You may be familiar with a quote that says, “The only constant in life is change.” This quote is derived from the teachings of the ancient philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus. If you know anything about Greek philosophers, Heraclitus was pre-Socrates and his writings were produced in 500 BCE.
The ancient quote is relevant even today in 2018. While I am not an expert in Greek philosophy, I am an expert in the change that has happened in my own life. I know I am not alone; everyone faces changes as they age, as jobs come and go, as family grows or declines, and as we face many adversities that may come our way. It is how we respond to change that gives us strength.
Some may have never known the level of strength inside of us until we are faced with change. This strength gives us a resilience to snap back from adversity. My friends and family members often say I am one of the strongest people they know. I have always used adversity or change as a driving force. If anyone said that I could not do something, I did what I needed to do to accomplish the task. A family member once told me I was not college material. I knew that I was and I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing, and an MBA in Business Management. While that journey was a long one, education was something I set my sights on and was able to accomplish through the drive of adversity and change.
After an almost eight year career in a local manufacturing company (I had worked as a credit analyst and moved into co-op advertising) I felt very comfortable in my position. I was in my element, and I wanted to be considered as a brand manager in a highly male dominated industry. I was just about to graduate with my BA degree in marketing and I felt that I knew the organization well enough to transition to another department. I had worked for this organization since I was 25 years old and I felt like I was a part of the family. Little did I know that the organization was about to lay off 20 to 30% of its employees. Fellow employees were getting the pink slip, and, to my dismay, I was one of the casualties. As the person who I thought of as my mentor, escorted me out of the building, I was crushed. I could not believe that my world had been turned upside down and as I sat and cried in my car, I had no idea what my next job would be. Co-op advertising was not a department in many organizations and try as I might, there were no openings in the organizations that did have those positions.
I remember feeling defeated, insecure, and at my lowest point forgetting the many talents and strong skills that I possessed. I learned that I had to reinvent myself in order to move on. I started applying for jobs that I felt I could do in other industries. I had to remember that I didn’t know how to do everything when I moved from credit analyst to co-op advertising. Knowing this helped me emerge from a place of insecurity to a place of embracing change and the challenges it would bring. I was offered a position in Education Administration and I negotiated for the position of coordinator, so I could stay in my salary bracket. As the years progressed I became an associate director and interim director of the program. This is just one example of how I have embraced change and used it to my advantage.
Since that time, I have reinvented myself a few more times and have enjoyed new careers and continue to face challenges head on. I have enjoyed being married to my college sweetheart for twenty years and he has always been by my side to support me with any new challenge that comes my way.
In 2015, I had the most frightening, life altering change anyone can imagine. This time it came in the form of a cancer diagnosis; in-operable stage four pancreatic and liver cancer. I was only forty-three years old and I was in a debilitating fog of fear. I was in a holding pattern and I could not start chemotherapy treatments for four weeks.
I was unaware if I truly had the inner strength to come out of the news of this diagnosis. I went without sleep some days and prayed and cried myself to sleep often. I reached deep into my faith and I found solace in prayer books I had been given. At one of my lowest points, I read the words “I am not dying today.” Those words gave me so much clarity. Those words gave me the power and strength to live until I could begin my cancer fight with chemotherapy. For four weekends I was able to walk 5k’s with my friends. After each 5k, I shared my diagnosis and each of them was in my corner, ready to love and support me now more than ever.
As I battle cancer with chemotherapy, more changes and challenges emerged with the toll the medications take on my body. I have one strong week and one chemo recovery week as my treatments are every 14 days. Thanks be to God, I am here to tell my story of adversity and change, two years and eleven months later. “Seventy-four percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first year of diagnosis”, I am part of the twenty-six percent that beat that statistic.
“The only constant in life is change.” Heraclitus was correct in 500BCE and is still correct today. How you respond to change is up to you. You will never know the power of your strength until change challenges you to overcome adversity.