How to deal with (breast)cancer as an entrepreneur, my story as a suggestion

In the beginning of 2017 I felt “something” in my left breast. At that moment a lot of things were going on in my life: I decided to sell my shares in another company, after quite some stressful months filled with negotiations and many talks about a proposed reorganization by me and another shareholder, which turned out to be a “no-go” by the others involved. It was clear for me that without a reorganization I would feel the need to leave and I did the best way I could. Early May I started Ludejo. Ludejo grew very fast. Thanks to our clients who have put trust in us! So even though I still thought I should see a doctor, I just couldn’t take off to do so (I worked at least 12 hours a day, often even more). I felt I couldn’t leave the team. Finally, June 12 this year I went to the hospital, got a mammography, echo and biopsy. The next day, the doctor called me, I was still in the office. Diagnosis breast cancer.

Everybody reacts different on diagnosis ‘BREAST CANCER’, I just said: “what a pity”.

I didn’t panic, I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel anything negative. I remember from the first time I had cancer (2003), I had the same calm feeling.

Luckily I had a holiday planned: we were going to Portugal. This was an amazing opportunity to think and feel about the whole situation. Here, in the north of Portugal (see picture) I watched the sunrise, early in the morning. Here, alone and at the same time part of the ‘big universe’, with only the sound of nature, I figured out what the best way would be for me to deal with the new cancer. I would like to share this with you. (Please note that I consider this as my personal approach. There is no such thing as “one best way”.)

  • I decided not to fight the cancer. So I wouldn’t be a winner or loser, a victim or survivor,
  • I decided to take very well care of myself, even better than before, being mild, being loving and sweet,
  • I decided not to drink alcohol anymore. Not that I drank that much, mostly only on parties or special dinners, but alcohol is basically poison. I chose to be pure, in all meanings. And decided to boost my immune system,
  • I decided to keep working (and even acquired another company), to inform my team and some others, to be open about it,
  • I decided to follow my gut feeling and not other people’s opinions and fears (there are many opinions, from how long I should wait for the treatment to start till how I should react on this emotionally. Mostly based on expectations and anxiety),

My circumstances are not my life. I am free, no matter what happens.

My husband and daughter have been a great support, so has my team at Ludejo. It was amazing how they kept supporting me, in my decisions, in the work that needed to be done. They didn’t expect anything else from me then to behave as the person I am (and they even laughed at my dark humor!). I can’t express my gratitude enough!

What happened next was that I had to go to the hospital many times. I as well have Ehlers Danlos, which is a genetic defect on the gene of collagen. This causes hypermobility, problems with veins, bruising skin, and other issues. So I went to an Academic Hospital in Utrecht (UMC). They have a wide knowledge of high complex surgery and treatments. So there, I would be in good hands. I got an oncology coordinator, received her mobile phone number and if there was anything, anything at all I needed to talk about: I could call her. She told me as well: “You are of course free to decide what you will do. ‘Doing nothing’ is as well an option. I don’t recommend it though”. :). There was one thing I insisted on: I wasn’t going for chemotherapy. She removed that brochure immediately from my file.

In the mean time, my incredible team kept taking over tasks from my desk. They became more and more prepared for the time that I would be away. They have been a rock to build on. That was amazing to see happening. I had no clue about when the surgery was going to take place, nor whether the cancer was spreading or not. I had to wait on the waiting-list, but I felt good about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN PEOPLE ASKED ME: “DON’T YOU WANT TO HAVE THIS TUMOR REMOVED AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE?” I FELT: “THESE CANCER CELLS ARE MY CELLS AS WELL, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE ‘TOO ENTHUSIASTIC’. I AM NOT AGAINST THEM”.

 

On October 17 I went to the hospital for the treatment before the surgery on the 18th. I cleaned my desk and shut the door of my office. It felt quite strange, because I knew it would take a while before I would work there again. When I thought back of the talk the team of project managers and I had, I knew this was going to work out just fine. I trusted them with Ludejo, no single thought of doubt in that. Ludejo has been ‘theirs’ as well, since the day they worked there. If you have surrounded yourself with good people, every situation can be handled. With love.

After the surgery I felt pretty okay, tired and in pain, but not too bad. I took 2 weeks off and I needed them! I am still not 100% well.

Now that the surgery has taken place, I found myself in a whole new process of thinking about the possible future. I visualized a long corridor with doors. I visualized myself entering a door and felt the option behind it. For example:

  • I visualized that an option behind a door would show complete health until I would turn like 80 years old, and I felt how that would feel. That was kind of easy.
  • Then I visualized an option that would show good news for a couple of years and then suddenly bad again. How would that feel? I tried to shortly “live that option”.
  • I visualized going through the door where I would die of cancer. Could I -for the moment- live with that? Would I be scared? And if yes, what was behind the fear? I kept myself in that “imaginary room” until the fear was entirely gone.

 

  • Compare this type of thinking with how you do a root cause analysis. You go as far as you can to find the deepest root. No ‘halfway running away’ possible. In order to be able to do this I needed beauty for the balance, the beauty of nature for example. Luckily now the forest is full of warm and beautiful colours and the sun shines with golden light.
  • I read scientific research and as well meditated together with my yoga teacher (no one has to chose between heart, mind, body or soul). It all exists next to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMPARE THIS TYPE OF thinking WITH HOW YOU DO A ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS. YOU GO AS FAR AS YOU CAN TO FIND THE DEEPEST ROOT. NO ‘HALFWAY RUNnING AWAY’ POSSIBLE.

AND THEN I EMBRACED ALL THE OPTIONS. WHATEVER IS THE TRUTH, I HAVE PEACE WITH IT.

 

This peace heals. Not necessarily the cancer (although I believe it could as well be possible). It heals the situation and turns it into an adventure.

I have missed my work (even though I wasn’t entirely absent, having my mail on my phone ;)), my team, being in the inspiring environment Ludejo is. But first I went to my hairdresser (@Simcha and Friends), who treated me with extra care and love (and made this picture). Simcha is as well a lady who build her company on love (perhaps without even actually being aware of it). I have a mission, I hope I will stay around for a while. The first results of the surgery are looking good (there will be more treatments too). The experience so far has been a great personal adventure. It has created some extra professional opportunities for my team as well, they were challenged in a guided way (the surgery didn’t come one day too late), with a very positive result. I want to share my story with other entrepreneurs. You will never know what is coming next on your path, your journey. There is always a choice when it comes to approach.

Life is within you, not outside.

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