clear and I'd never get a tumour again.
And so, as soon as we take a seat on Dr Vallis's blue velvet chair in his office, I'm shocked and caught off guard by the results of my latest scans 6 months post surgery.
"I'm a little concerned your latest MRI scan shows you have two new masses on your liver. We don't know what they are or even why they're there. All we know is, they're new and we've detected them early." Dr Vallis explains in his soft spoken voice.
Frowning as he shuffles the papers showing my results, he continues,
"What's confusing is that the analysis of your ultrasound scan shows there's nothing on your liver. This is to be expected because when a mass is so small, yours are just under one cm, an ultrasound scan often won't pick it up."
I turn my head to the left to look at my husband and notice the spark in my his eyes disappear. Though Ian hasn't spoken a word, I feel the heaviness in his chest.
Unsure of what to do, I smile and casually ask, "So, what happens next? Do I need another scan or surgery to get diagnosed? Do I need chemotherapy? Tell me what to do and I'll do it."
Sad to deliver the news, Dr Vallis shakes his head and replies,
"You've been through a lot. I really don't want you to do another surgery unless it's a last resort. I also don't think you need to take any action just yet. As you're experiencing no symptoms, you have lots of energy, you're working, running and really living a normal life, my recommendation is that you continue living life to the fullest."
Sternly looking at me with his dark brown eyes, he adds,
"Go out and have fun. What's challenging is that, we know how to monitor and treat people who have breast, colon or liver cancer, because there's thousands of patients and we've learned from them..."
Pausing for a few seconds, he begrudgingly reveals,
"But your tumour is a one in a million case. There's not enough data on what your future looks like and how to best monitor and treat you. Some people have a cancerous recurrence. And some people don't. We'll just need to play things by ear. In the mean time, don't worry about things. Have fun, live life as normal and come back in 6 months for a new scan to see the status."
As I leave the doctors appointment and walk through the streets of Canary Wharf, I notice something.
Though my family and husband feel frustrated, worried and scared about my future... I don't feel anything.
No fear. No worry. No concern. I'm not numb. I simply no longer care if I get another tumour or cancer.
Because after spending month's recovering from an 8 hour surgery that put me in ICU and has changed my digestive system forever, I learned the only way to pull through any tough situation is to avoid having negative thoughts and limiting beliefs about myself, my situation and my future.
What a lot of people don't know is that after surgery, I felt ashamed. I felt as though someone cut out some of my organs and I wasn't a complete and whole person anymore.
Because my body produced abnormal tissues, I felt somewhat abnormal.
What knocked my confidence the most was thinking that the future I dreamed of with my husband, might never be achieved because of me. What if I get cancer in the end and I get diagnosed within one year of our wedding? What if I don't live as long as my friends do? What if I can't do the meaningful work I want to do before I die?
I felt there was something wrong with me.
But in time I learned I was being naive.
The truth is no one, not even you, can guarantee a particular outcome in your future health, career, business, relationship or any aspect in your life.
You can work hard to be successful in everything you do, but ultimately, your future is uncertain.
Anyone whose had their life turn out unexpectedly knows life never turns out the way you expect it to.
But when I fool myself into believing I'm in control, I feel inadequate when things go wrong. Instead of only taking responsibility for what I can genuinely change, I let limiting thoughts eat way at my confidence and slowly ruin my life.
If I were to continue living life as someone "who had a tumour and feels unworthy and abnormal," I'd never do or achieve anything meaningful with my life.
Because if I don't feel confident or worthy, I won't take the scary but necessary steps to move my career, business and life forward.
And that would be because of me and my way of thinking, not the tumour nor my circumstances.
Many of us don't do or achieve meaningful things at work and in our lives, not because the circumstances are against us, but because we've chained ourselves to negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.
My tumour helped me to discover mine. As soon as I identified them for what they are, purely thoughts, I set myself free.
This changed everything.
Feeling indifferent and care-free about my scan results meant I could freely, and completely throw myself into my business, my clients and relationships because there was nothing holding me back.
Understanding the future is uncertain, taught me how valuable and precious every minute is and that the most important way to spend my time is to only do things that significantly make a positive difference to my clients, my business, my husband and my life.
The growth in me ended having a direct impact on my business growth.
So the big question is, what negative thoughts and limiting beliefs are slowing you down or maybe even stopping you from growing and achieving your goals at work and in life?
The growth you're trying to make in your career, business or life, is in direct proportion to the growth you need a make as an individual ... as a human being.
To learn how to more easily achieve your career or business goals, come back next Thursday to read next week's blog post. In it, I'll share the 5 things that slow you down or stop you from hitting your far-reaching work targets and what you can do to finally get the breakthrough you need.
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