On the afternoon of May 13th 2014, I was rushed to NYU Medical Center for what many thought was a stroke, but I knew was a many times misdiagnosed brain tumor. The left side of my body had completely given in to a paralyzing amount of pressure on the right side of my head. As it turned out I was right, the lead neurology and neurosurgical team confirmed it was a tumor, approximately the size of a grapefruit and I’d likely die or become a vegetable from the surgery but wanted to take the risk. And so did I!
Needless to say, I didn’t die from the surgery, but I was introduced to my radiation doppelganger, and my first round with an incredibly rare and malignant form of cancer. A Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Sarcoma.
Two years later, my sarcoma metastasized to my right adrenal gland and grew so quickly it ended up pushing all of my vital blood vessels and organs around. And the treatment was a much more dangerous and experimental 5-month chemo cocktail of Doxorubicin and Ifosfamide, delivered for 8 hours straight, 3 days in a row, every 2–3 weeks. Again, the hopes were much higher than the prognosis. And once again, I beat the odds to survive but live in a state of metastasis — meaning in between states of health and terminal cancer, under constant surveillance and active care.
That state of mind and prognosis has been my norm for mre than 5 years now, dreaming for the best but prepared for the worst to once again appear on my scans as Multiple Myeloma or lung cancer or something else. It had a weird effect of always giving me purpose and determination. I was destined to keep facing and defeating the impossible, and so “defeat the impossible” had become my mantra and my Super Power. Until last week.
Last Wednesday, all my oncologists at Sloan Kettering looked at me and said… “Your scans are clear! It’s been 5 years! You’re good to go! We don’t want to see you for a year! Go live your life…”
And I felt… nothing. Not joy. Not relief. I felt empty. And sad. I don’t know how many of you reading this have ever experienced something similar, but my purpose had just flown out the window and with it, all the elements about me that I thought inspired others to have dreams and seek purpose. I was “normal” again. And forgettable.
So, as I walked home from the hospital, I started reflecting on everything I’d learned about myself at IPEC. I’m an Energetic 5–6–7. Which means I’m someone who, on my good days (which are most of my days) sees win-win opportunities everywhere for everyone, and I live my life to collaborate with others in order to turn those opportunities into a new reality that benefits the world. I’m a creator. A visionary. The only thing stopping me was a terminal case of needing impossible challenges to stop me.
The moment I realized this, “the normalness” disappeared. And I realized I’d just received the greatest culmination of gifts any human could ask for. The unbounded freedom to create my whole future, the way I want to see and live it.
And with that, a song that has been haunting my dreams for years, peeped back into my conscious memory:
“Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake…
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make…”
- Hugh Jackman, A Million Dreams
And I realized. Now is My Time.
I hope you too can realize that these moments, when good news seems to confound you, are opportunities for clarity and gifts telling you to hold fast to your dreams, because your time is coming.
Holly Lynch is a 20+ year communications veteran and life-long social impact advocate and strategist who has helped individuals and companies tackle the toughest challenges in their worlds. Having survived countless life setbacks and two rounds with terminal cancer, while seeing the country-wide collapse of the systems and safety nets for the most vulnerable in and outside our communities, she is now shifting her life and career trajectories to focus on coaching those facing down fundamental
shifts and transitions as they try to navigate and rebuild their lives and businesses during these unprecedented times.